5 easy steps to planning your trip as an Ecotourist
1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Search the web and consult guidebooks to start your pre-trip homework. Look for information and resources on responsible travel, ecotourism, or sustainable tourism. Ecotourism Explorer, TIES’ interactive online directory, makes searching for your perfect eco-holiday easy!
Choose guidebooks with information on your destination’s environmental, social and political issues, and read before booking. Guidebooks vary in quality, even within a series, but Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, and Moon are among the best.
2. ASK QUESTIONS
Call or email tour operators that have firsthand knowledge of the place you are considering visiting. Check the websites of all accommodations. Let tour operators/hotels know that you are a responsible consumer. Before you book, ask about their social and environmental policies.
For instance – What is your environmental policy? What percentage of your employees are local citizens? Do you support any projects to benefit the local community?
3. SEEK QUALITY ASSURANCE
Are the businesses you’re considering certified? Do they have eco-label ratings, or have they won eco-awards? Have you heard of the AAA or 5-star rating systems? These long-standing labels judge hotel quality and services. Many certification programs have also been created in travel and tourism to rate the environmental and social impacts of tourism businesses.
Using independent auditors, these programs are important tools for distinguishing genuine ecotourism or sustainable tourism companies, products or services from those that are merely using “eco-” as a marketing tool to attract consumers. Certification programs can help travelers to make responsible choices.
A growing number of companies have earned eco-labels, and we encourage you to purchase from these businesses. TIES, together with industry partners around the world, promotes sustainable tourism certification as one of the most effective ways to mainstream sustainability in tourism.
4. OPT TO GIVE BACK
A growing number of tourism businesses are helping to financial and material support community projects and offering travelers the opportunity to get involved. Many of TIES members around the globe are leading the efforts to give back to local communities and enhance the livelihoods of local people through ecotourism. We encourage you to contribute to and participate in these projects, and support those companies that are making positive impacts on the lives of local hosts.
5. READ BETWEEN THE LINES
Don’t Be Fooled by green-washing. “Eco” is a fashionable label used widely in the tourism industry. It sounds appealing, but much of what is marketed as “eco” is simply conventional tourism with superficial changes. So it’s important to check behind the labels.
When choosing destinations, accommodations, and tour operators, consider which ones work to protect the environment and benefit local cultures and communities.