The development of tourism poses many environmental challenges. Indeed, this human activity is often at the origin of degradation of natural environments due to the infrastructures put in place, the overexploitation of natural resources, pollution, overcrowding of sites, etc. How can we prevent our need for a change of scenery from harming local flora and fauna?
An increasingly popular response to this challenge is “ecotourism”, but what is behind this vague notion? Is it enough to bivouac or hike in the middle of nature, or to admire the animals of the savannah from an observation post? How to differentiate ecotourism from other forms of responsible or sustainable tourism?
According to The International Ecotourism Society, ecotourism is a responsible journey into natural spaces that conserves the environment, supports the well-being of local people and involves education and cultural mediation. It is practiced in nature, in small groups, within small structures.
Ecotourism aims not only to minimize social and environmental impacts but also to actively contribute to the conservation of natural heritage, mainly biodiversity. It also aims to protect cultural heritage by recognizing the rights and beliefs of local and indigenous communities and encouraging their participation in tourism activities in ways that contribute to their well-being. Finally, the “educational” component, the encounter with populations and nature make the difference with other forms of sustainable tourism which are limited, and this is already very positive, to avoiding or reducing their impacts on the environment.
This year 2017 has been designated as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development by the United Nations. A way of recognizing the contribution of this type of tourism to sustainable development objectives, including biodiversity conservation.