At the same time, rising trends in sustainability have led to questioning every aspect of our lives and wondering how can we make it more sustainable, which is no surprise then that issues such as sustainable tourism, responsible tourism, and eco-tourism have arisen in the previous years. With this article we are launching a series of articles dedicated towards sustainable tourism, with this article focusing on Eco-Tourism.
What is Eco Tourism?
With all the beauty of traveling, and the excitement it brings, one cannot ignore the environmental effects traveling has. It doesn't stop when you get off the airplane, since the electricity and water used during the trip in addition to the food consumed all goes into the calculation of the carbon footprint of your travel. And while we’re not even suggesting that you stay at home and never travel so you don’t create a footprint, there are plenty of behaviors and decisions you can make to travel in an environmentally friendly manner.
Eco tourism can be described as an environmentally friendly alternative to commercial travel. It entails a combination of modifying tourist behavior in addition to providing environmentally friendly facilities and transport alternatives. It's typically considered a subset of sustainable tourism which includes environmental, social and economic aspects of tourism.
Carbon offsetting is a method to contribute to a eco-friendly journey. It simply is a method to reduce the total the carbon emissions produced by our activities. Since it focuses on the net carbon emissions, you can still travel with your favorite airline which produces carbon emissions however you offset the emissions (or make up for them) by buying “green tags”, in essence money which goes to support green energy initiatives.
Offsetting your travel’s carbon emissions is still an emerging trend, and has not reached us here in this region however there are a few websites that support in calculating just how much emissions a flight produces, and provides you with options to offset those emissions. Native Energy, Terrapass, and Brighter Planet are some good outlets for purchasing high quality offsets.
For example, according to Terrapass, a round trip flight from Amman to Dubai would produce approximately 1,000 lbs CO2, which to offset would cost $5.95, meaning If I choose to offset my next trip to Dubai I can do so by paying $6 which would be directed towards creating energy from animal waste in farms or creating clean energy from wind power among many other solutions which reduce net CO2 emissions. The end goal is to have enough people support carbon offsets to provide the motivation and funding to create more renewable power generation sources.
A few sites and tour operators in Jordan are following this trend, by providing eco-friendly tours and destinations. The top environmentally friendly tourism spots in Jordan include:
The Ajloun Forest Reserve
In the middle of Ajloun forest, there’s 13 square kilometers of reserve, a perfect place to visit to escape the heat of the summer, and relax. The reserve has different accommodation options, from tented bungalows to cabins, and is a perfect area to explore the forest on foot.
Azraq Wetland Reserve:
Al Azraq Reserve is truly an oasis in the middle of the desert. It is a great location for bird watching, due to the fact that it’s a migratory location for birds from three different continents. The accommodation provided in Al Azraq was a 1940’s British Military Field Hospital, converted to a comfortable lodge, with a few hiking and biking trails, in addition to a night safari to Shaumari Reserve.
Mujib is the lowest nature reserve on Earth – not too surprising since it’s just a short drive away from the lowest point on Earth; the Dead Sea. When visiting, you could have the option of spending a night in the Mujib Chalets, which have a perfect location, since they provide a great view of the Dead Sea, and are a short walk away from the entrance to Wadi Mujib. Wadi Mujib has a few different trails with a varied level of difficulty to suit different travelers, and there are plenty of different areas to visit which are easily accessible from Wadi Mujib, such as Madaba, Mt. Nebo, the Dead Sea and Hammamat Ma’in.
Dana Biosphere Reserve
Dana’s reserve is the largest in Jordan, with a large variety of wild and plant life. In Dana, the visitor has the option of staying in The Dana Guesthouse, or the Rummana campsite with a variety of things to do while their stay. Dana has over 10 different trails for hiking, some which can be self-guided, while others have to be professionally guided, in addition to bird watching during early mornings. They even have facilities for small conferences or retreats.
While all of the above reserves are definitely a great way to get to know the country, experience nature and meet locals, and all provide employment for locals, Feynan is the one true eco-tourism experience in Jordan. With the lodge being off the grid, the very little electricity used for appliances is generated by solar panels placed on the roof of the lodge, heating is produced by solar power or the use of jift (the waste of olive oil production), in addition to the fact that they reuse and recycle their waste. Additionally at night, the lodge is lit using candles, adding to the beautiful secluded atmosphere.
Global Eco Touristic Destinations:
Some countries have embraced the eco-tourism trends from the early 1990s, while some are still catching on. Below are some of the top global eco-tourism destinations, according to National Geographic among others.
Kenya is a country with plenty of attractions that would suit anyone. With a multitude of national parks, reserves, tropical forests, snow-capped mountains it provides something for everyone, in addition to all kinds of wildlife including the “Big 5” which can be spotted easily due to the open plains.
