Ecotourism, being an eco-tourist or just being eco-conscious as the world opens up, is something to think about when booking your next trip.
Remember when the world was given a break during the first lockdown? When wild goats roamed freely in a quiet Welsh town? Or when the world’s seas, oceans, and rivers became clear and marine life rebounded? Since then (and during the lockdowns that followed), you may have explored nature more, grown to appreciate wildlife, or simply embraced it from your backdoor.
However, why stop there? You can immerse yourself in nature while exploring another country, which has many benefits for you, and the unspoiled location you visit.
In this blog, we have shared the benefits of being an eco-tourist by supporting ecotourism, as well as a handful of holiday destinations that focus on ecotourism throughout their tourism industry. Some are home to amongst the most beautiful nature reserves and heritage sites on the planet.
What Is Ecotourism?
Ecotourism is a type of travel where you can experience the great outdoors without damaging the natural environment. Eco-tourists focus on being responsible and sustainable travellers. So much so that for some, when they visit a location their aim is to give more than they take from the local area.
Some may take part in conservation projects. Perhaps within a small village to support the local economy (instead of visiting a city). In some locations, it is popular to become involved in organised beach clean-ups, for example, while learning to dive on holiday.
Some countries focus on green tourism. Their aim is to promote a range of greener ways for businesses and organisations to function. Reducing energy consumption, respecting the environment, and avoiding the exploitation of wildlife are just some of the initiatives. Ecotourist or not you’ll always be welcome at eco-friendly certificated hotels across the world. During your stay, you will be supporting green tourism – even just by indulging in meals made with locally sourced ingredients.
What Are The Benefits Of Ecotourism Post Lockdown?
In a previous blog, we looked at how we can be more sustainable travellers. It considered the modes of transport we use, how we can support communities and how to be more eco-conscious as we travel. When we plan trips today, we will inevitably encounter travel rules and restrictions. Taking on the role of an eco-conscious traveller can overlap nicely with following some of them.
For instance, visiting natural environments that aren’t typical tourist hotspots means there will be fewer crowds. Social distancing is easier in wide-open spaces! You could go for a swim in a pristine lake without seeing another soul in sight. Snorkel in a tranquil ocean with just the fish for company, or go on a hike in the open countryside.
There are new opportunities to see more
With reference to modes of transport, train travel is very environmentally friendly. Recently, air and rail trips have emerged to challenge dependency on flights. For instance, if you land in France by air and want to take a very short internal flight, you’ll be encouraged to travel by train instead. This is intended to reduce carbon emissions and airlines such as Air France and Delta Airlines are forming rail partnerships. It is likely to open up opportunities to explore Europe differently.
The benefits of train holidays don’t stop there. The risk of catching coronavirus during train travel is less than 0.01% on an average journey (or 1 in 11,000 journeys). Also, train travel is a great way to enjoy a country’s natural landscape as you’re travelling through it. Not over or around it.
As an eco-tourist, you are in an ideal position to visit and connect with small communities. Supporting conservation projects or purchasing items from a family-run business will help the local economy thrive again. Most have had a drop in visitors due to the pandemic so you will be welcomed with open arms. During this immersive experience, you’ll also gain a unique and in-depth perspective on that country – even just from chatting to the people who have lived there all their lives. Here are some ecotourism destinations that are currently on the green list.
Iceland is a country working towards greater sustainability in unique ways, both inside and outside of the capital, Reykjavik. Throughout the country, 100% of its energy comes from renewable sources such as hydro or geothermal and Reykjavik is a top green city with the greenest space per resident. Overall, it’s a country that embraces ecotourism dedicated to environmentally friendly tourism.
How is Iceland a sustainable holiday destination?
- Sustainable farming and fishery policies are in place. Book an Iceland farm holiday or go on a self-drive tour to witness them for yourself!
- Electric charging facilities are available in holiday accommodation. So, explore the country in an electric car!
- Fresh vegetables are grown in geothermally heated greenhouses. You can even learn about how greenhouse-grown tomatoes are cultivated in Friðheimar.
Ecotourism activities in Iceland:
- Bird and whale watching on electric boats. Glide across Skjálfandi Bay, where you can witness the world’s largest puffin population on Lundey Island! Make sure to capture some memories on film; but take Free Spirit Travel insurance along too, to secure gadget cover. With each cover level, we can help with the costs to replace your device if it gets lost or stolen during your trip.
- Bathing in geothermal spas, pools, hot tubs, or natural springs, while admiring the Northern Lights. A unique and rejuvenating experience. Heat is taken from the earth and used to create these facilities. Be pampered like royalty. Have your physical and mental health nourished!
