Ecotourism in Europe: South Europe seems to be far ahead …

Looking at Europe as a destination, we found our that it is far easier to find “eco” travel places in the South rather than in the North. Below are some examples from this reality:
Spain, Portugal and Italy are ahead of the curve in offering agritourism experiences, where visitors stay in rural homes, farms, wine estates and ranches, dining on locally grown foods, horseback riding in the countryside, walking and hiking – and in some even learning to cook with local products or lending a hand in harvesting.

Whether a tourist is taking part in the work of a farm or simply staying there as a base for touring local sights, by choosing the agritourism option they are supporting a way of life and a local community. And best of all, by doing the right thing, they are also enriching their own travel experience. Farm vacations are especially rewarding for families traveling with children, offering outdoor activities, interaction with animals and often contact with local children.

Wildlife and nature experiences are no longer limited to big game safaris, either. Natural areas in Europe are becoming more popular as tourists discover the joys of hiking in the Dolomites, Pyrennes or Portugal’s Serra da’Estrela. Visitors find that the sight of a wild chamois while hiking on the slopes of Italy’s Gran Paradisio is every bit as exciting as the thrill of a lion seen from a jeep in the savannah.
Hey, by the way, the picture up there is from Gran Paradisio, Italy, beautiful place ….

Vatican Supports Green Tourism

an interesting article from, showing that eco-tourism is being more and more watched … by everyone, including the Pope …

As the northern hemisphere holiday season opens, the Vatican has issued a set of guidelines for tourists on making their vacations more environmentally friendly. Reuters reports the Vatican has issued a set of suggestions to help tourists minimise or offset environmental damage caused by their pursuit of rest and relaxation. “One can choose to be a tourist at odds with the Earth or in favour of it,” said the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, according to excerpts published by Italy’s ANSA news agency this week. Tips included taking less luggage on gas guzzling airplanes and cars, planting trees to offset tourists’ carbon footprints and choosing vacation spots in closer harmony with nature, ANSA said. Under Pope Benedict and his predecessor John Paul, the Vatican has become progressively more “green”, including installing photovoltaic cells on buildings to produce electricity. Last year, the Vatican hosted a scientific conference on climate change to underscore the role that religious leaders around the world could play in reminding people that damaging the environment is sinful.

Ecotourism in India

Some interesting information from the specialist:

Ecotourism in IndiaIndia, the land of varied geography offers several tourist destinations that not just de-stress but also rejuvenate you. There are several ways to enjoy Mother Nature in most pristine way. The few places like the Himalayan Region, Kerala, the northeast India, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and the Lakshdweep islands are some of the places where you can enjoy the treasured wealth of the Mother Nature. Thenmala in Kerala is the first planned ecotourism destination in India created to cater to the Eco-tourists and nature lovers. The India topography boasts an abundant source of flora & fauna. India has numerous rare and endangered species in its surroundings. The declaration of several wildlife areas and national parks has encouraged the growth of the wildlife resource, which reduced due to the wildlife hunt by several kings in the past. Today, India has many wildlife sanctuaries and protection laws. Currently, there are about 80 national parks and 441 sanctuaries in India, which works for the protection and conservation of wildlife resource in India. There are numerous Botanical and Zoological Gardens in India, which are working towards the enhancement of the Ecosystem. Poaching has stopped to large extent. There are severe punishments for poachers, hunters and illegal traders of animals and trees. Tree plantation are taking place in several places. There are several animal & plant rights organisation, who fight for the rights of the animals and plants. Numerous organisations and NGOs are coming forward to provide environmental education to the common people at the grass root level.

Some nice eco-tourism destinations in Southeast Asia

Combine altruism with adventurous travel in these emerging vacation spots.
By Rebecca Ruiz,

Inspired by Southeast Asia’s natural beauty and rich culture, many travelers are showing an interest in the area’s alternative “eco” vacations, like the one offered in the Thai National Forests.

Participants on this 10-day tour (airfare and two nights’ stay in Bangkok not included) receive an intensive education in regional ecology and conservation efforts, which range from using biogas to discourage logging and creating communal farms to decrease poaching. Highlights include trips to the Erawan, Budo Sungai-Padi and Khao Yai national parks, where tropical birds, elephants and Asiatic tigers live.

