These days there are so many types of travel, especially as we become more involved in trying to sustain the environment. I’m providing information here to help you be an educated traveler.
This first one is the big one: ECO-TOURISM. The International Ecotourism Society defines it as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education” (TIES, 2015). So, walking through the rainforest is not ecotourism unless it benefits the environment or people who live there in some way. Raising awareness is another way to fall under ecotourism. Unfortunately loose interpretations allow many companies to take advantage of the term and promote themselves as something they are not. Be sure to ask questions! Click here to read the principles of ecotourism.
SUSTAINABLE TOURISM is any form of tourism that does NOT reduce the availability of resources and does not inhibit other travelers from having the same experience. This means that if the presence of tourists disturbs an animals’ mating pattern or range in some way as to affect the number of individuals in the future, then that visit was not sustainable. Big game hunting in Africa IS NOT sustainable.
RESPONSIBLE TOURISM operates in a way to minimize negative impacts on the environment. A camping trip or any type of tourism that doesn’t leave a trace would be considered responsible.
NATURE-BASED TOURISM is just what it sounds like, tourism that involves any activity focused on nature. This could be a remote travel lodge, or even a cruise to watch for ocean wildlife. They may or may not be environmentally sustainable or responsible.
GREEN TOURISM is often used inter-changeably to describe eco-tourism and sustainable tourism. However the definition is slightly different, as it is any activity or facility operating environmentally-friendly. A site that utilizes solar power, compost, and other environmentally friendly methods is probably “green”. However, understanding exactly where the resources are coming from and going to is important before taking a company at their word.
All of these definitions are debatable, but what is most important to note is the methods and ethics behind each definition. Questions you should ask before booking any of these types of tourism could be: Is the environment being taken care of? Is there an effort to assist or support the surrounding community? Are resources being left for future visitors? Is the local community (animal, human, or environment) being honored and respected? These questions should be able to help you make sure you are choosing an honest tourism company or site and understand if they are providing what they offer.
See also my post on animal-friendly tourism