What is Eco-Tourism
Definition of Ecotourism
Eco-tourism is now a popular term that most of resort, hotel and travel agency operators use to promote their products and services. But what does it really mean? Well, the word eco-tourism comes from two words, ecology and tourism. In Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary it says that ecology is the relation of plants and living creatures to each other and to their environment, or the study of this. Well, it is easy to understand the terminology of eco-tourism but it is difficult to implement it. As different geographical places have their own ecological conditions, those who promote tour packages under the banner of eco-tourism have to be aware whether such tourism activities will support the preservation of the environment or not.
My promotional video about ecotourism in Numfor island
General Perception and Impact to Local Communities
Sometimes people think that eco-tourism means going to the beach or traveling around the tropical island instead of embark on a city tour. As a matter of fact, it is more complicated than just sun bathing at a white sandy beach. Eco-tourists are encouraged to interact with the natural environments which they visit to understand their values. For instance, when I guide tourists to a hiking destination in the Arfak mountains that are covered with green plants, I will always try to explain the medicinal functions of certain herbs there and the roles of tropical rainforest in absorbing CO2 gases that we emit everyday and in releasing Oxygen gas that most living matters need. Small scale tours to coral reef and tropical rainforest will not cause negative impacts on the environment where travelers visit. They also have to be smart tourists who see this travel industry as a way to empower the economic livelihood of the villagers whom they meet on the way. These can include boat owner, guesthouse owner or just a local guide.
Hotel owners pay attention to these environmental issues
For instance, I live in Manokwari, a small town in the Northern Coast of Papua island which is located near the equator where the surrounding environment is hot (around 30 degrees celcius, has a lot of rain all year round and high humidity. Most of the island is still covered with dense tropical rainforest. Tourists who come to this tropical coastal town must understand that they have to adapt with the tropical climate. If there are hotels in town that offer eco-tourism package to foreign tourists but at the same time install huge Air Conditioning installation in their buildings then their promotion is only empty words. Hotel owners must provide enough green areas around their hotel buildings to be planted with trees so that the surrounding atmosphere will be cooler and healthier. Dirty air that has been polluted with smokes and dust can be filtered by the plants that grow around the hotels. When the temperature near the hotel is not high, the electrical consumption to run AC machines will be lower.
If they really know how to implement eco-tourism principles in their accomodation or hotels, they should design rooms that have high walls with openings for air ventilation and plant green plants in their yard as well as construct swimming pool and water fountain in the building of the hotels. This will reduce much of the electricity consumption and preserve the environment.
Eco-tourism promotional video about lobster catching in the north coast of Manokwari city
My personal experience in implementing principles of ecotourism
I have been writing a lot of articles in my blog and website (see my hub profile to get their URL addresses), as well as in this hubpages, to promote a number of interesting places and attractive events that are suitable for eco-tourism activities in this regency. As a result, now some tourists begin to come to this town and travel around the places which I have promoted on the internet. One of the most favorite places is the Table Mountain. I always escort the tourists to the mountain where they can see various species of trees, orchids, mushrooms, and animals live there. Some local indigenous people are also involved in this tour as guides. After exploring the beauty of the forest, they can continue their activities a long the coastal areas of Mansinam, Lemon and Raimuti islands where coral reefs thrive. Before snorkeling in the areas where there are coral reefs, I always remind the tourists to keep floating on the water and not walking on the fragile corals. This is a simple instruction which all the tourists and guides must know if they really want to implement eco-tourism. Tourists are also told not to throw plastic bottles anywhere inside the jungles or at the beach. They must bring all their trash back to the hostel where they can dispose them off into the garbage beans.
My ecotourism promotional video about hiking in Mansinam island
Public Education about Environmental Protection
Actually the best way to implement eco-tourism practices is to educate all the city or town dwellers to be more friendly to their surrounding environment by not throwing garbage along the street, or drainage tunnels (which most of them will end up at sea polluting the marine environment), by traveling more with bicycle, by not walking on the corals when swimming at the beach and by encouraging their friends to do the same. When all of the citizens have changed their lifestyle, then the term eco-tourism which we want to realize in our town or city can effectively be implemented and really bring positive impact to the surrounding environment and to the economic livelihood of the whole community.
Environmentally Friendly Souvenirs
And the last but not the least, the souvenirs that are made by artists or handicraft makers must not be made of skins, fur, or plumage of threatened animals such as birds of paradise, kuskus, and soa-soa. Bracelets and necklaces must not be made of fragments of corals either.