Florie had the chance to meet Kelly Bricker, Research and Education Council Chair at TIES (The International Ecotourism Society), during the international ESTC15 conference in Quito (Ecuador) in April 2015. We invite you to learn about the mission undertaken by TIES for ecotourism in the article below written by Julia Guerra, TIES Membership Representative.
What is Ecotourism?
Ecotourism was first a buzz-word that popped up during the environmental movement of the 1970s. The first ecotravelers tended to be binocular-wearing birdwatchers or adrenaline-seeking mountain climbers. At that time, the focus was on visiting traditional cultures and protected areas, but there was no research on the impact this had on community development, education, and conservation.
Ecotourism is now defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education” (TIES, 2015). Education is meant to be inclusive of both staff and guests. In understanding ecotourism, the key question to ask is: how is this initiative benefiting the local community?
Ecotourism is about engaging conservation, communities, and interpretation. By offering long-term solutions, ecotourism provides economic incentives for both conserving and enhancing bio-cultural diversity that helps project the natural and cultural heritage of our beautiful planet. Ecotourism is also an effective vehicle for empowering local communities about the world to fight poverty and close the gender gap by increasing local capacity building and employment opportunity. Furthermore, ecotourism promotes greater understanding and appreciation for nature and culture.
Ecotourism appeals to travelers who seek authentic local experiences and opportunities to give back to the communities that they visit. This can take on a number of practices such as participating in voluntourism, limiting their carbon footprint by riding bikes or buying carbon offsets during their flights, and choosing hotels that are environmentally responsible. Increasingly, travelers are planning and choosing their trips wisely.
What is TIES?
In 1989, TIES Founder Megan Epler Wood was working as an independent filmmaker focusing on environmental documentaries. She had been fascinated how the tourism industry was providing income to protected areas, and convinced the National Audubon Society to produce an hour-long documentary on ecotourism for television. Within the year, The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) was founded.
Twenty-five years later, TIES is now the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting in ecotourism. With 690 organizations and 13,251 individual members in 135 countries, TIES represents various professional fields and industry segments including governments, architects, tour operators, lodge owners and managers, general development experts, and ecotravelers.
TIES Principles of Ecotourism
Ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. This means that those who implement, participate in and market ecotourism activities should adopt the following ecotourism principles:
- Minimize physical, social, behavioral, and psychological impacts.
- Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
- Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
- Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
- Generate financial benefits for both local people and private industry.
- Deliver memorable interpretative experiences to visitors that help raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climates.
- Design, construct and operate low-impact facilities.
- Recognize the rights and spiritual beliefs of the Indigenous People in your community and work in partnership with them to create empowerment.
Over the last 40 years, the mainstreaming of ecotourism principles has extended to other tourism industries as well, including within hotel chains, urban tourist attractions, ski resorts, golf courses, and beach resorts. Be a part of the movement!
Article by Julia Guerra, TIES Membership Representative
Join TIES! They offer Traveler, Student, Professional and Organization Memberships.
Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Find resources on their website: www.ecotourism.org
Follow them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ecotravelpage
Follow them on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ecotravel
Julia Guerra – TIES & Florie Thielin – Hopineo
during ESTC15 Conference in Quito