What is Eco-Tourism?
Eco-tourism in Australia is growing year on year and in the near future will be what people expect.
But what is eco-tourism?
You can define Eco-tourism as travel that avoids harm to people, the planet or animals – Instead seeking out travel that supports positive social and environmental initiatives.
It can encompass all nature-based activities that promote appreciation and understanding of the natural environment and cultural values.
These can be tours and experiences that are managed to ensure they are sustainable.
The World Tourism Organisation defines ecotourism as:
All nature-based forms of tourism in which the main motivation of the tourists is the observation and appreciation of nature as well as the traditional cultures prevailing in natural areas.
It contains educational and interpretation features.
It is generally, but not exclusively organised by specialised tour operators for small groups. Service provider partners at the destinations tend to be small, locally owned businesses.
It minimises negative impacts on the natural and socio-cultural environment.
It supports the maintenance of natural areas which are used as ecotourism attractions by:
generating economic benefits for host communities, organisations and authorities managing natural areas with conservation purposes;
providing alternative employment and income opportunities for local communities; and
increasing awareness towards the conservation of natural and cultural assets, both among locals and tourists.
Eco-Tourism in Australia
National Park authorities Australia wide are requesting all tours and experiences be eco-tourism certified by endorsed certification programmes.
There are two eco-certification programmes endorsed by National Parks in Australia.
Eco Certification Accreditation Bodies
About Ecotourism Australia
Ecotourism Australia is a not-for-profit organisation focused on inspiring environmentally sustainable and culturally responsible tourism. Ecotourism Australia sets the standard for Australian tour operators.
The definition of ecotourism adopted by Ecotourism Australia is:
Ecotourism is ecologically sustainable tourism with a primary focus on experiencing natural areas that fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation.
Using a scientific benchmarking process, EarthCheck advise and certify businesses, communities and governments in how to create the most sustainable and prosperous travel destinations around the world.
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC)
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) is an international body that has established and manages global standards for sustainable tourism to ensure certification programs and destinations perform to a universal level of best practice. The aim of the GSTC is to make it easier for travellers to identify genuine sustainable tourism products.
Both Eco Tourism Australia and Earthcheck are recognised by GSTC.
Conclusion: Look for Eco Certification Logos
The easiest way to distinguish responsible tour operators and experiences is to look for eco-certification logos.
These logos will be displayed proudly on tour/experience brochures and websites.
Read more about levels of eco-certification here.