Ecotourism Is Essential to All Tourism

There will be no tourism if we don’t promote ecotourism in order to protect our resources By: Kenneth Shapiro
Shapiro // © 2015 TravelAge West
Shapiro // © 2015 TravelAge West

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I recently returned from the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s (ATTA) Adventure Travel World Summit, held in Puerto Varas, Chile. Tour operators, tourism boards and others from all over the world came together for education and networking — including a panel on travel agents (see page 6). But more significant than the practical benefits of the conference was the way it inspired attendees to create safe, sustainable and life-changing experiences for travelers.

Shannon Stowell, ATTA president, refers to the conference “not as an event, but a platform for a movement.” And that ethos could be felt throughout the summit.

While the companies at the conference have a wide variety of business goals and challenges, one passion each one shared was a desire to preserve our natural resources so they can be enjoyed by future generations of travelers. Doug Tompkins, a noted conservationist who has practically single-handedly created national parks in Chile and elsewhere, spoke at the event and said that we have no choice but to focus on conservation now because our options are slipping away. Thoughtful management of our resources is crucial for many reasons, including the fact that our entire industry is at stake. There simply is no tourism without protecting our planet. 

“The health of nature comes first,” Tompkins said. “We need to remember that there will be no economy, no society, no civilization and no adventure tourism industry on a dead planet.”

This quote came to mind as I read about the recent forest fires in Indonesia that are sending clouds of dangerous smoke all over the region. These fires are intentionally set in order to clear areas of the forest and prepare the land for development and, despite being illegal, they continue due to government corruption and corporate shortcuts. In addition to being a health hazard and an environmental crisis, the smoke clouds have an economic impact — costing the region billions of dollars.

It can be frustrating to hear about a situation such as this, but there is simply no time to get anchored down by helplessness. We are all part of a community that needs to take a stand for conservation today, in order to save the places that are dear to us.