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The Five Principles of Ecotourism

Houseboat on a river with a palm tree in the background.

In the 21st century, there is a newer and brighter way to run a hospitality business: ecotourism. What does ecotourism mean? It means redefining the hospitality business so it benefits the community, and not just your guests. The purpose of this is to make your guests feel as though they are being responsible, treating the land they are visiting with the love and respect it deserves. In return, they get a satisfying experience where they potentially learn about the culture and city of their destination, giving them a uniquely immersive experience. These five principles of ecotourism will help define your hospitality business, giving it not only a distinct brand but a motto and mission you can proudly stand by, making you stand out from the crowd. 

Minimizing Impact 

The first, and easiest change a hospitality service can do is start by making small changes to minimize the impact. This can be anything from making sure the design, construction, and operation of the facilities are low impact. Minimizing your impact is a great way to prove to guests and shareholders that your personal mission–to make the world a better and greener place–is real and has power to it. This aspect of ecotourism can potentially save money, reduce all types of waste from electricity and water to plastic wrappers, and will help you establish a business that puts their money where their mouths are. 

Provide Financial Benefits for Conservation 

As a hospitality business that proudly supports why ecotourism is important, you might want to tie in your ecotourism business with an environmental or conservation organization. You can promise that every 5 cents off every dollar a guest spends on a room, meal, or drink, is donated to an environmental organization–either local or international–to help reduce waste in landfills, clean polluted waters, or some other way to reduce the environmental impact of others. The importance of this aspect of ecotourism is to make sure there is a specific goal in mind because specificity is a great way to give directions to eco-friendly guests who want to make a difference but are overwhelmed by the ways they can. 

Build Environmental and Cultural Awareness and Respect 

Ecotourism destinations are not just about you and your hospitality business, it's about the whole community you are part of. As a hospitality business, you are helping to impact the community in its entirety, and it’s important that your guests, who might be there finding thrills, exploring nature, and sightseeing, that this land they are on has a rich and beautiful history, one that should be celebrated with knowledge and appreciation. As an eco-friendly host, you can help educate guests by either providing educational pamphlets on their beds when they check in or at the front desk, offering educational lectures run by local community members, or providing walking, hiking, or bus tours of the local area. 

Generate Financial Benefits for Both Local People and Private Industry 

A principle of ecotourism that can tie in with building environmental and cultural awareness and respect, it’s important to recognize that a major ecotourism purpose is to provide the community in its entirety with financial resources that are gained from guests. This is a perfect opportunity to work together with the rest of your community in a variety of ways. You can offer a discount to guests if they shop or eat at local restaurants and stores. Make sure to employ local members of the community, paying them a livable wage. Have local leaders of the community offer their services to your guests by providing lectures on the culture or with tours of nature. 

Deliver a Positive Experience for Guests 

The ultimate goal is that these four aspects of ecotourism will complement each other to help make sure your guests are having the best experience possible. Ecotourism is important because it brings guests–who are curious to learn more but have no real conceptualization of their vacationing destination–closer to the community they are visiting. The whole trend of “eating like a local” isn’t only about the food. Younger generations of vacationers want to have a truly immersive cultural experience, ditching the walled-off all-inclusive resorts of the past for new glamorous experiences with the locals. 

What Small–But Impactful–Steps Can You Do to Add the Principles of Ecotourism to Your Hotel or Airbnb? 

It is all about the small stuff. At first, at least. Sustainable tourism’s definition starts with you and your hospitality business, making sure that your guests are aware of the steps you are taking to make a change, and encouraging them to do the same: 

  • Smart-Energy Sensors: Helping to prevent unused energy is a great start to helping to create a sustainable hotel or Airbnb. Smart-energy sensors detect whether guest rooms are empty, making sure to automatically turn off the lights and turn off the A/C. 
  • Eliminate Excessive Use of Paper: Going paperless by sending emails with the invoice, using tablets to conduct official business such as signatures and payments, and providing hotel activities, news, and local guides in a digital format, is a great way to pursue an eco-friendly practice.
  • Removing Plastic Waste: Pounds of plastic are wasted in guest rooms every day. From the plastic wraps on toothbrushes to plastic trash bags, recyclable bags are a great way to keep more plastic out of landfills. Single-use coffee Keurig cups are another major landfill. Those one-time plastic K cups should be replaced with compostable coffee K cups*, providing that same great taste but without any of the wasteful plastic. 

  • What does ecotourism mean? It means creating an amazing vacation experience that they will remember forever while helping to tighten and strengthen the community they are visiting, making sure the culture, and the planet, are happier.