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What is Ecotourism?

A very long time before Ecotourism was cool – before it was even a word – Picton Castle was an active ecotourism operator. But what does that mean?

Ecotourism is a word that seems to be popping up all over. The latest trend in travel, it is rising in popularity on an international level as we humans are finding it increasingly difficult to ignore the damage we have done and continue to do to this beautiful planet, and start trying to devise ways to lessen our footprint.

But what exactly is Ecotourism? People tell me it all relates to sustainable travel. Okay – but sustaining what: The environment? Animals? Cultures? The International Ecotourism Society defines Ecotourism 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). And for to be clear: “Education is meant to be inclusive of both staff and guests.”

So Ecotourism is about travelling responsibly. It’s about having a minimum impact on the planet, while visiting and learning about destinations around the world. This means being educated regarding local cultures however unusual they might seem to the traveller; it means doing your utmost to not inflict any sort of damage to the local flora and fauna; it means helping out where there is a need, without any of the associated harm that can sometimes come from uneducated or misguided assistance.

Whenever possible, Picton Castle travels under sail and not engine; we have a water maker system on board the converts salt water to fresh; we bring aid to countries in need including delivering supplies and school books to remote islands; we know the remote islands and motus we visit quite well and have workshops dedicated to each stop as we head there, so that when we arrive each trainee is well-informed of any unique customs or traditions, and as well as any actions which might cause unintended offence; we barter and trade on these islands so that the local economy is getting a boost from our visit that is fair to all involved without any negative impact.

So what is Ecotourism? Well, when you boil it down to its simplest form I’d say Ecotourism is a fancy word for respect. Respect for the planet, for animals and plants that live on her, and for each other. And yes, it’s a very good thing.

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