What is Ecotourism?

Our work on making an ecotourism definition.

Which buzzword would you choose?

Ethical Tourism, Responsible Tourism, Geotourism, Sustainable Tourism, Ecotourism, Green Tourism, Whole Travel Tourism, Organic Holiday Tourism, Community Based Tourism?

They are all very similar. How do you choose?

Many tour agencies and hotels put the prefix ECO or GREEN in front of their name in the hopes of attracting clients.  Yet ecotourism can mean different things to different people.  We at the Black Sheep Inn feel that as a traveler and tourist you should look for the following facets when visiting ECO sites or ECOLOGICAL operations.  We feel that these criteria represent true efforts at being ecological.

We have given this same definition to EcuadorExplorer and they also use it on their website.

Conservation takes place on many different levels.  It can be in the form of private reserves, native tree reforestation, or supporting an established Ecuadorian Reserve area.  Although pristine protected areas are extremely attractive for tourists to visit, it is important to know that the purpose of a protected area is to maintain habitat for flora and fauna, allowing species to exist and thrive without human interference.  Whenever visiting a protected area, your visit should be made with minimal impact.

Low Impact and Green Efforts have to do with how a hotel or agency manages its own impact and waste.  Ecological management practices include recycling, water and energy conservation, ecological waste systems (such as composting, and gray water systems), and allowing the guest to decide whether to change linens or towels.  These simple efforts make a huge difference in the long-term impact of tourism.  In nature there is no waste, everything is recycled and used over and over again on the planet.  Tourist facilities should have the same “No Waste” practice.

Sustainability means that many of the products consumed at a facility are locally produced.  Good examples of sustainability are construction using local materials and methods, organic gardens for onsite food production and using renewable energy resources.  Ultimately sustainability means a lifestyle that is in balance, and can easily be maintained in the future.  This is especially important when visiting ecologically sensitive areas.

Community Involvement is one of the most important parts of ECO-tourism.  Is tourism helping the area?  Is the establishment sensitive to its effect on the community?  Tourism needs to benefit the local population and culture.  Ideally, the community should own the establishment, but if this is not so, the locals that are employed should have non-menial jobs and paid fairly.  The community should benefit from the natural and cultural resources that they are willing to conserve and share with visitors/tourists.  Ecotourism can be a tool for alleviating poverty.

Environmental Education and Interpretation means that as a guest you leave an ECO-facility having learned something about the environment, the culture, or even new ways of recycling.  It is important that the spread of information is clear and relevant.  Also look for educational programs that help the community to preserve their environment and culture and further their own education.

We at the Black Sheep Inn hope to help the tourist/traveler as well as the travel provider to better define ECOTOURISM and therefore in the long run, better the planet.  Your visit supports the ongoing effort to be ecological.  We are still learning new ideas for being ECO-lodge-ical.  We have only got one world, so let’s care for it!

Black Sheep Inn is an active member of the Ecuadorian Ecotourism Society – Asociacion Ecuatoriana de Ecoturismo (ASEC).

Black Sheep Inn has been ECO-certified by the Ministry of Tourism in conjunction with the Ecuadorian Ecotourism Society (ASEC).

Black Sheep Inn is also a member of the EcoClub S.A. based out of Greece.

For great resources on Ecotourism check out www.planeta.com.  The goal behind this website is to create a much-needed public space for the development of conscientious tourism that benefits travelers and locals alike.  This award winning site serves as an information clearinghouse and information catalyst.  They invite experts to contribute articles and participate in virtual forums.  Original articles and links feature the work of communities and individuals who are pursuing holistic development strategies, particularly in ecotourism.

Eco Certification has become a hot topic.  We have received Eco-Certification from the Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism and the Ecuadorian Ecotourism Society (ASEC) in August 2003.  We have complied with over 70% of the technical norm established by the Ecuadorian Government.  There are several certifiers around the globe.  Ecotourism and green travel are growing rapidly.

Earlier Work on the Principes of Ecotourism

In 2002-2003, we co-authored a white paper with Seven Recommendations for Strengthening Ecotourism in Ecuador.”  We wrote this collectively online via email and chats with a group called GIFEE (Grupo Internet en Favor del Ecoturismo Ecuatoriano).

7 recommendations to the Ecuadorian Government

1. Use the INTERNET as a policy, management, educational and promotional tool.

2. Develop school and continuing EDUCATION programs on ecotourism, nature conservation, and sustainable use.

3. Expand CONSERVATION and improve protected areas through scientific and transparent management.

4. Improve WASTE MANAGEMENT nationally and in the tourism sector through Reduce, Reuse and Recycle policies and plan for clean sustainable transport.

5. Improve access to FINANCING and education for small private and community ecotourism efforts.

6. Redesign the Tourism PROMOTION strategy of Ecuador to be imaginative, efficient and sustainable.

7. Encourage COOPERATION with and between all stakeholders

To see the entire document: www.planeta.com/ecotravel/south/ecuador/7.html
OR: http://ecoclub.com/gifee.html.

In 2003, we presented the 7 Recommendations to our local mayor and counselors.  We also gave a PowerPoint presentation at the Catholic University (Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador – PUCE) and another to the Ministry of Tourism about the GIFEE recommendations.