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What Does “Ecotourism” Really Mean?

When I was growing up, travel meant vacation. Today I travel as a major part of my career—and I’m not alone. Millennials have a more mobile lifestyle than any other generation prior, skipping out on the traditional 9 to 5 and opting for jobs that offer flexibility and travel benefits as part of the work package. As a generation, we are traveling the world, crossing seas, and Instagramming unique landscapes more than ever, with no sign of stopping anytime soon.

In addition to the growing trend of toting a mobile office, our current generation is more aware and focused on efforts that give back to our planet, ways to leave less of a carbon footprint, and how to care for the Earth for future generations. One study found that an encouraging 65 percent of travelers intended to seek out green accommodation in 2017—nearly double that of the previous year.

Admittedly, when it comes to “eco,” “sustainable,” and “cultural” travel—big buzzwords in wellness tourism these days—the terminology can get a bit confusing. Just as the word “organic” became a buzzword for new marketing strategies before the FDA came in and gave it a clear definition, the same may soon need to happen for tourism.

On a recent trip visiting the Turtle Island Fiji Resort in the South Pacific, I learned, and experienced, what I believe to be the difference between the three and how they are each shaping wellness travel:

What is “ecotourism”?

The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.”

This term falls into the ethos of doing good while experiencing good at the same time. In that sense, ecotourism is all-encompassing, and it has positive effects on all parties involved. A visitor can offer something the culture needs and leave the area just as healthy and plentiful as it was before they arrived. Some popular ecotourism sites include Costa Rica, Norway, and the Galapagos—all of which have an abundant amount of protected natural lands that visitors can explore responsibly.

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