- A visit to World Heritage Site Thingvellir National Park. One of the few places on the planet where you can see both the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates standing exposed from the earth. Home to Lake Þingvallavatn, which sits in a rift valley surrounded by hiking trails. It’s a beautiful location for angling and horseback riding. Choose from two scenic horse trails, which run throughout the park.
Another destination that embraces ecotourism naturally is Austria…
Full of farms, natural landscapes, pretty parks, glorious grasslands, Alpine valleys, and magical mountains it’s not hard to see why Austrian citizens want to have a positive impact on their natural environment. Austria’s aim is to become carbon neutral by 2040 (ten years ahead of the European Union’s goal). Already, Austria holds many eco-friendly credentials, which are illustrated throughout its tourism industry.
How is Austria a sustainable holiday destination?
- Head to the slopes and enjoy views of the mountains from the comfort of your ski lift, which is powered by renewable energy sources. In fact, 70% of Austria’s power comes from alternative energy.
- Organic farming methods are practiced to produce nutritious food by following an environmentally balanced agriculture program. Food miles are low because a mantra of ‘from farm to table’ exists throughout the hospitality sector. Also, the people are attuned to the seasons.
- You can stay in accommodation built in accordance with ecological construction and passive house building standards.
- In terms of transport, explore Salzburg by electrically-powered buses and trolleys. To reduce traffic, hop on a hiking bus or ski shuttle to cross the rest of the country. You can also find car-free zones in Innsbruck’s inner city and Graz’s Old Town.
Ecotourism activities in Austria:
- Visit the Hohe Tauern National Park to walk across 1856km2 of untouched nature and spot a third of all Austria’s plant species. Or holiday in Alpbachtal voted ‘Austria’s most beautiful village’.Home to 105 working farms, try locally sourced milk and book a lesson to milk a cow and churn butter yourself!
- Wander freely in Innsbruck, a pedestrian-friendly city. Here, you can stop to drink the fresh, crystal-clear mountain spring water, direct from the Karwendel Nature Reserve nearby. Rich in minerals and available from over 140 eye-catching drinking fountains. Remember your refillable bottle!
- For more action, stay in Zell am See-Kaprun. A place for adventure! Hike, bike, ski, surf, sail and swim amongst the glorious glacier scenery and capture Schmittenhöhe Mountain at your leisure. Plus, from the day of your arrival, all local public transport is free with a mobility card, in a bid to keep carbon emissions low. The card includes post buses and the narrow track Pinzgau railway. Whatever activity you choose, remember that Free Spirit covers over 100 activities for free.
On the other hand, if you want to stay closer to home, there are many eco-friendly holiday destinations in the UK.
Ecotourism in the UK
There are different ways that you can become an environmentally friendly traveller in the UK. For example, you could travel by train to your destination to reduce your carbon footprint. Sit back and relax while taking in spectacular views, which can only be seen via rail.
When you arrive, book into a quirky cottage and hire a bicycle! Immerse yourself in the British countryside. Or breath in the sea air, while riding along a coastal path.
Which are the top eco-friendly destinations in the UK?
- Edinburgh has been named the greenest city in the UK with the best air quality (based on the Common Air Quality Index). It’s not surprising, as 49.2% of it is classed as ‘green space’. Stroll through 130 public parks or admire plant life at the Royal Botanic Garden.
- Glasgow, which has the highest proportion of green space out of the top seven cities in the UK, (according to a leading UK mapping agency). Take a walk on the wild side! Explore the hidden history of Rouken Glen and stop for a picnic on the banks of the river. The most spectacular feature of the park is a manmade waterfall near the pond.
- For a countryside escape, take your wellies for a walk around North Wales. Visit the fun Greenwood Forest Park, which is set in a lush forest. Home to plenty of birdlife and otters. What makes it unique? The park is almost entirely powered by its own solar panel array!
- To support local farmers visit a farmers market. Such as the one in Weymouth, where there’s one every other Sunday. Stock up on goodies from the area such as artisan cheese, bread, bacon, and more.
- Visit Brighton where you can choose from a range of vegan restaurants and try local, fresh produce. Or, pick a coastal cycling route. You can cycle along the stunning cliff paths of Saltdean and Peacehaven independently. You can also join the Grand bike tours of Brighton.
Whether your holiday is in the UK. Or whether your holiday is abroad. We hope we’ve given you an insight into how you can be a more environmentally friendly traveller. While travel rules and restrictions remain in place post lockdown. Supporting ecotourism has never been easier.
Your travel plans can include visiting locations away from the crowds. Embracing slow travel, or immersing yourself in nature! However, you should always include Free Spirit Travel Insurance, to travel with peace of mind.