What Is Ecotourism?
Ecotourism is a type of travel where you can experience the great outdoors without damaging the natural environment. Ecotourists focus on being responsible and sustainable travellers. For some, their aim is to give more than they take from an area they visit.
Some ecotourists take part in conservation projects. Perhaps within a small village to support the local economy (instead of visiting a city). One popular activity is to become involved in organised beach clean-ups, while learning to dive.
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 initiatives.
Ecotourist or not, you’ll always be welcome at eco-friendly certificated hotels across the world. During your stay, you’ll be supporting green tourism – just by indulging in meals made with locally sourced ingredients.
What Are The Benefits Of Ecotourism?
If you visit a destination’s natural environment, so long as it isn’t a typical tourist hotspot, you can escape the crowds. For example, when you go swimming in a pristine lake, you’ll not see another soul. Also, you could go wildlife watching during a hike in the open countryside to find solitude and reconnect with nature.
A location where you can do just that is along Slovenia’s Green Capitals route. Here, you can explore the UNESCO-protected Krokar primeval beech forest. If you immerse yourself in Solvenia’s unspoiled nature when forest bathing you’ll receive a natural uplift in energy.
Overall, ecotourism and being an ecotourist can be good for your health. Here are the ways you can make a difference as an ecotourist…
How to be an ecotourist
Support independent communities
As an ecotourist, look at visiting and connecting with small communities outside the cities. Supporting conservation projects or purchasing items from a family-run business will help the local economy thrive.
Engage with the locals
Most independently owned hotels had a drop in visitors due to the pandemic so you’ll be welcome. During this immersive experience, you’ll also gain a unique and in-depth perspective on that country – just by chatting to the people who have lived there all their lives.
Fly less or fly direct
In 2020, air and rail trips emerged to challenge dependency on flights. For instance, if you land in France via air today and want to take a short internal flight, you’ll be encouraged to travel by train instead. The aim is to reduce carbon emissions.
Also, France’s Parliament has backed the abolishing of domestic flights on routes, which can be covered by train in two and a half hours or less. This includes popular services, such as routes from Paris to Lyon and Bordeaux. Plus, Air France’s sister carrier KML joined with Thalys and NS Dutch Railways to implement a train ride between Amsterdam and Brussels.
Find opportunities to see more
Explore countries by public modes of transport such as ferries, open-top buses, river cruises, or trains. The benefit of river cruises and train holidays is that they’re a great way to enjoy a country’s natural landscape as you’re travelling through it. Not over or around it.
Another mode of transport that you can use to explore a county, which is also good for the environment is an electric car. Which country has adopted this mode of transport? Iceland…
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 some of the highest amounts of green space per resident. Overall, it’s a country that embraces ecotourism.
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 at most holiday accommodations. 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 make sure those gadgets are covered. 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. Be pampered like royalty, guilt-free as you know all of the heat comes directly from underground. Afterwards, you are bound to feel your physical and mental health rejuvinated!
- 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. There are more than a few reasons 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 explore the largest national park in central Europe 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.
Find more sustainable destinations here. 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 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 Auldhouse Burn. The most spectacular feature of the park is a manmade waterfall on the burn, 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 and home to plenty of birdlife. What makes it unique? The park is almost entirely powered by its own solar panel array!
- 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.
Wherever your holiday is, we hope we’ve given you an insight into how you can make a difference by being an eco-friendly traveller. As more countries find ways to embrace ecotourism, it will soon be easy for us to support while travelling.