What is an Eco Adventure?
An Eco Adventure is a travel adventure experience or activity that has less of a negative impact or actively makes a positive difference to the local environment and people where they take place.
Think of a scuba diving experience with a local company that will take you to areas which haven't been over-visited and where the reefs have not been damaged or a taking part in a long trek with a company that gives part of its revenue to support small-scale business in the areas that they visit.
I describe these experiences or activities as Eco Adventures, combining the terms Eco Tourism (1) and Adventure Tourism (2). I seek out companies that offer experiences and activities in this way. This means that you are not only making a difference localy, but you'll often get a better experience. Remember that scuba diving experience from earlier, well, damaged reefs = no fish...just a lot of people).
Why Eco Adventures?
Over the years, I've been fortunate to enjoy many different outdoor adventure sports in beautiful locations. I have seen the need to strike a balance for companies and tourist hotspots between encouraging more people to have amazing experiences by taking part in adventure activities (income) and ensuring that the these activities do not create problems for the local environment and people (sustainability).
Adventure tourism can provide much needed income for local communities, and finding the right balance between income and sustainability is one of the biggest challenges for the tourism industry today. The case for responsible travel is set out in the 2016 CREST report The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends & Statistics 2016 which states that an estimated that 65% of an adventure trip cost remains in the region. That's still 35% going elsewhere.
Recently, there have been major concerns about the damage being done to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, leading to the issue of licences for scuba dive boat operators and the Balearic Government are imposing new measures to restrict the number of cars at tourist hotspots on the island of Mallorca. All to try and protect the valuable resources they have for many years to come.
More people today than ever want to experience our amazing planet, and the trails, the roads and the reefs have to cope with the increased impact.
Two ways of looking at this problem are short-term and longer-term. A short-term view might be to visit quickly before it's too late and the Governments and authorities have to introduce restrictions such as the examples above. A longer-term view, is one where you can be part of the solution and still have a great experience but at the same time help to preserve these places for others to enjoy as well.
How to have an Eco Adventure (Longer term view)
The people who spend their time living and working in these locations, such as the local cycle hire shop, hiking guides or scuba diving companies, who are committed to offering their activities in a sustainable way, are well placed to make a difference.
So, if you are planning to take part in any experience or activities during your next holiday or adventure, and want to do this with a less negative impact, here are some ways you can experience your own Eco Adventure:
support the local economy by booking with a company that is run by local people.(you'll find some on the Tyco Travel website).This means the money goes back into the local economy.
research and seek out those companies that operate with an awareness and commitment to responsible travel. Often these companies will have something on their website about this. But, be careful, as some companies will promote responsible travel credentials but not really operate by them. Ask some questions, such as how do they support responsible travel in the way they operate.
book an experience, such as a hike or cycle ride with a local guide, who knows the area and can make sure your keep to the set trails or routes. You'll also be able to learn a lot about the local area, culture and history and be helping to provid a direct income to someone local
minimise the amount of travel required to get to the activity, or why not take public transport. This is often easier than you think and you'll get to see how local people travel.
As I write this from an idealist perspective, I am also realistic in understanding that in today's culture it is often very difficult to completely commit to this "making a difference" thinking. I have heard the argument that goes "What is the point of recycling if no-one else does?" The response that feels right to me in these situations is an old proverb, repeated by Shawn Heinrichs in the film Racing Extinction, which goes "Better to light one candle than curse the darkness," which essentially means that if others see you doing something positive, they may see that as a "beacon" and choose to follow your lead.
I will be writing about my experiences of seeking out my own Eco Adventures in upcoming blogs as well as sharing the companies and projects I have found who are committed to making a difference.
Travel Responsibly. Book an Eco Adventure. Enjoy Living
(1) Ecotourism is: "Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the wellbeing of local people." (TIES, 1990)
(2) Adventure Tourism contains three main components for the traveller: i) physical activity, ii) a connection to nature and the environment and iii) an immersive cultural experience. As tourism is one of the largest employers on the planet, it has a major impact on peoples’ economic well-being and the planet’s health. Furthermore, adventure tourism is inextricably dependent on human- and nature-capital; protection and promotion of these resources is key (Adventure Travel Trade Association Feb 2013)
If you have discovered your own Eco Adventures, sustainable businesses or have anything to add please have your say in the comments below.