by LeAnn Kurtz (San Francisco, California, USA)
There are many ways to live “Green” but let’s not forget Earth Stewardship while we travel as well. Have you heard of Fair Trade Tourism? How about Eco-Tourism?Tourism can have a very negative effect on the Earth if it’s not developed properly. Let’s take a look at a typical tourist area…Environmental quality and local culture is essential to tourism, but tourism doesn’t always look after the local populations, indigenous people and the environment. The relationship is complex.Developers of tourism construct roads, airports, resorts, hotels, restaurants, golf courses and marinas that can eventually destroy the environment and tax the water supplies where water is often scarce to begin with, causing local populations to have to compete for the resources.Local people make money from tourists, but often, the businesses that drive tourism and make money for them don’t give them incentives to look after the environment. This type of tourism is not sustainable or desirable in the long run. It creates soil erosion, pollution of land and sea and natural habitat loss. The people making most of the profits are the big developers, hotels, and tour operators while locals are losing farm land and small businesses. Fair Trade tourism encompasses a lot of different ideas, but generally it is travel set up to respect the environment and help poor communities. Ecotourism is similar, but not as culturally centered, set up to respect the environment.They both ensure that the economic benefits of tourism go to those whose land, natural resources, knowledge, labor and culture are used for tourism activities. Fair trade tourism aims to foster environmental development and income distribution in rural communities which produce fair trade products through mutually beneficial and equitable partnerships between national and international tourism stakeholders in the destinations.Many of the world’s least developed countries have the warm climate, cultural diversity and beauty that make them valuable as tourist locations, but these same countries need more protection. By traveling more consciously we can offer them income and sustainability. Fair Trade and eco-tourism supports communities economically as well as environmentally. Check out some of my favorite Eco-Spas and Fair Trade adventure travel destinations.