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Ecotourism

Ecotourism is nature tourism. It is traveling to a relatively undisturbed or uncontaminated natural area with the specific objective of studying, admiring and enjoying the scenery and its wildlife as well as any existing cultural manifestations found in the area.

Ecotourism is an exciting new adventure that combines the pleasures of discovering and understanding the diversity of both flora and fauna with the opportunity to contribute to their protection and to provide an economic justification for conservation of areas that might not receive any protection.

Ecotourism or nature tourism aims to educate both local and foreign tourists on the environment and to promote conservation strategies. The education component consists of an orientation of the place-its origins and features, threats and problems encountered, current efforts to manage the resources and a tour to the designated area. The tour provides a first hand experience of communing with nature even for a short period of time.

Ecotourism is a response that seeks to reduce the negative environmental and cultural impacts of mass or traditional tourism.

Nature tourism combines the elements of science recreation, adventure and sports. It has three dimensions -the hard, soft end hard-soft tourism. Hard tourism refers to the interest in natural history or research travel. Soft tourism is nature-oriented with interest in beaches, nightlife, deep sea fishing, shopping, culinary pursuits and other attractions. Hard-soft tourism deals with physical rigors, walking miles into the forest, sleeping in tents or in crude shelters and tolerating primitive sanitary conditions.


Ecotourism

Potential sites for ecotourism

· The site must have unique natural features, such as landscapes, seascapes, caves, etc.
· The site must have a rich and diverse flora and fauna or biological diversity.
· The site can be an ancient burial ground or a historical site.
· The site must be seldom visited but must have a high ecological value.

Code of ethics for action

1. Observe but do not disturb natural systems.

· Move quietly and carefully m natural areas so as not to disturb the plants and animals.
· Respect wildlife and nature. Never pick, gather, write on or destroy plants and animals and/or rocks, etc. Leave them clean and undisturbed.
· Avoid using recordings or loud noises.
· Do not disturb wildlife during sensitive periods, e.g., mating season. spaces
· Follow only existing trails.
· Use gas stoves in areas where fuelwood is scarce.
· Observe all rules and regulations established for the area.
· Always coordinate spaces for cooking, eating, camping, washing, bathing and other activities with the community or area.
· The highest compliment you can pay mother nature is to leave no evidence of your visit.

2. Minimize your impact on the environment.

· Leave no litter, plastic, charcoal, etc. Always carry a trash bag for your litter. Deposit trash in duly designated places.
· Use provided toilet facilities. If no toilets are available, carry a trowel to bury waste and a lighter/match to burn toilet paper. Never dispose of human waste within 25 meters of water source.
· Use biodegradable, coco-based soaps.
· Leave at home extra packaging for food, film, toiletries, etc.
· Do not consume or purchase plant or animal products that are endangered, overexploited and/or harvested - from unmanaged wild populations.
· Do not build campfires where wood is scarce.
· Only use the resources necessary; avoid over consumption, such as water.

3. Act directly to accomplish conservation of natural resources.

· Pick up trash left behind by other people.
· Join conservation organizations.
· Support local resource management efforts.
· Donate/support environmental conservation efforts.
· Organize lectures/seminars and exposure trips on the environment for schools, offices and communities. Schools can incorporate ecotourism in their curriculum -- students can conduct activities outdoors such as bird-watching, snorkling, etc.
· Write letters to government officials -- Be a personal witness against negative environmental trends with which you have experienced.
· Do not patronize individuals, groups, organizations, etc., which consciously violate environmental regulations and principles.

4. Respect local cultures.

· Employ local residents as tour guides.
· Research and learn about the customs, habits, history, concern, as well as the dialect of the place you are going to.
· Learn and observe proper local etiquette for greeting, eating and dealing with people of the community.
· Take photographs within the guidelines of the area you are visiting -- Respect privacy requests.
· Do not wear loud/bold colored clothing or jewelry if you do not fully understand its cultural and/or ritual significance. Dress conservatively and neatly as possible.
· Do not criticize or make unnecessary comments on the cultural practices of the people in the area.

Suggested guidelines

· The ecotour or nature tour must be well-guided. A knowledgeable tour guide is necessary to provide utmost education to tourists about culture, topography, special attractions of the area, protection of the environment, restricted and danger zones as well as the peace and order situation of the area and the necessary precautions.

The tour guide is responsible for an enjoyable, safe and nondestructive nature tour.

· Involve local residents in the planning and implementation of activities. The presence of tourists in the community may not be well-appreciated and may not benefit the local people. The local people must be part of the management of the activities. If there is not enough involvement, an antagonistic relationship may happen.
· Limit participation of the group to a minimum of four to a maximum of 20 people. This is to ensure that the needs of every individual are met. It is easier to manage a small group. Too many people may disturb or destroy natural habitats.
· Ecotourism organizers should provide an adequate and continuous program for resource management. Tour organizers should play a lead role in managing natural resources in the forms of trail maintenance and signs, information on the endemic' endangered and extinct species, research and education, trainings and provision of basic facilities.
· Tour destination should be appropriate for the needs of the tourists. The destination must be first assessed for a better itinerary of the trip and be equipped with the necessary logistical requirements, e.g, map, compass, etc.

Current efforts toward the conservation/preservation of natural resources are hampered by conflicting uses that are justified because they produce economic benefits (e.g., agriculture and logging). Recently, tourism has been suggested as a means of linking environmental conservation with income and livelihood generation for local communities. Unfortunately, tourism has a number of negative side affects. Ecotourism is a response that seeks to reduce the negative environmental and cultural impacts of mass tourism.

Sources:
Ecotourism: The Potentials and Pitfalls. Vol. I by Elizabeth Boo.
Code of Ethics for Nature and Culture Travelers by Earth Preservation Fund Journeys International, Inc.

Ideas for Action:
A Technology Information Kit, November 23 - 28, 1992