We’ve teamed up with Eco Companion to help you find environmentally conscious holidays more easily. Eco Companion only showcase trips that sustain local communities, natural habitats and wildlife.
The ProblemHumans have made more of an impact on the world than any other species. We have a powerful role to play in the shaping of the world and, whilst human impact is not always harmful, our ‘footprint’ is growing ever larger. As Mahatma Ghandi neatly put it - ‘Earth has enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.’ Human industries have created emissions that have fundamentally altered the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and rivers have been polluted and overfished, and animals’ habitats have been degraded and destroyed.
Even for those of us who love our planet, we can end up unintentionally damaging it when we choose to travel the world. Tourism is one of the world’s largest industries and, as such, has a huge global impact. For many countries, tourism provides employment and wealth, stimulating economic growth. However, because the tourism industry relies on supply of finite resources, when tourists flock to an area in their masses not all of the impacts are positive…
The Environmental side:
Ecosystems are in danger. Over half of the world’s coral reefs are threatened by human activity such as diver and anchor damage, with coastal development and over-exploitation posing the biggest risks. Mass tourism can also put huge pressure on natural resources, increasing consumption in places where those resources might already be scarce. Let’s take water as an example. Water is hugely overused in the tourism industry in hotels, golf courses, swimming pools and for personal use by tourists. A tourist in the Mediterranean can use up to 440 litres of water per day, nearly double what a regular Spanish city-dweller would use. Staggeringly, an average golf course in Thailand uses as much water as 60,000 rural villagers.
The Economic side:
Did you know that, on average, over 80% of the money travelers pay for an all-inclusive package holiday goes to airlines, tour operators and other international companies, rather than to local workers and businesses? Imagine, then, how much is leftover for in-country staff wages…
The Socio-Cultural side:
There are lots of socio-cultural issues related to mass tourism. Local cultures can become degraded, turned into commodities for tourists’ consumption. For example, a traditional ethnic festival might be reduced or ‘sanitised’ in order to conform to tourists’ expectations. This can lead to sacred rituals, sites and objects becoming perceived as commodities to be bought and sold. The Pope has suggested that ‘tourism has generated a form of sub-culture that humiliates both tourists and the host community’. There are ethical issues too. It is estimated that between 13 and 19 million children are employed in the tourism industry worldwide. Many of these children are subjected to harsh working and employment conditions.
This system of mass tourism is damaging and totally unsustainable. One journalist has likened the industry to ‘a high-speed train, crammed with passengers with cheap tickets, racing toward a cliff edge’. So maybe it’s time to slam the brakes on, disembark, and look for an alternative.
The SolutionHere’s what we propose: travel needs to be done differently. We need a sustainable and responsible travel and tourism industry that involves and protects local people and environments, rewarding them fairly for their valuable contribution. There’s no easy solution or quick-fix, but it’s vital that we all try. Otherwise that train is going over the cliff and we’re all going over with it.
You might have heard of ‘ecotourism’. So, what’s it all about? The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) has defined ecotourism as ‘responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education’. Ecotourism is all about creating a unity of conservation, communities and sustainable travel, and principally suggests that travel should:
• Minimise physical, social, behavioural and psychological impacts
• Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect
• Provide positive experience for both visitors and hosts
• Provide direct financial benefits for conservation
• Generate financial benefits for both local people and private industry
• Deliver memorable interpretative experiences to visitors that help raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental and social climates
• Design, construct and operate low-impact facilities
• Recognise the rights and spiritual beliefs of the Indigenous People in your community and work in partnership with them to create empowerment.
Already the ecotourism movement has gathered huge momentum, with some fantastic examples of sustainable tourism in practice all around the world. There have been some amazing successes: Brazil’s wetlands, Belize’s barrier reef, and the Arabian Desert to name but a few. Ecotourism is entering the mainstream.
Three friends started Eco Companion with a simple idea: to make the world a better place by helping people to find their next sustainable holiday in nature. Eco Companion collects all of the world’s best and most eco-friendly travel options in one place so that eco-tourists can find their perfect sustainable escape to nature. We reward the businesses and people that are working to follow and practice the principles of ecotourism, and empower travelers by enabling them to make informed and responsible decisions.
How?We have a secret weapon. Our World Rating System is a feature we’re really proud of, and it makes Eco Companion unique. We use this system to rank each experience in terms of sustainability and sort our search results so you can be sure that you’re making a responsible choice. This means that travellers are empowered, and sustainable tourism wins too – your buying power rewards those doing fantastic work worldwide! Simple, huh?
What do we need from you?Remember that train, crammed full of tourists and hurtling towards the edge of the cliff? Well we want you to get off. We need you to join our ever-growing eco army and together help to protect the natural world we all love so much. For the idea to really work, we need as big a team as possible – an army even! Only once we achieve this will we have the collective power to make a real difference. Helen Keller put it best: ‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.’
Meet the team