Imagine being one of the last people to walk the trails surrounding Machu Pichu, visit the ancient pools under Mayan villages, or step foot on the flour-soft sand of the Maldives Islands before water takes them over. Without the support of eco-tourism, these wonders of the world may dissolve long before travelers might get to visit.
It’s hard to beat the $7.2 trillion tourism industry, so environmentalists have decided on joining it to further the conversationalist agenda. The outcome of a new UGA study suggests that supporting Eco-tourism may be the best hope to save what is left the world’s most pristine environments.
The ever-present encroachment of the tourism industry is here; the most effective way to combat its negative potential is with education on sustainable practices. These are the thoughts of Brynum Boley and Gary Green, researching professors from UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry, who worked together to publish the study, “Ecotourism and natural resource conservation: The ‘potential’ for a sustainable symbiotic relationship.”
Tourism is the primary source of foreign exchange earnings in 46 of the 49 least developed countries according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization. According to the same, Ecotourism accounted for 6% of the global gross domestic product.
In the study, Boley and Green argue that the long-term economic outcomes of community-based tourism may end up being worth much more than any hotel, resort, or casino.
“The health of an ecotourism destination and the health of its ecosystem go hand-in-hand because they coalesce to place a higher economic value on natural landscapes than would be represented through converting that land to other uses,” Boley said.
One may assume that there is a sticky past between the tourism industry and passionate environmentalists. We have a grim history of rich and one-of-a-kind environments being paved over before their true value is correctly assessed. This can slim down food, water and the safety-net of biodiversity.
Recently, organizations like the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farming (WWOOF) and other work exchange programs facilitate sustainable education while offering young travelers an affordable way to skip towns month by month.
Hoping for more education on vacation, environmentalists will use this study as persuasion to respond to economic incentives of keeping the Earth clean. Continuing to shift public perspective towards the importance of keeping land native will bring this mutually beneficial relationship into fruition.
Next time you need a getaway, consider adding the “eco” part to your tourism.