Unspoiled mountain stream, County Mayo, Ireland.

Unspoiled mountain stream, County Mayo, Ireland.

At the end of the day and the beginning of this new year, is there really anything more to ecotourism than “more environmentally responsible nature tourism” ? 

The world and Ireland is full of nature tourism operators – walking, hill climbing, kayaking, cycling, surfing, rock climbing, abseiling, mushroom gathering, sailing, scuba diving, even fishing and, some would say, hunting. 

I know people who are involved in these activities and couldn’t give a damn about the environment. Last year, I met a guy involved in outdoors tourism who told me that he didn’t consider his food waste an issue – “It all goes into the ocean”. That’s a fact ! 

Shouldn’t we be delighted with a world where tourism providers care about and respect the environment, strive not to damage it and tell others about what they do and encourage them to do likewise ? Would that not be a seriously great step forward ? 

Now let’s build on that. It would be wonderful if every kayaker, cyclist, hiker in the countryside also left with more knowledge about the place and people they had visited. It would be great if they contributed to the conservation of the area, by not uprooting flowers or scaring animals. That’s a step beyond not littering. 

Let’s call that ecotourism. It ‘excludes’ those in the outdoors activity sector who don’t give a damn and those who might but don’t bother spreading the word and educating. But ecotourism should in no manner be exclusive. So if you’re involved, then try to get others in also. I told the guy above what I thought he should be doing with his food waste and it didn’t involve the ocean. 

The one thorny issue which always arises is the question of transport to the venue. If your ecotourism venture is extremely rural, then guests are most likely to come in cars. Yes, inform them of what public transport can be used, but in the end, if they’re travelling to furthest northern Scotland, the high Pyrenees or western Mayo, it’s most likely going to be by car. Get them out of it once they arrive ! 

So what do I consider to be the essential elements of ecotourism for 2010 ? 


Interest in the environment