It’s one of many luring travelers to the region. As travel to Southeast Asia continues to rise — an estimated 60.4 million tourists visited the region in 2007 — many visitors are forgoing traditional packages and chain hotels and instead discovering the nascent ecotourism market.

Ecotourism is broadly defined as “responsible” or “ethical” travel during which tourists try their best to minimize environmental impact and ensure their spending and presence benefits the local community. This niche market has grown steadily in recent years.

While it’s difficult to estimate the region’s share of this growth, experts say that examples like a solar-powered lodge in Sumatra, Indonesia, and a conservation-focused tour of the Sukau rainforest in Malaysia are indicative of a growing trend to provide tourists in Southeast Asia with culturally sensitive and environmentally friendly vacations.

“Some of [these countries],” says Ayako Ezaki, director of communications for the International Ecotourism Society, “have taken advantage of the natural and cultural heritage they have to develop tourism. They’ve highlighted those beauties and attracted tourists.”

Enlightening Excursions

Though the market in Southeast Asia is still growing, there are several countries in the region that offer ecotourism options, including Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Visitors to northern Laos, for example, can stay at the Boat Landing Guest House, an eco-lodge certified by Green Globe, a company that rigorously evaluates a hotel’s environmental practices. Guests at the riverside bungalows can rest assured the lodge is working to reduce its solid waste through recycling and composting. Tourists can spend their time trekking, rafting and biking in the nearby protected forests.

On a trip through the Sukau rainforest in Malaysia, where the landscape features jungles, paddy fields and rivers, tourists will learn about local turtle conservation efforts and stay at the 20-room Sukau Rainforest eco-lodge where the water is heated with solar power and “passes” have been built into the land to accommodate elephant migration in the area. The lodge charges one dollar extra per international adult guest and uses it to fund projects like wildlife rehabilitation and tree planting.

Travelers worried about their carbon footprints can try a two-week trip to Cambodia, for which the tour operator can purchase carbon offsets. Highlights include visits to Angkor Wat, a 12th-century temple, and the Royal Palace, as well as the knowledge that the economic and environmental impact on communities is closely monitored.

A range of policies and practices like these are important, according to Dr. Eric Crystal, a lecturer at University of California, Berkeley, who has researched the positive and negative consequences of tourism in Southeast Asia.

“Tourism has brought a lot of good and bad things,” Crystal says. But people can also be very conscious, he says, of what they can put back.

What To Know Before You Go on a Eco Holiday

Though “ecotourism” is a vague term to most consumers, Andy Drumm, a senior ecotourism specialist at the Nature Conservancy, says there are specific components to look for in a vacation marketed with the word.

Where the environment is concerned, Drumm says tourists should ask whether or not a tour operator or hotel is certified and incorporates sustainable energy practices like solar power or water conservation.

Companies should also make clear exactly how they contribute to local communities. Volunteer time, financial contributions or donations of needed materials can be effective depending on the location. If a company doesn’t comment on these issues or doesn’t respond to questions, chances are they may be “greenwashing” — just using the “eco-” term as a marketing tool.

“You don’t want to turn your vacation time into labor,” he says of researching ecotourism travel options, “but you have to be pretty determined.”

Awareness of one’s impact often helps convince travelers to explore so-called ethical measures. At the Komodo National Park in Indonesia, for instance, independent travelers contribute about $100 to the local economy, whereas those on a package tour spend half that and those who arrive via a cruise ship have a local impact of only three cents. With this knowledge, a tourist might decide against a cruise and instead book local alternatives and buy keepsakes from native artisans.

“The important thing to note,” says Ezaki, “is that when you say ‘ecotourism,’ it’s not just about one particular group of companies you can travel with. It’s about doing everything possible to make your experience more sustainable and more responsible.”

