What is ecotourism?
Ecotourism is a form of tourism that involves visiting different natural areas in a respectful fashion, with a low impact on the environment and in a conservative way.
It is usually distinguished by being smaller in scale with regards the number of people visiting sights and normally promotes the conservation of the visited area and its constituent factors.
The purpose of ecotourism may vary, but it is, in short, always an educational opportunity for visitors to learn the different features that make up our environment and the importance of keeping it in the best state. It is also a chance for travellers to learn the different things that go into making a sustainable tourism practice.
What is the most important aspect of ecotourism?
1. ecological conservation
2. sustainable economic development and
3. the social empowerment of the communities where activities are carried out, as well as the political power of local groups
A bit of history
Since 1980, ecotourism has been considered by environmental activists as a basic and unique activity enabling the local maintenance of natural spaces in order to preserve their legacy for future generations. Although the term focuses on maintaining biodiversity, there is also a social side to it. Many tourist destinations have negatively impacted local indigenous communities and affected natural wealth, and this is not a feature for which ecotourism is known. This is why maintaining local culture, in addition to biodiversity, is generally one of the core interests and concerns of this form of tourism.
Ecotourism in Spain
Spain is home to many tourist gems, recognised and promoted by the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas and safeguarded by the European Commission. These areas are known as organic tourism places and encompass natural areas that foster activities which encourage caring for the wellbeing of the environment. Spain has some of Europe’s most important natural spaces, including nature reserves and national parks right across the country and in each of its different regions.
In Spain there are several clubs promoting ecotourism, including the Asociación de Ecoturismo en España (AES), a non-profit that focuses its resources and efforts on supporting, protecting and maintaining sustainable development across the country’s tourism industry.
Sustainable Development and Ecotourism
As is well known, we are at a time of structural changes both economic and social, changes mostly being driven by agendas that seek to develop and include sustainable practices.
The United Nations has put in place an agenda listing 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be met by the nations by 2030. The only way to achieve them is to act from a micro perspective in order to achieve a macro outcome. This means the 17 points must be included across small and large companies in each different industry. Some of the points in the document are: ending poverty, maintaining life in land ecosystems (as well as air and sea ones), implementing actions to reduce climate impacts and responsible production and consumption. On this basis, the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism has begun to work on analysing and rolling out a guide listing opportunities for and challenges to achieving the 17 points cited by the UN in the Spanish tourism industry. The “Guide to Sustainable Tourism in Spain” references the importance the industry has for the country’s transformation, given that it represents 10% of Spain’s GDP and is responsible for 14% of pollutant gas emissions into the atmosphere. Ecotourism is therefore being promoted now more than ever.
Ecotourism in Ronda
Ronda is home to one of the most renowned and unique ecotourism places in the country, not only for the quality of its services but the content and added products offered in the experience. LA Organic Experience is a tour unlike any other and whose main theme is olive oil, a product of the land that is the fruit of the country’s tradition and history. It offers an ecological environment with a very interesting natural landscape. The experience itself entails a route through an organic olive grove and vineyard showcasing over six thousand trees and other plant species along the way. This magical place covers 26 hectares divided into different areas with their own identity and character, resulting in one of the most important and successful ecotourism projects around.