Green tourism, or ecotourism, is a combination of four factors: conservation, community, culture and commerce.
It was only in 1983 that Mexican landscape architect and environmentalist Héctor Cebellos-Lascurain coined the term "ecotourism" and gave this definition: "Environmentally responsible travel and visitation to relatively undisturbed natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and any accompanying cultural features – both past and present) that promotes conservation, has low visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socioeconomic involvement of local populations."
The ecotourism label supports appropriate tourism, nature tourism, sustainable tourism, responsible travel and adventure tourism.
Today more and more tourists all over the world are seeking out green destinations that do less harm to the environment, supporting local communities and trying to reduce their environmental footprint.
Since its launch in South Africa in 2000, Enviropaedia, a strategic green partnership between major stakeholders including South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs, Santam, Total and the Endangered Wildlife Trust, has published a website pertaining to all things green.
Highly successful and widely supported, it allows organisations and individuals to understand and participate in finding solutions to today’s environmental and social challenges.
Enviropaedia (www.enviropaedia.com) has a useful list of tourism do's and don’ts for residents and visitors alike. Here are some of them:
- Always show respect for wildlife. Remember, it’s their territory and behave accordingly. Don’t get out of your vehicle unless it is allowed, and don’t get too close to an animal when photographing it
- Support reputable conservation-minded tour operators
- Support local communities by buying home-made curios and gifts
- Learn about local beliefs and customs, and learn a few basic words of the local language – your hosts will be appreciative
- Avoid flight stopovers if you can – the worst carbon emissions are emitted during take-off and landing, so, whenever possible, fly directly to your destination
- Buy a renewable Wild Card that allows you unlimited access to South Africa’s national parks
- Walk or cycle where possible
If you are committed to green tourism, check out destinations and accommodation before your visit. Google, ask questions, listen to first-hand accounts from other visitors and tread lightly on the Earth.