Defining Eco Tourism
Eco tourism is the conscious and deliberate effort of both tour operator and their guests to minimize the adverse impacts of traveling to or in natural areas. Every effort must be made to lessen damage or alterations to the indigenous ecosystems and cultures.
All tour activities have some impact on the environment and the culture where they operate. Eco tourism programs should provide benefits to local community, but they should mainly focus on the environment. In doing so, the community will yield returns as a result of the sustainability of such tours.
Traditionally, tangential businesses are spawned by tours to any given area. Transportation and food services are two examples. Both of these however, are usually the direct opposites of eco tourism. Transportation services historically are run on fossil fuels. However, the impact can be minimized by strict emission standards. This is less likely to happen in less developed countries. Food services can lessen their impact by using biodegradable containers. Unfortunately, Styrofoam is much cheaper that their biodegradable counterpart. It is often up to the consumer to make their statement before changes can happen. Sadly, the most effective and easiest way to make changes is to hit the perpetrators in the wallet by not buying the vendor’s products. Alternatively, and a much more compassionate approach is to give monetary incentives to promote sustainable conservation efforts.
Conservation progress stresses the need for broadly distributed local benefits as incentives for conservation. Without this, the local community may continue to support activities that produce unsustainable activities.
Principles of the definition
Beware; the mass tourism operators speak the language of sustainable eco tourism. Some of them have even received international awards for their ability to fill out applications with flowery verse.
Moo, my wife, does some guiding as well. Her main task is to interface with all the boatmen, bungalow owners, and anyone else we come in contact with. Her method for getting things done and for getting things changed is to make friends first... then wiggle her way into getting what is needed. This works for food and rooms, but more importantly for getting trash picked up and other environmentally damaging items corrected. She is invaluable.
So, we satisfy the criteria for having 'locals' employed. They run trips without me many times. I go on choice trips (meaning, the ones I can't get enough of - like Khao Sok), but not all of them. I trust the guides skills and judgment implicitly. They are all very safety conscious.
Paddle Asia is a small company with a family atmosphere. I am the only foreigner in the company.
Real eco tour operators are concerned and do everything in their power to make sure that their tours don’t have a negative impact on the environment and the local culture.
Being life-long naturalists and animal lovers, Paddle Asia’s foundation is built on the principle of putting nature first. It is true that one could argue that just visiting natural areas, to some degree has a negative impact. This can’t be denied. However, by showing our guests the wonders and beauty of these destinations, we are generating awareness. This awareness will hopefully, in turn, spawn a desire among our guest to help preserve these few remaining natural wonders.
We run a lot of school trips, especially international school groups. In fact, International School Programs are a huge part of our business. We combine community service projects with our school group programs. Kids are the future. International school students are the most likely to be the movers and the shakers of tomorrow. They need to experience something other than shopping malls. They need to know that there is more to life than material gain. We have changed the lives of many youngsters. This is what Paddle Asia is all about.
Environmental Education and Interpretation
Our guests return home having learned something about the extraordinary environments where we run our tours. They gained knowledge of the culture. We strive to provide information that is clear and relevant.
Personal development and involvement
A true eco tourism operator puts most of the money generated from the business back into the community. Ultimately, sustainability means a lifestyle that is in balance, a lifestyle that can easily be maintained in the future. On a personal note, I don’t drink nor spend time in establishments that are not environmentally friendly. So, I don’t squander money on meaningless matters. I don’t support the bar scene in Thailand. I support the opposition. I eat at food stalls, at small locally owned restaurants in my neighborhood, and at home. In other words, I don’t waste money on things that don’t benefit Thailand. I try to think about the community with everything I do. I’m not trying to say here that I’m some sort of saint, but the things that sincerely matter to me just happen to be in line with formula for defining eco tourism.
Paddle Asia reinvests large amounts of money back into the communities where we operate, such as Ko Yao Noi. We also offer unique opportunities for young people such as our Environmental Awareness Poster Contest. We worked with the Phuket Educational Department in order to bring student representatives from all of the schools in Phuket. We were ecstatic about the outcome.
Paddle Asia has always been focused on building a strong affiliation with the local community. We have succeeded.
We certainly don’t think that we have done all that we can do to further ourselves as one of Southern Thailand’s leading eco tour operators. If you would like to give us some input as to what you feel is important for a genuine eco tour operator, we would love to hear from you.
Koh Yao Noi Homestay Program in Phang Nga Bay
For information on this great program, please visit our sister site for complete details.
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