Since 2005, Eco Adventures Travel has been working to adequately develop ecotourism, following the principles mentioned below. To this end, it is assisted by a Bachelor of Tourism and Hotel Management and several partners dealing with tourism and environment, such as Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Universities, the Local Community, government departments, etc.
Since the 1970s, ecology and environmental preservation have been largely discussed in developed countries, “(…) which started a process of discussions and meetings that resulted in documents such as the Stockholm Declaration (1972), the Cocoyoc Declaration (1974), the Brundtland Report (1987), the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, and finally, the RIO-95. All intended to give room to discussions on alternative development styles that match the basic premises of sustainable development.” (Andres, 1998, p.42)
According to the World Commission on Environment and Development, Sustainable Development is an “economic and social development model that meets the needs of the current generation without undermining the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
Sustainable development emerges thus to harmonize economic development, environmental preservation, and cultural preservation of the communities practicing it.
In this context, sustainable tourism emerges as a way to attain sustainable development, as it preserves the destination environments, minimizing the social costs that affect the local residents, and optimizing the benefits of tourism development.
According to Pearce in Beni (1998, p. 61), sustainable tourism means to “maximize and optimise distribution of the benefits of economic development, through establishing and consolidating adequate conditions under which tourism is offered, so that natural resources are maintained, restored and improved”.
According to MICT/MMA (1994), ecotourism emerges as one of the greatest tools for economic feasibility and the adequate management of natural resources, providing a respectable livelihood option and a better life to the population, at the same time ensuring that the future generations will have access to the natural heritage. According to Pires (1998), ecotourism is a segment of the tourism industry that currently stands as a main alternative toward sustained development of tourist destinations, particularly those in less developed countries and regions.
Lindberb, Hawkins (1995), considers ecotourism to be a new and promising instrument to preserve natural areas that are fragile and threatened, and also a means to provide development opportunities to the communities of developing countries.
Next are some definitions of ecotourism, where the different sectors interested in its development were taken into account.
According to environmentalist Lascurain in Pires (1998 p. 79), Ecotourism means: “travelling to relatively undisturbed natural areas with the specific object of studying, admiring and enjoying the scenery and its wild plants and animals, as well as any existing cultural aspects (both past and present) found in these areas”.
Government bodies in charge of planning and managing policies on ecotourism define it as: “a segment of the tourism industry that makes sustainable use of cultural and natural heritage, encourages its conservation, and pursues environmental awareness through interpretation of the environment, promoting the well-being of the populations involved”. (MICT/MMA, 1994 p.19).
The Brazilian Ecotourism Institute – IEB – defines ecotourism as: “the practice of recreational, sports, or educational tourism in natural areas that makes sustainable use of natural and cultural heritage, encourages its conservation, builds environmental awareness and provides the well being of the populations involved”. (IIEB, in Pires, 1998 p.83).
Ruschmann in Pires (1998 p. 84), defines ecotourism as: “Travels organized by specialized companies, designed to offer tourists direct contact with nature, respecting the principles of socio-economic development of destinations, promoting environmental education and sustainability in the environments visited”.
In every definition above, as we can see, there is reference to a conserved or relatively unchanged environment, whether natural or cultural, for the practice of ecotourism.
With new natural destinations, known as ecotourism, the tourism industry is in full expansion, where materials and videos on ecotourism are more and more highlighted in the world media.
According to Lindberg, Hawkins (1995), it is essential that the ones in charge of managing natural areas determine the tourism potential for each area, to then formulate ecotourism managing and planning strategies. The industry, thus, should be guided by strategy, in order to adequately meet its goals and move ahead toward sustainability.
As indicated by Lindbert and Hawkins (1995), a strategy involves three stages. The first stage refers to assessing the site’s current situation, its natural attractions, tourism potential, etc. The second includes determining a desirable tourism situation and identifying the steps necessary to reach it. Finally, the third stage is to prepare a document on the ecotourism strategy.
