Eco-tourism: Perhaps the most over-used and mis-used word in the travel industry. But what does it mean?  The Ecotourism Society defines it as “responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and improves the welfare of the local people”.  A walk through the rainforest is not eco-tourism unless that particular walk somehow benefits that environment and the people who live there.  A rafting trip is only eco-tourism if it raises awareness and funds to help protect the watershed.

A loose interpretation of this definition allows many companies to promote themselves as something that they are not.  If true eco-tourism is important to you, ask plenty of questions to determine if your trip will help “conserve and improve” the places you visit.

Adventure Travel: Another term which is heavily used by marketing departments.  While travel to another country is often adventurous it is not necessarily “Adventure Travel”.  Most dictionaries define adventure similarly: “an unusual experience including some level of risk and uncertainty”.  “Adventure Travel” includes this idea of risk and often times some unconventional means of transport.  A dug-out canoe journey deep into the Amazon basin with it’s attendant difficulties meets this definition.  While a city tour of Paris might have some level of uncertainty it is not by definition “Adventure Travel”.  If you love true adventure you probably already know this and can see through the hype to find the real thing for yourself.

Sustainable Tourism: Any form of tourism that does not reduce the availability of resources and does not inhibit future travelers from enjoying the same experience.  If the presence of large numbers of tourists disturbs an animal’s mating patterns so that there are fewer of that species in the future then that visit was not sustainable.

Examples: Kayaking secotourism, ecotravel, eco-lodge school on a free flowing river is an example of sustainable tourism.  Big game hunting in Alaska is not.

Responsible Tourism: Tourism which operates in such a way as to minimize negative impacts on the environment.  A wilderness camping trip using “Leave No Trace” ethics would be considered responsible tourism while dune buggy tours would not.

Nature-Based Tourism: A more commonly used term for any activity or travel experience with a focus on nature.  Large jungle lodges/resorts fall into this category; this is much similar to cruise ships arranged to view penguins in Antarctica.  These types of trips may or may not be environmentally sustainable or responsible.

Green Tourism: Often used inter-changeably with eco-tourism & sustainable tourism,  but more accurately described as “any activity or facility operating in an environmentally friendly fashion”.  A lodge with composting toilets, gray water system, and solar powered lighting is probably “green”.   There are varying degrees of “greenness”;  an awareness of where resources are coming from and where  wastes are going is at the crux of the idea.

Multi-Sport Adventures: These adventure trips have a focus on physical outdoor activities.  Examples includes: rafting, mountain biking, climbing, surfing, diving, etc. all offered in the same package.  It may not necessarily be sustainable or eco but it helps since many companies want to protect the areas where these activities take place.

Cultural Tourism:
Interacting with and observing unique cultures is the focus of this kind of trip.  The concept of learning from other cultures to broaden his/her perspective is usually an important value.  An artisan showing you how to weave a tapestry & learning from them about their traditional dresses is a form of cultural tourism in the act itself; buying crafts in the market with no more interaction than the exchange of money does not provide the insight into another culture that is the central theme of cultural tourism.

Leave a Reply