Since it is such a nature focused touristic destination, conserving the environment is of top priority to ensure that such beauty remains unspoiled which is why a few travel providers are now focusing on eco-tourism; conserving nature in addition to contributing to the local communities they visit.
When thinking of Brazil, one traditionally thinks of Carnival, Sao Paulo or Rio De Janeiro however it is also the country of the Amazon; the largest rain forest in the world, Pantanal; the largest wetlands in the world, 10 cultural and 7 natural World Heritage Sites, 60+ national parks, and more than 2,000 beaches to choose from – not counting the river beaches!
Since 2002 Brazil has grown in sustainable tourism due to the efforts of the Ministry of Tourism who launched a Brazil Sustainable Tourism Program (PCTS) who focus on improving the competitiveness of Brazilian tourism through better quality and sustainability. The PCTS' initiatives include: creation of National Standard which meets the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria, and sustainability trainings for small accommodations and auditors.
Norway is a country of outstanding beauty, with dramatic waterfalls, crystal clear fjords, majestic mountains, captivating wilderness and spectacular glaciers, which is why Norwegian tourism relies on unspoiled and beautiful landscape to remain intact and attract tourists. In 2007, Norway introduced a “Sustainable Norway 2015” plan to increase awareness on sustainable tourism.
Being famous for fjords, the northern lights (otherwise known as the aurora borealis), the midnight sun in the summer, Norway offers a variety of outdoor activities for the eco tourist. Nearest to Oslo you can find Hovedoya Island, which is a nature reserve that offers tourists the opportunity to visit botanical gardens that have Norway’s rarest flowers and historical sites including monasteries and beaches. Ostensjovannet Island offers the biggest wetland and bird reserve with more than 200 species of registered birds, while Akerselva Island features salmon spawning and has more than 100 species of bird including the national bird, the fossekall.
Costa Rica has become the poster child for sustainable tourism; since the early 1990s, it has looked to sustainable tourism to meet the growing demand on this form of travel. Being a pioneer in sustainable tourism, it also provides low costs and easy accessibility with a stable government and a tourist friendly exchange rate.
The capital San Jose is situated in a valley between two dormant volcanos with a visit, and in a day’s drive, you can visit the coastal regions of Guanacaste and Puntarenas. During the trip, you can easily spot brightly colored tropical birds flying around the car. The Arenal volcano area is one of the richest areas of Costa Rica for ecotourism. You could spend many days simply discovering different natural attractions in the area. Additionally there are plenty of eco lodges, retreats and natural reserves providing a variety of choice for accommodation. Costa Rica is one of the few countries in the world that has a certification program for sustainable tourism.
India is an extremely colorful and diverse country, with a variety of religions, languages and cultures. Kerala, known as “God’s Own Country” is currently coming up on the map as an eco-tourism destination, with rich biodiversity and unmatched natural attractions, it truly is the hidden gem for an environmentally conscious traveler.
The western region of Kerala is the main eco-tourism zone. It offers an opportunity to experience wildlife, nature, and the adventures of trekking. Kerala also has a multitude of wildlife sanctuaries which are some of the most well-known eco-tourism destinations in Kerala. The forests cover around a third of all of Kerala, and are one of the top hotspots globally for biodiversity. Kerala also offers thriving emerald backwaters, palm-fringed sea-shores, rambling tea and spice plantations on mount gradients.
While having sustainable facilities is definitely important, and some might say a prerequisite to sustainable tourism, and offsetting your carbon emissions is certainly a good place to start, it is not the only solution. There are many environmentally friendly behaviors for travelers before and during their next trip.
- Select a tour operator which provides environmentally friendly tours, with opportunities to interact with locals, eco-friendly accommodation options, and support the local economy.
- Learn about your destination, their local culture and customs you must observe while traveling, and their history.
- Ask the tour operator about the established guidelines they have to minimize the impact of tourists on the environment.
- Have minimal impact; never take anything with you from the local environment, and most importantly never leave anything behind.
- Interact with the locals. In many of the eco-tourism sites across Jordan, all the employees are from the local community, which many a story to share about the history of the location, their traditions and way of life. Be sure to learn from them.
- Support the local economy by eating at local restaurants, purchasing locally made souvenirs or otherwise choosing local when possible.
- Conserve natural resources, for example in Jordan, make sure you conserve water, since we're one of the poorest nations in water resources globally.
A special thank you goes to Oksana Arkhypchuk and Mohammad Almomani from Active Ukraine for their support in the creation of this article.
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Managing Director & Co Founder
CSR Watch Jordan
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