in France - environment friendly holidays
is Ecotourism ?
The now established definition of Ecotourism is: "Responsible travel to
natural areas which conserves the environment and sustains the
well-being of local people." (As defined by TIES, The International
The market for
ecotourism and nature tourism
While France is a country that offers great opportunities for
environmentally-friendly tourism, eco-tourism is a global business. The
WTO estimated in 2007 that "Ecotourism"
accounted for 7% of the global tourism market, and was growing globally
far faster than any other sector of the tourism market. However,
putting a precise figure on this, or even a vague figure, is
an art more than a science, as definitions of ecotourism and nature
tourism can be and are interpreted in so many different ways.
Ecotourism is sometimes taken to be synonymous with nature tourism or wildlife tourism:
it is not.
tourism can be defined as tourists visiting a
destination to experience and enjoy its natural environment, and
wildlife tourism is described as visiting a destination with the
specific object of observing its wildlife. (e.g. bird-watching). Nature
tourism or wildlife tourism - which are at best just a sector of
ecotourism, at worst nothing
to do with ecotourism - were growing even faster at the start of the
estimates that they could account for 25% of the world travel market by
2015 seem wildly exaggerated.
ecotourism and nature tourism - and completely un-eco-tourism:
Nature tourism and wildlife tourism do not automatically mean
ecotourism, as the following two examples show.
- The nature tourist:
Brown, a well-off young London banker, plans a trip to
Belize to discover its exotic natural environment. He flies to Central
America by British Airways, stays with full board in a large hotel
belonging to an international chain when he arrives, enjoys the
jacuzzi, then hires a small 4x4 from Hertz or Avis to go out and
visit exotic jungle or palm fringed beaches. Although he is clearly
undertaking "nature tourism" or even "wildlife tourism", he
is not an ecotourist. Most of the economic advantage of his trip is
going into the pockets of multinational corporations for the benefit of
their shareholders in developed countries.
- The eco
tourist: His colleague Gilbert
Green likes Ben's idea, and decides to go to Belize too.
He too flies to Central America by British Airways, but then being more
aware of environmental issues than Ben, he stays in a locally owned and
run "eco lodge" built in traditional locally-sourced materials. In
his hotel the showers are equipped with water-saving heads. Gilbert
also eats local produce, and takes local transport or hires a
local guide to hike in the jungle and observe its wildlife, and for
this reason he is an ecotourist. Once he sets foot in Belize, his trip
is bringing economic advantage to local populations, and he is
encouraging good environmental practices in the country he visits.
- The un-eco
tourist: As for Ben's other friends Kev and Ken ,
they're just interested in "having a good time". So they fly to
Marbella in Spain, stay with full board in a four-star hotel belonging
to a multinational hotel company, with heated pool, spa, sauna. They
big 4x4 and use it to visit local golf courses which take too much of
Andalucia's scarce water resources. On a couple of days they hire a
powerboat , and roar around in the sea off Marbella; the boat, badly
maintained, leaks oil into the sea - but that doesn't bother Kev and
Ken. On another day they both hire powerful and noisy quad bikes and
the dry hills inland. Kev nearly collides with a flock of goats. They
have a great holiday - but one that has cost
a lot, in very many different ways.
Ecotourism is developing faster than tourism in general for a number of
aspects of Ecotourism.
- Dissatisfaction with the pressures of modern urban
- The fact that modern mass tourism replicates the
stresses of urban life in new seaside holiday ghettoes (Benidorm,
Torremolinos, Cap d'Agde, etc.)
- Growing public awareness of "green" issues
- Encouragement of green tourism in rural regions and
developing countries where tourism is a vital part of economic survival
(a means to stem the rural exodus).
- Growing popularity of nature programmes on TV
- Growing culture of exoticism, adventure and the
- Growth in the proportion of well educated and
The negative side
- It helps transfer wealth to poorer areas and nations,
and creates jobs.
- It stimulates the development of new
economic activities placing a value on the quality
of the environment (a value on living animals, not just on dead
ones, for example; or giving a forest more value as a living
tourist attraction, than as a lot of trees to be cut down for their
- It stimulates awareness of the value of
the world's environment, which in turn is slowly starting to have an
impact on international political decision-making.
- It encourages the improvement of infrastructures in
inaccessible places, which benefits local populations.
- In some cases, "ecotourism" can rapidly destroy the
very nature of the environment in which it takes place, unless
ecotourist flows are managed with great care, and sometimes with strict
controls on access (Examples: degradation of cave paintings at Lascaux,
severe erosion of hiking paths across many parts of the English
uplands, notably along the very popular Pennine Way;
"westernisation" of communities in developing
countries, on account of increased contact with tourism.)
- In other cases, particularly in non-developed
regions, the arrival of affluent eco-tourists can put strain on natural
resources and drive up prices for local people, who have little money
in the first place. For example, tourism development can put
intolerable strains on scarce water resources, when affluent westerners
demand swimming pools and daily showers – not to mention golf
in arid areas.
- Supposed "Eco tourism" can also fail to help
developing nations, when most of the money developed by ecotourist
activities ends up in the bank accounts of tour companies and car hire
firms, not in the local communities.
- In National Parks, the archetypal eco-tourist
destination, environmental damage is being caused as a result of high
density car usage (as for example on Dartmoor, England, and at
Yellowstone and Yosemite NP's in the USA).
camping! And don't forget the countryside code. Respect the natural
environment, don't throw litter, clear up after you have camped or had
a picnic, don't make unnecessary noise, and don't disturb wildlife.
take motor vehicles (that means 4x4s, quads or motorbikes) on paths and
tracks that are meant for ramblers and hikers, or otherwise unsuitable.
Four-by-fours, quads and bikes cause serious damage to footpaths, which
in turn causes erosion and makes them very difficult for ramblers; they
also cause pollution, and spoil the peace and quiet of the countryside,
which are among its great assets, and among those that most ramblers
and hikers enjoy most. If you want to get your kicks by roaring round
the countryside making as much noise as possible - and let's face it,
some people do - find tracks and areas that are specially designated
for this type of activity. In France, many departments have maps
indicating the routes and tracks that are open to quads, motorbikes and
four by fours.
Links above will provide you with information about the main
popular, historic or natural tourist attractions in France.