A new guide for eco-tourism in Ireland

Extract from


Ecoescape:Ireland is a new handbook to green travel in Ireland. Written by Irish travel writer, Catherine Mack, this new guide follows the recent successful launch of ecoescape: UK. In this groundbreaking book, Catherine gives a personal insight into her top 50 ecoescapes around the country. Full of practical details, including a Slow Travel Toolkit, ecoescape: Ireland helps travellers find ways to responsible escapism closer to home, and provides international visitors greener options for their travels around Ireland, both North and South. “Eco-travel begins at home” Said Laura Burgess, publisher “Which is why ecoescape promotes travel in the UK and Ireland. Here tourism businesses, including hotels and attractions, are cutting emissions, sourcing locally, generating their own energy, moving off-grid and encouraging travellers and visitors to do the same. Through the books and website ecoescape provides a platform for Irish businesses to shout about what they do and to connect ecoescapers to the changes that are making the world a greener place. “I wanted to make a guidebook to share the stories of great people who are, quite simply, trying to make a difference,” says author Catherine Mack. “They are striving to make a living out of Irish tourism, but taking responsibility for the impact it might have locally.” ecoescape promotes slow travel. This involves using our cars less and avoiding flying. Instead we take the train, the bus or the boat and use our bikes and our legs more. Each ecoescape book includes a Slow Travel Toolkit which shows the reader how to enjoy travelling slowly and in the process, discover a new way of taking a holiday. The author travelled slowly and has included details of her cycle, bus and rail routes so readers can do the same. There are also practical tips on how to travel sustainably to Ireland from the UK using the ferry. As ecoescape: Ireland covers the island of Ireland, North and South, it also explores the concept of cross-border tourism in a country that has, in the past, been divided by conflict. Catherine Mack explains, “If you are visiting Ireland, you will quickly discover that natural beauty such as the Mourne Mountain range does not stop at the border.” VISION readers can purchase the book direct and get free post and packing by using the code: EcoUK from:

Eco-tourism in Nepal and the Annapurna Area: a wrong impression ?

You may think that trekking is a purely environment friendly activity …but this may also lead to strong negative effects on the environment: Nepal is a good example of the environmental impact of uncontrolled tourism to natural areas

(Extracts from WWF articles)

Tourism is one of the main sources of foreign exchange income for Nepal. Each year, over 36,000 trekkers and 36,000 porters visit the Annapurna region which supports 40,000 local inhabitants.

About 60 per cent of these trekkers come during four months of the year. They are concentrated in few places, resulting in devastating impacts on both local cultural and natural environments.
Forest is cleared each year to construct hotels, lodges and furniture and to provide fuel for cooking, hot showers and campfires. 400,000 hectares of forest are cleared each year. This is a deforestation rate of three per cent per year. One hectare of cleared forests loses 30-75 tons of soil annually. This has led to devastating landslides and floods.

86 per cent of Nepal’s energy comes from forests. In the Annapurna virtually everybody depends on fuelwood for cooking as there are no alternative sources of energy. The total daily wood consumption by and on behalf of each trekker equals the amount used by a Nepalese family of five for a week.

Tree lines have been raised and entire ridges previously cloaked in rhododendron (one of the attractions of the area and Nepal’s national flower) denuded. Few trees are left within the Annapurna Sanctuary itself.

Virtually all food and housekeeping items have to be imported from Kathmandu and elsewhere, inflating local economies and introducing non-nutritious diets.
Inadequate sanitation facilities and indiscriminate practices by tourists and trekking groups have left virtual ‘minefields’ of human excreta and toilet paper. Toilets, if they exist at all, are often dangerously close to water sources. Non-biodegradable litter such as plastics, tins and bottles, used primarily by tourists, are disposed of in nearby streams or strewn in piles at the edge of the settlements.

Tourism, as a messenger of outside values and behaviours, has also affected local cultures. Village youths are easy prey to the seductiveness of Western consumer culture as tourists are laden with expensive trappings: hi-tech hiking gear, flashy clothes, cameras and electronic goods.
The Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) was established in 1986 as a response to the above problems. The project, implemented by the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation (NGO), addresses three main aspects simultaneously: nature conservation, human development and tourism management.

ACAP strives to ensure that the beneficiaries from trekking tourism and conservation activities will be the local people, at the same time making them the guardians of their resources. The approach is that of a grassroots philosophy that strongly discourages a handout philosophy. As a result traditional subsistence activities are woven into a framework of sound resource management, supplemented by small scale conservation and alternative energy projects to minimise the impact of tourists and upgrade the local standard of living.

