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Eco-tripping: Green tourism a growing trend

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    Renee Tratch
    Digital Writer, theweathernetwork.com

    Thursday, March 5, 2015, 7:35 PM - Torontonians looking for a last-minute Spring Break adventure or researching next year’s big trip may be discovering more and more options off the beaten path. This new path is leading them to an eco-destination.

    For these environmentally conscious travellers, it’s more than choosing to be sustainable tourist.

    Dr. David Fennell, Professor of Tourism and Environment at Brock University in St. Catharines, ON, explains that ecotourism is “travel with a primary interest in the natural history of a destination.”

    Founding Editor of the Journal of Ecotourism and author of Ecotourism and Tourism and Animal Ethics, Dr. Fennell says that ecotourism’s core criteria emphasizes learning about nature first-hand, sustainability in terms of conservation and participation in the local community, and ethical planning, development and management.

    “Ecotourism is an attitude and ethic about how to approach the natural world.”

    It may seem like small-scale tourism but ecotourism is turning into big business. A new study published in the open access journal PLOS Biology estimates that protected nature areas around the world receive 8 billion visits per year. That translates into approximately $600 billion US per year in direct spending.

    The study, among the first to attempt to calculate the economic impact of ecotourism, doesn’t take into account protected areas smaller than 10 hectares, marine protected areas, Antarctic areas, and areas where tourism is discouraged. And for many, these smaller natural areas are at the heart of the ecotourism industry.

    How then to find a destination that promotes and practices the principles of ecotourism?

    For the last 25 years, the non-profit International Ecotourism Society (TIES) has been providing guidelines and standards, training and resources to its representatives in more than 120 countries.

    Dr. Kelly Bricker, TIES Chair, says that certifications have been put in place to help guide would-be eco-travelers. The Global Sustainable Tourism Council, for example, has a program that recognizes certification bodies and helps verify their work and minimize greenwashing.

    “Certifications are voluntary processes,” she explains. “And really if done well, can be an indicator for a traveler.” She adds that online critiques from other travelers are also guiding better practices.

    So where to go? Dr. Bricker points to Kenya and Tanzania, Malaysia, Australia, Costa Rica, Nepal and Latin American countries as pioneers in ecotourism. Russia, she notes, is one to keep an eye on.

    “They (Russia) have the opposite problems of most countries relative to visitor management in protected areas,” she explains. “They are actually trying to open up amazing regions to ecotourism and looking at building ecotourism in many areas of the country.”

    With these tips in mind, here are a few eco-destinations closer to home and abroad to inspire your next getaway:


    Off the grid in Chile - The Chepu Adventures Ecolodge in Chiloé Island is not only off-grid but each room also has individual monitors that provide minute-by-minute on guests’ energy consumption. The lodge uses rain for water and sun and wind for electricity and is striving to be zero waste. Guests can kayak, hike, birdwatch and experience Chilotan Culture.

    Treehouses in Costa Rica – The Finca Bellavista is the first planned, modern, sustainable treehouse community located in a relatively untouched potion of Costa Rica where owners and limited numbers of guests can explore the natural wonders of the rainforest canopy.

    Have a look:


    Ecolodge in Northern Ontario – The Cree Village Eco Lodge along Moose River in the James Bay area is North America’s first Indigenous ecolodge. Designed by local MoCreebec people, it runs as a not-for-profit with proceeds going back into the lodge and community. Activities at the Cree Village Eco Lodge and Moose Factory Island focus on traditional skills, the fur trade history, contemporary Cree life and musical and cultural events.

    Bird Watching at Point Pelee – At the southern tip of Canada, Point Pelee National Park is a year-round destination and one of the premiere bird-watching locations in North America. The park is an important migratory stop-over for neo-tropical migrants and its Carolinian Forest provides breeding habitat for species that are rarely found elsewhere in Canada. the 59 reasons to buy an annual Parks Pass. 

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