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From ecotourism to sustainable tourism and towards destination stewardship. What is eco-travelling and what does it mean for Australia
We are really blessed here in Australia. We have so many wonders, sometimes we go straight past them and do not notice them. Other times, they are so big, it is hard to understand them in their entireties.
That big Kauri tree pine that you passed by without too much thought is classified as a near-threatened species. Do you know why? Alternatively, some wonders like the Great Barrier Reef are so big that they can be seen from space, yet, comprehending its size by looking at the horizon is near impossible.
Jane Goodall famously said, “Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, we shall be saved.”
― Jane Goodall, Jane Goodall: 40 Years at Gombe
I think that is probably on this premise that eco-tourism was born from. Ecotourism was first coined in the 1980s and referred to visiting exotic and rare environments without causing too much harm. It has since been an evolving concept supported by a myriad of certifications.
Crucial in the evolution of eco-tourism are the concepts of sustainability and the impact of climate change. Nowadays, it is not so much about the exotic environment but rather about the impacts of tourism and the stewardship of a destination.
Let’s first talk about the sustainability concept. Officially first defined in 1983 in the final report of the Brundtland Commission. It was defined as “ development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Sustainability was intended to reconcile the ecological, social and economic dimensions of life. From limiting causing harm to the environment to being considerate to local communities, being socially responsible the eco-tourism took a more holistic approach. The term sustainable tourism started to pop up here and there to show this expanded consideration.
These days, not compromising the needs of the future encompass consideration about climate change. Climate change is in fact central to the present and future challenges of tourism and eco-tourism. On the one hand, the co2 emitted by planes and transport contribute to the rising of the temperature and on the other hand, climate change, for example in the form of sea-level rise and increased number of heat waves affect the places we travel to. It is really a two-way street and we get what we put in. Now, one thing we can learn about eco-tourism and sustainability is that purely focusing on preserving the environment will not work. Other dimensions of human life such as social and economic need to be considered.
Enters destination stewardship or how to take care of a destination as a whole. It changes the focus from the operator or the hotelier to consider the destination as a whole. It allows focusing on climate change mitigation solutions for the whole of the tourism sector in a region. For example, the Whitsundays region has embarked on a project to decarbonise the tourism industry in the region and gain eco-destination accreditation. This will also include considering social and economic dimensions in achieving destination certification.
So let’s go back to us, avid travellers and experience seekers. What can we do to encourage a better way of enjoying the world we live in that is positive for future generations and that considers social and economic aspects of tourism. For example, we can consider where we travel, how we get there and favour eco-accredited destinations and operators. If you are interested in learning how to travel to Far North Queensland, check out my guide to travelling more sustainably. The guide is free and includes two, seven days itineraries ideas.
Hope you enjoy!
Until next time, travel with the planet in mind. Stay safe and leave only footprints.