Eco-tourism in Laos is an interesting website. Created by The Lao National Tourism Association, it aims at promoting eco-tourism, green hotels and nature tours and treks in Laos.
For such a destination, beautiful but still limited in volume and notoriety, we are very impressed by the effort of the governement – much more than in certain much more developed countries of the West 😉
Here a few examples of what Laos can offer on eco-tourism:
The Lao system of 20 National Protected Areas covers nearly 14% of the country and is recognized as one of the best designed protected areas systems in the world. With large tracts of tropical monsoon forest, diverse wildlife populations, bizarre karst limestone formations and many ethnic minority groups, Laos’ protected areas have an abundance of ecotourism attractions. Although most Lao protected areas are remote and difficult to reach, there are many existing opportunities for-ecotourism activities such as trekking, kayaking, bird watching and camping that allow you to experience first-hand the country’s magnificent natural and cultural diversity.
Each of the 18 provinces in Laos is uniqueand ethnically diverse, with varying landscapes and forest types, wildlife, handicraftsand other cultural industries, Buddhist and non-Buddhist festivals, and many ecotourism opportunities. Exploring the more remote and less traveled provinces will give you a better understanding and appreciation for Laos’ magnificent cultural and natural heritage, and can help spread the of tourism to areas further away from the main tourism centers of Vientiane and Luang Prabang.
A great, ecologically friendly way to get around Lao is by bicycle. With a population of only about 6 million people, Laos has light traffic outside the main towns and biking around the country’s green hills is gaining popularity. It is best to bring your own bike if you plan on a longer trip, but for shorter trips, many tour companies and guest houses rent mid-range mountain bikes. There are currently organized bike tours to the mountains and ethnic villages in Luang Namtha. Other great places to rent a bike are Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang.
Trekking is a popular way to explore the mountains and forests in Laos. There are many well designed 1-3 day trekking trips available that usually invole an overnight stay in rural ethnic minority villages. If you are planning a trek, using a trained local guide is strongly recommended as trekking is still a relatively new activity in Laos. Resident guides have intimate knowledge of indigenous plants, animals and local culture, and hiring guides through a tour operator or guide service will make your trek more educational. If you want to visit a Lao National Protected Area booking a trek is one of the best ways to do it.

Eco-tourism in Bali, Indonesia

Bali is a beautiful place, but often too crowded right ? A lot of traffic, people, tourists, discos etc. but it is also the place of surf, religions, nature treks and therefore eco-tourism !

Listed below are a number of nature tour opportunities and eco-tourism facilities in Bali, Indonesia.

Welcome to Indonesia’s Marine Conservation Programs…Bali Indonesia considers wise use and conservation of its rich marine resources essential to the nation’s future. Marine conservation programs in Indonesia vary reflecting the diversity of marine habitants and resources of the nation.
The Government of Indonesia has declared 24 marine protected areas throughout the country. There are plans to expand this to 85 reserves covering 30 million hectares.
Recent initiatives include plans for the management of important marine habitants such as coral reefs and mangroves for sustainable use and conservation. Marine animals are also benefiting from marine conservation efforts. Recent laws have banned the hunting of most turtles throughout the country.

Not only will you enjoy your day trip to Lembongan Island with Bali Hai Cruises, but you also have the opportunity to become involved in our reef watch program at the Reef Appreciation Area. Bali Hai Cruises has recognized the importance and uniqueness of the Lembongan Island Reef and are supporting the Indonesian Government in protecting and managing the reef. To firm our commitment to conservation, Bali Hai Cruises employs a marine biologist to monitor the reef, suggest new ways it can be managed and develop ways that you can learn more about the marine life and fish. The cruises and activities at the Island are designed to create as little disturbance as possible to marine life. Bali Hai Cruises is a member of and supports the Marine Education Society of Australia.

Don’t leave Bali without visiting these truly unique and spectacular Indonesian Elephants. Located in the cool jungle forest of Desa Taro, (20 mins north of Ubud Bali), the Elephant Safari Park offers you the chance to feed and interact with these wonderful creatures in a natural setting. A 30 minute Elephant Safari ride is available to those who wish to do more than just look. Then watch the Elephants as they take a bath, immersing themselves in the cool waters of the lake. Bali Elephant Safaris are suitable for all ages.
Taman Burung Bali Bird Park, Singapadu, near Batubulan. Taman Burung houses over 1000 birds, including varieties from all over Indonesia. One of the aims of the park is to breed endangered species in captivity, including the indigenous Bali Mynah. Those of you who are not necesarily interested in ornithology will be impressed by the two hectares of Bali tropical gardens.

