Eco and Ethno tourism: Sustainable adventures for the Traveller on a Budget
For most of us, finance is the driving force for the choices we make when we jet off on our next holiday. While the cheap resort package will always prove popular, two recently emergent trends in shopping for bargain holidays are eco-tourism and ethno tourism, and some might argue these new ways to get away from it all make for a more worthwhile travel experience than the most luxuriant of escapes.
With growing concern for the heavy carbon footprint of travel, and the effects of commercial tourism, governments have started to take responsible steps to encourage visitors to less economically robust places, destinations of exceptional environmental beauty or with vulnerable habitats. Diversifying into tourism can often be of long term advantage for many areas of the world, providing sustainable cash flow in the place of more destructive sources of revenue like deforestation and hunting
Not only do these steps benefit the destination, there are also some distinct advantages for the traveller. Eco-tourism is all about preserving natural beauty, enhancing existing assets and showcasing the uniqueness of a place. One renowned example is the rainforest of Costa Rica, the ‘poster child’ of the eco-holiday. Its initial campaign was about the encouragement of nature tourists to visit and explore is vastly biodiverse habitats. Now, it’s one of the most successful and beautiful eco-tourist resorts in the world.
Ethno-tourism differs simply by focussing more on people than environment, and often is aboutimmersion in the everyday life of the destination country. For example in Hoi An, Vietnam, tourists can learn traditional Vietnamese cookery, spend the day growing herbs at the Tra Que herb village, take up yoga, learn the ancient art of silk making, head to the carpentry or pottery village or the local handicraft workshop, or spend a day fishing at the Thanh Nam Fishing Village.
You can also give something back without putting your hand too deep in your pocket. There are ways of off-setting the cost, and carbon footprint of visiting some of the more remote eco-tourist destinations. Opportunities to volunteer your help abound, and meaningful activities range from working on ecological design in Israel and repairing hiking trails in Montana to helping conserve turtles on the beaches of Costa Rica and dolphins in Greece.
Another way to travel more immersively on a budget is by way of the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) initiative.
For a small membership fee, members can travel and work on host farms, reaping free accommodation and food while learning about organic lifestyles and, in some cases, forging lifelong friendships. Destinations are becoming widespread, and opportunities everywhere from Hawaii to Japan can be found on the WWOOFing website.
About the Author: David Waterlow is a blogger, travel writer and a keen supporter of eco-travel ideas. When he’s not writing, he’s most likely to be found in Elgin, Scottish Highlands, where he runs a self-sustainable organic farm.