Ecological Tourism, or Eco-Tourism, is a form of tourism that typically appeals to individuals who are ecologically and socially conscious. Eco-Tourism is popular in areas where the natural flora, natural fauna, and the cultural heritage of an area are the primary attractions.
There are different types of Eco-Tourism. Responsible eco-tourism focuses on providing experiences for tourists that minimize the negative aspects of conventional tourism on the environment. In addition, the experience is designed to enhance the cultural integrity of local populations. As a result, recycling, energy efficiency, water conservation, and the creation of economic opportunities for the local community are integral parts of ecotourism. This emphasis is in addition to the evaluation of environmental and cultural factors associated with tourism.
As in all things, there is a governing body that provides standards for environmentally conscious tourism. The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) is the body responsible for governing ecotourism. In 1990, TIES defined ecotourism and outlined the various principles involved. Ecotourism, according to TIES, is "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people."
Places that wish to participate in and implement ecotourism are encouraged to comply with a variety of principles. These include the desire to minimize the impact of tourism on the area; building environmental and cultural awareness and respect; providing positive experiences for both the tourists and their hosts. In addition, TIES recommends that there be a direct financial benefit not only for the local people but also for conservation efforts. The local people are also expected to be empowered. The final principle is to raise sensitivity to the host country's political, environmental, and social climate.
In addition, ecotourism should satisfy additional criteria. These additional criteria include the conservation of both biological and cultural diversity, the promotion of sustainable use of biodiversity, and the shared socio-economic benefits with local communities and indigenous people.
In large cities across the world, an offshoot of the ecotourism movement is bicycle tours. These tours are designed to allow environmentally sensitive people the ability to tour a city in an environmentally friendly way. The bicycles, because they are human powered, do not release the same fumes as tour busses or boats. In addition, they allow the tour-taker much more freedom over what is seen and what is not seen.
The countries successfully implementing ecotourism policies include Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nepal, Kenya, and Madagascar. For more information on bicycle tours as eco-tourism, please visit http://www.bike-locks.com.