A growing focus on eco-tourism has been helping to benefit nature and wildlife, encouraging proper care for various ecosystems around the world and the protection of wildlife and natural areas. Although this only makes up a small part of tourism right now, it is continuing to thrive and grow and could prove to be highly beneficial in the future.
What is eco-tourism?
Eco-tourism is a focus on travelling responsibly and protecting the local areas visited during a person’s travels. There are many ways to help promote conservation and benefit nature, including wildlife conservation jewellery. All too often, conservation efforts are forgotten when it comes to tourism. Now, however, many people are starting to see the impact tourists are having and are looking for more ways to travel with a much lower impact on the places they visit.
The growth in tourism
Tourism has grown significantly over the years. According to the National Park Service, visits have increased from 120,000 in 1904, the earliest date for records, to more than 237 million in 2020. More people are travelling, increasing the impact this has on the earth. With a focus on eco-tourism, however, that impact can be reduced.
Tourism brings in money
Tourism does help bring in a significant amount of money to locals, which can help fund parks and other conservation areas to protect them from development or from other issues they may face. Areas with poachers, for instance, can use the tourism money to help fund more protection for the animals to help keep them safer. The money isn’t always used for this purpose, so part of eco-tourism is making sure the money used is going to the right place.
Tourism keeps animals around
People love to see animals in their natural environment, but the number of places where animals can be free is getting smaller. With eco-tourism, more places are helping protect the animals to keep visitors coming, which means the animals can stay in the area instead of being killed or pushed out of the area they call home. More land can be saved specifically for the animals, giving them the area they need to live and thrive.
Further focus on sustainable development
Development may be needed in many areas that want to start attracting more tourism. When eco-tourism is the drive for people to visit, encouragement for sustainable development often follows. Sustainable development focuses on making sure any developments meet current needs while also thinking about the future. This type of development does mean more buildings, but it also means focusing on the environment and everything in the area, not just the need for another building.
Education of environmental concerns
When people visit areas where they can see new animals and tour natural areas, they’re more likely to be curious about what they see and experience. Education can start with the tours and give people more information about what they’re seeing and why it’s something to focus on for conservation. As tourists learn more about what they see and experience on their travels, they may be more likely to get more information about environmental concerns and find out what they can do to help. This creates further assistance for nature and wildlife and promotes eco-tourism further.
There are downsides to eco-tourism
As with everything, there are downsides to consider. Eco-tourism is only a small percent of tourism right now, so it’s not having a huge impact. Plus, it can have some negative impacts if locals aren’t trying to boost tourism in an eco-friendly way and with concern for their environment. Some of the potential downsides include the following:
- Exploitation – In less developed areas, the money made from eco-tourism can end up going back to more developed areas. The exploitation of the area could mean there aren’t as many natural resources in the area to use, forcing locals to reach out to other areas to get food and other supplies instead of opting for locally-grown or made products when possible. This could lead to higher costs and more hardship for locals instead of the eco-tourism helping them thrive.
- Destruction – Tourism in general, including eco-tourism, often means an increase in developments to meet the needs of visitors. Even though eco-tourism focuses on sustainability and protecting the environment, it can lead to further development in smaller areas, which can destroy the areas eco-tourists would like to protect.
- Locals pushed out – When tourism increases quickly for an area, it can lead to locals being pushed out. Indigenous inhabitants are the most likely to be pushed out of an area when new developments are needed, causing them to leave the only place they call home to move somewhere new.
Downsides do exist for eco-tourism, but as long as care is taken to prevent the downsides, it can be incredibly beneficial for the world. With the right support and a focus on sustainability, eco-tourism can help provide numerous benefits to nature and wildlife, helping to protect the world for the future.
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