5 myths about ecotourism unmasked

Ecotourism comprises so much more than high-end boutique lodges or very basic alternative options.

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© Yana Pannecoucke

Even though a lot is being said about responsible ecotourism lately, many myths still exist. Myths like ecotourism not being a realistic option for traveling on a budget or that ecotourism limits your travel options. And what’s worse is that these stereotypes shy people away from the idea of travelling sustainably. However, you only need a quick online search to discover a varied offer that covers the entire price segment. Admittedly, it can be a bit confusing at first. But I guarantee you that the options are limitless. And so can be the impact and the revenue that goes back to the local community.

Let’s have a look at the five most common myths on ecotourism that are still alive today. Regardless of who you are, I’m sure that you – consciously or unconsciously – believe at least one of these myths is true. So be ready to drop your reservations or prejudices in favour of a more accessible image of ecotourism.

 ‘Eco’ refers to having a positive impact on the environment; it doesn’t mean a low standard of luxury.

1. Ecotourism and luxury are a contradiction

Whether you’re looking for a fancy zero-waste hotel in the city centre or a secluded bamboo lodge, sustainable options are limitless. ‘Eco’ refers to having a positive impact on the environment; it doesn’t mean a low standard of luxury.

Hotels and lodges that implement sustainable
practices in their construction, decoration or services do this with a
conscious mindset. Their goal is to let you have an amazing top quality experience
while at the same time – and without you having to do anything for it – also
have a positive or neutral impact on the environment.

Don’t believe me? Well, then have a look at Inkaterra Hotels in Peru. Their
hotels are really marvellous. And they have been the leaders in developing
sustainable tourism initiatives in Peru for over 40 years. 

2. Ecotourism is only for backpackers

If you read myth number one, you might have by now come to realise that backpackers are definitely not the only people who are a good match for ecotourism. After all, backpackers are not going to book a night at a top-notch ecolodge. Okay, perhaps one night, but only at the end of their trip or for a special occasion.

Anyways, my point is that ecotourism is not a niche in the travel industry. It’s a way of travelling that is respectful towards the environment and the host communities.

Ranging from off grid cabins and glamping sites to zero-waste hostel and fancy lodges: ecotourism caters to your needs. Regardless of your age, financial means, personal background and interests: there is something out there for everyone.

Regardless of your age, financial means, personal background and interests: there is something out there for everyone.

3. Ecotourism wears a high price tag 

If you made it this far, you probably realised by now that this isn’t true. Because some of the examples I suggested above are definitely not expensive. So, there goes myth number three. Yes, there are a lot of expensive options out there, but the same goes for mid range and budget options!

I admit that some countries are more expensive than others in terms of accommodation, but that doesn’t change the fact it’s still possible to find sustainable lodging within your budget. After all, besides being sustainable, the same goes for other accommodation: you simply choose how much comfort and convenience you want to pay for.

Some examples of sustainable budget accommodation are Jet Pack hostel in Berlin, Distant Relatives in Kenya and Hara House in India. Ecotourism is not an exotic thing, it’s growing everywhere.

4. Ecotourism is difficult

Unless you got a pervasive fear of Google, this is really a non-argument. There are lots of platforms out there that help you book either sustainable accommodation or activities, and sometimes even both.

The only thing that can be a struggle is making sure that a place or organisation is actually sustainable and not just using ‘eco’ as a marketing buzzword. Look at their website or social media presence to get some more information on their sustainable practices. And go with your gut feeling, your intuition will tell you if they come across as authentic or shady.

Once on location, you can adopt simple practices that affect your travel footprint: eat locally, carry a re-usable water bottle and opt for public transportation. If taking an airplane is unavoidable, you can offset your carbon emission by f.e. donating to projects that halt rainforest deforestation.

Regardless of the climate, continent or country you plan to travel to, ecotourism accommodations and activities will exist.

5. Ecotourism is only for exotic places

You have probably figured out by now that this isn’t the case. Ecotourism has nothing to do with the location or destination. The only reason we link it to exotic destinations is because of the images of tropical places that are often used to portray it.

Truth is, ecotourism is all about a sustainable mindset and having a positive impact on the environment. Regardless of the climate, continent or country you plan to travel to, ecotourism accommodations and activities will exist.

In case you still have doubts about the statement above, I’ll give you some proof. What do you think of going silent whale watching with an electric boat in Iceland? Or what about staying in a historic ecolodge deep in the mountains in Transylvania?

I hope that this article paved the way for you to embrace the wonderful opportunities that ecotourism has to offer. Sure, it might take a bit of time to change your habits and find your new favourite place. But I guarantee, once you’ve been on an eco-friendly trip or stayed in an ecolodge, you will not want to go back. The passion and the mindset behind these projects are really contagious. 

Go check them out yourself! 

© Yana Pannecoucke

Are you currently in the process of (dreaming about) planning your own eco conscious retreat? My e-book will further help you getting started. I combined my different ideas and experiences into 9 inspirational pieces of advice. 

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