An ecotourism strategy should help those managing natural areas to decide whether to foster ecotourism or not, depending on whether it will benefit nature and the local people.
The ecotourism industry will only be successful if the natural resources are protected, and they will only be protected if there is an adequate management strategy, and if the government representatives, entrepreneurs, and local communities take on the leading part in designing the ecotourism product.
A well-organized, creative and responsible planning of an ecotourism destination should produce environmental and socio-economic benefits to all those involved in the activity, enhancing the community and visitors’ environmental awareness, and minimizing any negative impacts that the activity may bring to the destination site.
Currently, making sustainable tourism viable through ecotourism in areas with abundant wildlife is undoubtedly of utmost importance in preserving a region’s natural environment, as well as its social and cultural environment. To this end, it is important that those involved in the activity (authorities, entrepreneurs, non-governmental organizations, tourism professionals, schools, the population, among others) become united and aware that tourism, as an economic activity, can generate income, create jobs, preserve the environment and value the culture and traditions of a community.
With the popularity of ecotourism thousands of people are looking for natural environments for the practice of recreational activities ranging from a simple walk to the practice of nature sports. Nature needs to be treated with care and respect, you cannot carry out cleaning and recovery in the same way as happens in cities. Therefore, the protection and conservation of the visited destinations depends largely on your behavior. You as visitor can and must help prevent and or minimize the impact that tourism can bring to a particular location. It is simply doing that just follow the recommendations presented below:
- Make sure you have a way to pack your trash in plastic bags to bring it back. Learn how to reduce the amount of waste leaving home unnecessary packaging;
- The rescue in natural environments is expensive and complex, and can take days and cause great damage to the environment. Therefore, first, it is not without risk;
- Make sure you have the appropriate equipment for each situation. Most of the accidents and assaults on nature are caused by improvisations, inappropriate and negligence use of equipment;
- Use the sanitary facilities there. If there are no sanitary facilities (toilets) in the area, dig a hole with fifteen centimeters deep at least 60 meters from any water source, hiking or camping sites, where it is not necessary to remove the vegetation;
- Do not build any kind of structure, such as benches, tables, bridges etc. Do not break or cut tree branches, even if they are dead or fallen, they may be serving as shelter for birds or other animals;
- Resist the temptation to take "souvenirs" home. Leave rocks, artifacts, flowers, shells etc. where you found them so that others can enjoy them as well;
- Take only photographs, leave only your footprints and take only memories;
- Observe the animals at a distance. The proximity can be interpreted as a threat and trigger an attack, even by small animals. In addition, wild animals can transmit serious diseases;
- Do not feed animals. Animals may end up getting used to the food we offer and go to invade the camps in search of food, damaging tents, backpacks and other camps;
- Do not remove flowers and wild plants. Enjoy your beauty in place without harming nature and giving the same opportunity to other visitors;
- Walk and camp in silence, preserving the tranquility and sense of harmony that nature offers. Let radios and sound instruments at home;
- Treat the inhabitants of the area with courtesy and respect. Keep the gates the way you found it and not enter houses and sheds without permission;
- Be polite and behave as if you were visiting someone else's house. Take the opportunity to learn about the habits and local culture;
- Avoid using strong colors that can be seen kilometers and break the harmony of the natural environment. Use clothing and equipment neutral colors to avoid visual pollution in much frequented places. To call the attention of a relief team, keep in your backpack a plastic or strong colored fabric, in case of emergency.
- Encourage and practice the positive interaction between visitors, drivers / guides, private land owners and managers of protected areas, according to the regulations that apply to each site;
- Support the environmental protection organizations and giving prestige to their programs, projects and actions with contributions, volunteer work, or associating with them when appropriate.
Ethics and practice minimum impact are being adopted around the world. Following these principles of minimal impact and disseminating them, you will be helping to preserve the tourist attractions, whether natural or not, keeping them in the best condition for you and for the other visitors.