Over 1 billion tourists will be traveling this year according to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). Some people about to embark on their summer vacations may be interested in taking trips with sustainable accommodations or ‘eco’ programming. But what does “sustainable tourism” really mean? How can it be measured and how can a consumer interested in these practices find them?
Ecotourism first grew out of the global environmental movement in the late 1970s and has become among the fastest growing sectors of the tourism industry worldwide. The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), formed in 1990, is considered the standard for the industry and Ayako Ezaki, Director of Communications of TIES, defines eco-friendly tourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” Generally, she says they will consider any organization for membership (they are not a certifying agency) if it agrees to work towards meeting these environmental, cultural and social goals:
* Minimize environmental impact.
* Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
* Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
* Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
* Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people.
* Raise sensitivity to host countries' political, environmental, and social climate.
Ezaki suggests using the TIES website (www.ecotourism.org) to learn about different trips. It’s advisable to speak directly with tour operators to learn more about their specific offerings and sustainable practices.
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