Claiming its positive impact has become more important than implementing actual practices. Admittedly, this lexical diversity embodies a “green sensitivity”, these expressions more or less mean the same thing. However, in the last few years, one specific subtype of sustainable tourism named ecotourism has been standing out in Cambodia. Ecotourism refers to a closed list of new tourism founding principles. It tends to reinvent tourism by no longer privileging tourists but rather building a “partnership between the traveler and the people of the destination”.
Ecotourism requires an effective collaboration between the different stakeholders. Indeed, both tourists and locals need educational tools to understand the challenges of ecotourism. It is about putting aside the strict relation of consumer and seller in order to reach a win-win situation.
The responsibility of tourists towards the destination and the proper use of money generated by ecotourism are essential factors.
Look out! As you might expect ecotourism is not a magic bullet able to cure all the bad aspects of mass tourism. Unfortunately, it has a number of significant limitations. Tourism is a fragmented industry which means that the management of touristic services are handled by multiple actors: travel agencies, hotels, transportations, etc.
For this reason, it is hard to make tourists and locals cooperate to serve each other because they are at both extremities of a long chain.
There is a pressing need to ensure a sustainable balance between the commercialization of natural resources and encouraging a new wave of sustainable tourism.
Ecotourism is often pointed out as a reincarnation of mass tourism reproducing passivity and consumerism. The challenge of adapting tourists’ demands and locals’ interests requires both businesses and tourists to change their habits.
As a tourist willing to experience nature-based travel and help tourism become sustainable, here are a few tips that you need to keep in mind.
Since waste treatment services are almost non-existent in remote areas. Minimize as much as possible your plastic use by bringing a reusable water bottle and food containers, which are handy for hiking. Read more about zero-waste trip here.
Ecotourism aims to change the principles of mass tourism but will probably not reach the status of an alternative. Unless “mass ecotourism” is the next step at the detriment of nature and locals, ecotourism facilities will not be able to accommodate the mass of tourists that will reach 10 million in 2025 in Cambodia as mentioned above.
The evolution of tourism towards greater respect for the environment and the local people has to concern all stakeholders within the tourism industry.
About the author: Arthur Philippe-Boivin is a third-year student at Sciences Po Toulouse in France. He is currently on a 5 month internship with the Soulcial Trust in Cambodia to help develop the association’s Clean Green Cambodia environmental initiative. Arthur’s internship is coming to an end and this article, based on field work observations and meetings with local stakeholders, provides food for thought for businesses and individuals.
The International Ecotourism Society, Ecotourism is the solution to overtourism