What is Eco Tourism?

Ecotourism is a form of tourism involving responsible travel to natural areas, conserving the environment, and improving the well-being of the local people.

The World Tourism Organisation defines ecotourism as “all nature-based forms of tourism in which the main motivation of the tourists is the observation and appreciation of nature as well as the traditional cultures prevailing in natural areas.”

There are three main pillars of eco-tourism, Conservation, Communities and Interpretation:

Pillar 1; conservation, is undertaken by offering market-linked long-term solutions to problems the areas may face. Ecotourism provides effective economic incentives for conserving and enhancing bio-cultural diversity and helps protect the natural and cultural heritage of our beautiful planet. With the Grassroots project we aim promote this within the youth throughout Europe to bring live and tourism back into rural areas.

Pillar 2; communities, this is confronted by increasing local capacity building and employment opportunities in rural areas. Ecotourism is an effective vehicle for empowering local communities around the world to fight against poverty and to achieve sustainable development for regions in need. The Grassroots project hopes to help this communities by giving them knowledge on how they can prevent the younger generations from moving away from the communities that need them to the more metropolitan areas.

Pillar 3; interpretation, dealt with by placing importance on enriching personal experiences and environmental awareness in these rural areas through interpretation, ecotourism promotes greater understanding and appreciation for nature, local society, and culture.

Here in North Leitrim where the W8 centre is based we have a wide variety of Eco-Tourism business that are a great example for young people in the locality. For example, picture above is Teapot Lane, a luxury adults only glamping experience. First opened in June 2010 as one of the very first Irish Glamping sites, offering truly unique Glamping Breaks in Ireland. The land left intentionally to the wilderness. This is preserved as a habitat for the abundant wildlife. Frequented by foxes, badgers, wild deer, hares and home to many species of birds big and small! Both flora and fauna flourish and the land is rich with native wild plants and flowers. With just three Glamping domes, one Treehouse and a country cottage, this ensures you will never feel overcrowded and there is a lovely community feel throughout!

This is one example of Eco tourism in a rural area and the great thing about business like this is that they all help each other out. On Teapot Lanes website it list local attractions for its guest that include a number of other local eco-tourism business and vies versa these other business eg local surf schools, beach horse riding, cafes and restaurants will advise there customers on where is nice, unique and local to spend a few nights.

Ecotourism is said to be about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. In this case people who are actively participating in eco-tourism and those who are running eco-tourism businesses should implementing the following ecotourism principles:

  • Minimize physical, social, behavioural, and psychological impacts.
  • Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
  • Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
  • Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
  • Generate financial benefits for both local people and private industry.
  • Deliver memorable interpretative experiences to visitors that help raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climates.
  • Design, construct and operate low-impact facilities.
  • Recognize the rights and spiritual beliefs of the Indigenous People in your community and work in partnership with them to create empowerment.

In this blog post we are hope to spark intrigue into the industry. Grassroots Eco Health tourism project is hoping to show young people how and why eco-health tourism is suitable for them in developing entrepreneurial skills.

Author: Niamh Kenny, Research AssistantW8 Centre, Manorhamilton