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What Is Conservation Tourism?

By Lily Ruha
Updated May 23, 2024
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Conservation tourism, also known as ecotourism, is characterized by travel practices that minimize environmental waste, encourage conservation and educate travelers about the needs of the environment. The conservation process typically begins with a conscientious approach to planning and packing for trips. At the travel destination, conservation might take the form of recycling and saving energy and water. Some ecotourism tours deliver in-depth information about animals that are in danger of extinction, such as bats and elephants. In some cases, funds that are generated through ecotourism activities are utilized to preserve the local environment and economy.

Careful preparing and packing for travel are important first steps in conservation tourism. Staying longer in a destination helps save fuel, in contrast with taking numerous trips of shorter duration. Selecting hotels that recycle newspapers, aluminum cans and plastic bottles is another consideration for minimizing waste. Packing carefully and leaving behind unnecessary items helps tourists to travel light and save fuel. Before leaving home, unplugging all unused electronic devices also saves energy.

While the participating travelers are touring and staying in a new destination, conservation tourism typically involves limiting waste. Asking the hotel to refrain from washing the towels and sheets daily is a way to save water and energy. Buying locally grown groceries limits the pollution and energy usage associated with transporting food from faraway locations. Walking and biking to travel spots or using public transportation helps reduce fuel usage. Limiting the use of plastic plates and utensils by washing and reusing them saves water and reduces landfill waste.

Conservation tourism sometimes involves organized wildlife tours. Animals that are beneficial and important to the preservation of the ecosystem typically are the focus of such organized activities. For example, bats, which are often considered dangerous or intimidating, are the focus of some wildlife tours that seek to educate members of the public. Elephant conservation tours are another example of efforts to increase exposure to endangered species. Through learning about their diseases, behaviors and habitats, tourists gain a deeper understanding of and appreciation for these animals.

Economic and social benefits also are an integral part of conservation tourism. By attracting large groups of people to less-frequented areas, local residents often benefit from more sustainable economies. Additional jobs are often created in locations where tour guides, instructors, bus drivers and other personnel are needed to assist tourists. Funds from ecotourism activities, in some cases, are used to preserve endangered species and protect the flora and fauna of the location.

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