As the world's largest industry, tourism generates 4.4 trillion dollars (U.S.) in gross annual output and employs approximately 230 million jobs globally. And nature tourism alone makes up 40-60% of this business. So with such significant amounts of money and resources being expended on this field, it is important that the opportunities and implications of tourism be carefully considered by travelers. Therefore, as we travel around the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, we make a point to only stay in lodges that are both environmentally and socially responsible.
Ecotourism is a specialty segment of nature tourism that requires responsible travel conducted in a manner that promotes the conservation of nature and sustains the well-being of local people. When planned and implemented properly, ecotourism can be both an effective conservation tool and a successful community development model. Because economics drive much of the world's habitat destruction and natural resource exploitation, it is vital to provide local communities with alternative income sources. For example, in order to provide for their families, local people have cleared native vegetation in the Cerrado to grow crops and raise cattle. If a global will exists to save this valuable habitat for wildlife, a new means of ecologically sustainable support must be developed – ecotourism is one such alternative.
By establishing and managing their own ecotourism businesses, local communities create jobs that directly depend on a healthy environment; this gives economic motivation to local people to protect their surroundings. CI has found that people who earn their living from ecotourism are more likely to defend their natural resources from destructive activities. Governments and other decision-makers also directly benefit from ecotourism businesses, as ecotourism can attract millions of dollars of revenue annually into countries and communities.
EXPEDITION: Follow our correspondents' visit to the Gudigwa Camp Ecotour Lodge
But regardless of how eco-friendly the businesses are that you support when traveling, you also have to keep in mind that you too have a direct impact on the environment and culture of the places you visit. So here are three quick rules to remember when you travel that will help lessen your impact and support ecotourism:
- Learn about the destination before you get there. Read guidebooks, travel articles, histories and wildlife field guides, paying particular attention to local customs, and protected areas and species. Being sensitive to these issues will increase local acceptance of you as a tourist and enrich your trip.
- Follow established guidelines. Ask your ecotour operator what their local guidelines are for limiting tourists' impact on the environment and local culture. Staying on trails, packing up your trash, and remaining set distances away from wildlife are a few ways to minimize your impact in sensitive areas.
- Seek out and support locally-owned businesses. By supporting local businesses during your ecotravels, you ensure maximum community and conservation benefit from your tourist dollars – and when locals can see a tangible benefit from wildlife and natural surroundings, there is added incentive to preserve them.
ACT: Find more tips and advice for sustainable travel
So follow these tips, and always be respectful of local people and the natural world. Practicing low-impact travel and supporting ecotourism operations will not only help the planet, but enhance your trip.
<< Return to Main Day 6 Dispatch | Go to Day 7 Dispatch >>