We know that traveling is particularly difficult at the moment. But alongside the latest travel tips and COVID-19 updates, we want to continue to inspire you with new travel content so that when the world opens its doors again, you’ll be ready.
More of us are aware that travel has an impact on the planet and that ecotourism has become popular as a result. From polar bear trekking in the North Pole to bird watching in Argentina, ecotourism initiatives have sprung up all over the world. They help educate and connect travelers to the local landscape and community while raising awareness (and funding) for conservation.
Like many things this year, COVID-19 has put a damper on the road. Fewer of us want to – or can – travel. This means that many ecotourism businesses, which depend on visitors’ money, face cash flow issues. This has a ripple effect on the environment, animals and the communities they work with.
We want them to keep doing their great job and be ready for tourists once we can get back there. So how can we help them when international travel is not on the agenda?
How to help
1. Go on a virtual safari
Like business meetings, exercise classes and pub quizzes, the wildlife experiences have also been uploaded this year. Although it may sound a little strange, it is an important way for rehabilitation centers to make money. It takes a lot of resources to care for animals, even if the plan is to release them into the wild.
In normal years, sales of tourist tickets – which are generally higher than the prices paid by locals – contribute to this. Unfortunately, the number of visitors has dropped significantly in 2020. Initiatives like the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center (BSBCC) in Borneo, Malaysia, typically receive hundreds of visitors a day, but have not had any since the start of this year. the pandemic.
To compensate for the lack of ticket sales, many rehabilitation centers now offer virtual experiences. For the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center, that means virtual online chats for a small fee. In cooler climates, Polar Bears International offers a live broadcast from its tundra buggy in Manitoba as it tracks polar bears. It’s not quite the same as being there in person, but it’s always exciting to see and learn more about rare animals.
2. Book for next year
Paying in advance for a trip you plan to take next year will give the ecotourism initiative funds to play now. If you can afford to pay up front and in full then do it, but even a deposit will give them a little boost. It is worth checking the company’s cancellation policy before booking. Flexibility will be a big issue in traveling until the pandemic is under control, and you want to make sure you can move your experience around if necessary.
If you don’t want to commit to dates, consider purchasing a voucher. The ecotourism company has money in its pocket now, and you will have an amazing experience later. As well as giving you peace of mind – you don’t need to lock your trip while things are still up in the air – it also gives you something to look forward to. Research has shown that having exciting things on the calendar can do wonders for our well-being, and travel planning plays a huge role in that regard.
3. Make a donation
Many ecotourism projects operate as non-profit organizations. Some even work alongside charities in their local community. Show your support for the great job they do by sending them money. It doesn’t have to be as much as you would spend on a trip, but even the smallest donations can help them “keep the lights on”.
There are many important ecotourism businesses out there, and unfortunately, not one person can help them all. The best thing to do is to think about which ones are most important to you. What ecotourism experiences have you had in the past and which were on your list for the future?
Then go to their official website and find out if they accept donations. Many initiatives will already have a page set up for people who want to give that little extra. For example, Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai has many ways to give – from sponsoring an animal, choosing something from the wishlist, or donating cash. Other projects have just set up their donation pages in response to the pandemic. If your favorite eco-tourism initiative doesn’t have a website, try contacting them directly by email to see if they need help.
4. Support local ecotourism projects
When we think of ecotourism, we often imagine incredible experiences in Asia, Africa and South America. It’s easy to forget that there are some incredible natural attractions here in the UK as well. As ecotourism initiatives usually rely on foreign tourists, it will help them tremendously if we give them some support. It also gives us a new perspective on our local environment. Due to lockdown, levels and local travel restrictions, this will have to be a hyperlocal stay.
Do a quick online search to find initiatives underway in your area. It can be something as simple as a conservation project focusing on a downtown waterway, or as exciting as rewilding a nearby national park by planting trees. Although it had to put working holidays on the back burner, the National Trust still relies on volunteers to help preserve Britain’s environment. They have multiple volunteer opportunities, from maintaining trails to rebuilding natural habitats.
5. Leave reviews online
Even if you don’t have any money to spend, you can still help by spreading the word. Whether it’s a community-led market tour, a wildlife conservation center, or a guided hike, there’s a good chance you’ve been involved in sustainable tourism. Keep in mind that these initiatives rely heavily on word of mouth. Think about some of your favorite travel experiences over the years. You’ve probably heard about it through some online research or a recommendation from friends.
You don’t have to be a famous influencer to encourage people to book. The Internet is a competitive place, and a five-star review is worth a lot for a small business. By leaving positive reviews, writing blog posts, or just discussing the experience with your friends, you increase the chances that people will book.
Start by leaving five-star reviews on Google, TripAdvisor, and Yelp. Add a few short sentences explaining why you enjoyed it and why their work is important. If you’re in the mood to remember, post a few photos of the experience on Instagram for Throwback Thursday. You might only have a handful of followers, but you keep spreading the word about the project and might inspire more people to help you.
Ecotourism needs us more than ever
2020 has been a tough year for travel and it has had an even bigger effect on communities and conservation projects that depend on tourism money. By making an effort to support these initiatives, we can ensure that they always do a good job – even if we can’t be there in person.
The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as “a responsible journey to natural areas that preserves the environment, supports the well-being of the local population and involves interpretation and education”.
Ecotourism is important because it helps protect the environment, increases awareness of issues, and raises funds to help with conservation. It also ensures that tourists contribute to local economies, not just passing through. Basically it is gentler on the world and helps preserve it for future generations.
The three pillars of sustainable tourism are environmental sustainability, socio-cultural sustainability and economic sustainability. This is sometimes referred to as the three Ps: planet, people and profit.
Most ecotourism initiatives fall into three categories: cultural, wildlife and adventure tourism.
Cultural ecotourism involves learning and engaging with local people. For example, join a community-led cooking class where you buy ingredients from vendors in the market before learning how to cook traditional dishes.
Wildlife ecotourism focuses on the conservation and rehabilitation of endangered animals, and also helps raise awareness of their plight. This could involve following animals in their natural habitat or meeting creatures that were rescued and now live in a nature reserve.
Adventure ecotourism is about experiencing the environment in a sustainable and conscious way. It could involve hiking, biking, rock climbing, or kayaking. There is also usually a cultural element, with local guides and visits to small communities.
Traveling is difficult right now, but there are ways to support conservation efforts abroad from the comfort of your living room. You can participate in paid virtual events, book travel for next year, purchase a voucher for future travel, or donate money.
If you want to go out, find ecotourism initiatives in your area and consider joining them. You can also tell people about eco-trips you have taken in the past. Leaving positive reviews online could inspire more people to book once the pandemic is over.
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