Almost the whole of the western tip of Bali, covering an area of over 750 square km, has been set aside as a conservation area. Included within the park’s boundaries are open savanahs, rainforests, mangrove swamps, coral reefs and Pulau Menjangan (Deer Island), a small island off the north coast of Bali. The park is a haven for a wide range of animals and birds, especially the endangered Bali Starling. Pulau Menjangan, home to the rare Java Deer, can also be visited and has very good diving and snorkeling. To enter the park you must be accompanied by an official guide and in possession of a park permit.

Taman Kupu Kupu, Jl. Batukaru, Sandan Wanasari, Tabanan Regency. Recently opened, Indonesia’s only butterfly park is helping to study, breed and preserve many kinds of butterflies from Bali and all over Indonesia.
Kebun Raya Eka Karya, Bedugul Bali. Established in 1959 these gardens cover over 120 hectares on the slopes of Gunung Pohon (Tree Mountain). The gardens contain a huge collection of trees, nearly 500 varieties of orchid and are rich in birdlife. As a centre for the study of local plants, the gardens also boast a herbarium and library.
Step out of time into the fantastic world that awaits you at the Bali Reptile Park. Enter the dawn of time when Dinosaurs ruled the earth, Komodo Dragons stalked their prey and Crocodiles emerged from the swamps. The Bali Reptile Park can’t give you Dinosaurs, but we still have the Komodo Dragons and Crocodiles, all part of Asia’s most comprehensive collection of reptiles.
Near the village of Sangeh Bali. This forest, of approximately 6 hectares, is filled with giant nutmeg trees that can grow up to 40m high. The main attractions here are the hordes of Balinese monkeys that inhabit both the trees and the temple, Pura Bukit Sari, located in the heart of the forest. Visitors should be aware that these monkeys are attracted to shiny objects, so cameras and jewellery should be left behind or well hidden under clothes or in a bag before setting off to explore Sangeh Bali.
Ubud Bali. This forest is smaller than the one at Sangeh but the monkeys are just as wild.
Near Pupuan, west Bali. Dropping over 100m, this waterfall is spectacular, especially during the rainy season. Be prepared for a bit of a trek up a steep, and at times rough, track to get there.
10km south of Singaraja Bali. Not far from the main road, Gitgit is an impressive 40m waterfall that gushes into a deep pool. A swim here can be very refreshing, although local legend has it that couples bathing here together will eventually separate.

UK official criteria on eco-tourism

Interestingly enough, there are many many criteria for eco-tourism that we have posted earlier on this blog – we are trying to be as comprehensive as possible thus we are sharing with you the , the UK green tourism Business Scheme criterias; we think they are both extremely relevant and comprehensite thus might be the basis of what we will work on in the next few weeks to build

Compulsory – compliance with environmental legislation and a commitment to continuous improvement in environmental performance

Management and Marketing – demonstrating good environmental management, including staff awareness, specialist training, monitoring, and record keeping

Social Involvement and Communication of environmental actions to customers through variety of channels and range of actions, e.g. green policy, promotion of environmental efforts on the website, education, and community and social projects

Energy – efficiency of lighting, heating and appliance, insulation and renewable energy useWater – efficiency – e.g. good maintenance, low-consumption appliances, flush offset, rainwater harvesting, as well as using eco-cleaners

Purchasing – environmentally friendly goods and services, e.g. products made from recycled materials, use and promotion of local food and drink, and use of FSC wood productsWaste – minimisation by encouraging, the ‘eliminate, reduce, reuse, recycle’ principle, e.g. glass, paper, card, plastic and metal recycling; supplier take-back agreements; dosing systems; and composting

Transport – aims to minimise visitors car use by promoting local and national public transport service, cycle hire, local walking and cycling option, and use of alternative fuels

Natural and Cultural Heritage – on site measures aimed at increasing biodiversity, e.g. wildlife gardening, growing native species, nesting boxes, as well as providing information for visitors on the wildlife on and around the site

Innovation – any good and best practice actions to increase a business’s sustainability that are not covered else where