What exactly is Ecotourism and what differentiates an Alaska eco tour vacation from any other Alaskan vacation?
There is perhaps no word more miss used and abused in Alaska tourism then ecotourism. The problem is that there is no clear cut definition of what constitutes an eco tour. Many Alaskan vacation providers use the term in their marketing but without a real understanding of what it means.
Part of the problem is that there are a lot of related terms out there. Adventure travel, green tourism, nature based tourism, responsible tourism, sustainable tourism... these terms tend to get used interchangeably in the Alaska ecotourism market.
An Alaska backpacking trek may observe carefully leave no trace principles and minimize impact on the Alaskan environment but that alone doesn't necessarily qualify it as an eco tour. One of the distinguishing factors about the ecotourism designation is that the activity should somehow conserve and improve the environment in some way such as raising awareness about the environmental threats and pressures on an area.
The following are based on guidelines established by SMART - Sustainable Model for Arctic Regional Tourism.
Ecotourism: Supports the local economy
Supporting stands for employing staff, buying goods and services and paying tax locally. Tangible benefits from Alaska ecotourism are a positive force. Operates environmental friendly Establish and continuously improve environment policies. Transportation, waste and lodging impact policies are adjusted to local conditions
Ecotourism: Supports conservation of local nature
The ecological carrying capacity of the area must be respected. The local inhabitants and tourism operators have a right to participate in land-use planning on local and regional level. The Alaska eco tour operator should have thorough knowledge and co-operate with other actors and should give active support to preferably local Alaskan conservation projects.
Ecotourism: Respects and involves the local community
Promoting and preserving local cultures, lifestyles and values set limits and rules to tourism. Quality Alaskan ecotourism depends on active support from and benefit to local people. The networking between different stakeholders in the region is highly encouraged.
Ensures quality and safety in all business operations Sustainable tourism is quality tourism. This includes administration, planning, acting as a good host and implementing safety issues in quality management policy.
Ecotourism: Educates visitors about local nature & culture
Sustainable Alaska ecotourism is based on curious and respectful visitors. Eco tour operators use knowledgeable guides and constantly improve the awareness level of the personnel. The visitor is given information of the sustainable ecotourism in the region .
Not all alaska tours are eco tours. But that doesn't mean that because a tour doesn't meet the qualifications of an eco tour that it's not an ecologically friendly tour. Awareness of the impact on the Alaskan environment is a concern for most operators of Alaskan tourist activities.
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