Ecotourism in times of climate crisis

Basu Gautam

Basu Gautam

Ecotourism in times of climate crisis

Ecotourism can help reduce poverty and improve living standards by providing job and income opportunities

Nepal has a high potential for ecotourism because of its diverse natural landscapes, rich cultural legacy, and plentiful wildlife. The country’s habitats, which include the mountains, forests, and wetlands, provide ample opportunities for activities such as trekking, bird watching, and wildlife expeditions. Moreover, Nepal’s various traditional villages and communities allow tourists to learn about the country’s culture and history. However, there are challenges to ecotourism growth in Nepal, such as a lack of infrastructure and limited capacity among local populations to manage and benefit from ecotourism initiatives. Yet, with proper support and investment, ecotourism has the potential to contribute significantly to Nepal’s economy while simultaneously encouraging conservation and sustainable development.

Finding ways to encourage sustainable practices in all facets of our lives, including tourism, has become more and more important as the world grapples with the effects of climate change. By promoting conservation, awareness, and responsible travel in this context, ecotourism aims to lessen those detrimental environmental effects. Ecotourism has also gained popularity as a substitute for traditional tourism in the wake of climate change because it enables travelers to enjoy the wonders of nature without causing them harm.

Changing tourism trends

Ecotourism and sustainable travel are on the rise as the planet confronts the ecological crisis and the delicate times of the post-covid era. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, an increasing number of visitors and individuals are opting for outdoor and nature-based activities away from congested vacation spots. This has increased ecotourism, which allows visitors to enjoy natural surroundings while also helping local economies and environmental conservation efforts. Moreover, there is a growing awareness on the impact of climate change on the environment with travelers becoming more conscious of their carbon footprint.

As a result, there is a growing demand for eco-friendly accommodations, transportation, and activities that minimize the negative impact on the environment. Tourism operators and destinations are responding to this trend by promoting sustainable tourism practices and offering ecotourism experiences that highlight conservation, cultural immersion, and responsible travel. For example, some tourism operators are promoting community-based tourism, which offers visitors the opportunity to interact with local communities and support their economic development while minimizing negative impacts on the environment.

Low-impact activities

Activities that have little to no adverse effects on a destination’s environment, local population, or culture are known as low-impact ecotourism. These initiatives aim to promote ecologically, socially, and commercially sustainable tourism practices. Nepal should encourage low-impact ecotourism activities in light of the ecological crisis and global warming since they can minimize the country’s overall carbon footprint and the effects of climate change.

Low-impact ecotourism activities encourage ethical travel habits, such as reducing trash and protecting the environment. Nepal`s rich biodiversity, including several endangered and rare species, can benefit from the protection provided by low-impact ecotourism activities, such as wildlife watching and community-based tourism. Low-impact ecotourism activities can also promote sustainable development by involving local communities in tourism activities, creating economic opportunities, and supporting cultural preservation. By supporting local communities, these activities help to build more resilient and sustainable communities that can withstand the impacts of climate change. By choosing low-impact ecotourism activities, travelers can also support sustainable tourism practices that benefit both the environment and local communities.

Responsible and sustainable ecotourism

Responsible and sustainable ecotourism focuses on promoting ethical travel practices and supports sustainable development. It aims to minimize the negative impacts of tourism on nature, local communities, and culture while maximizing the positive impacts of tourism on the economy, environment, and society.

Tourism is an important source of income for Nepal, particularly in rural areas. Responsible and sustainable tourism can help create economic opportunities for local communities and contribute to sustainable development of the country. It also promotes environmental conservation and encourages tourists to respect and protect natural resources. This can help reduce the negative impacts of tourism on the environment, such as deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution.

By encouraging responsible and sustainable tourism in Nepal, we can help to protect the country’s natural and cultural heritage, promote economic development, mitigate climate change, support environmental conservation, and create positive tourist experiences. By adopting these practices, Nepal can also become a leader in sustainable tourism and contribute to global efforts to promote responsible and sustainable tourism.

Climate change impacts

The tourist industry in Nepal, a major source of revenue for the nation, is suffering significantly from the effects of climate change. Glacial retreat is taking a toll on trekking and mountaineering expeditions. Activities that attract tourists, including hiking, rafting, and bird watching, are being impacted by changes in weather patterns, such as more frequent and heavy rains, droughts, and wildfires. Increasing natural catastrophes, including floods, landslides, and unusual weather patterns, are causing disruptions in the tourism industry and infrastructure damage.

The biodiversity of Nepal is also being impacted by climate change, which has an influence on ecotourism activities like bird watching and wildlife safaris. Reduced visitor numbers, decreased company income, and fewer job possibilities are some of the economic effects of climate change on Nepal’s tourism sector. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on Nepal’s tourism industry, which is likely to face continued challenges due to climate uncertainty. Nepal has experienced severe floods and landslides in recent years, which have damaged infrastructure and disrupted tourism activities.

The climate crisis is already impacting global tourism and is expected to continue to affect the industry in various ways. More frequent and severe natural disasters, extreme temperatures, environmental degradation, changes in seasonal patterns, and increased consumer awareness of the carbon footprint associated with travel are some of the ways the climate crisis can impact tourism. As a result, the tourism industry will need to adapt to the changing environmental and consumer landscapes to remain viable. This scenario is likely to have a significant impact on Nepal’s tourism industry as well as it will have to adapt to the changing environmental and consumer landscapes to remain competitive and sustainable in the long term.

Future of ecotourism

As more travelers become conscious of the importance of sustainable tourism and seek out meaningful travel experiences that have a noble impact on the environment and local communities, the future of ecotourism throughout the world looks promising. Ecotourism is anticipated to expand more quickly than the rest of the tourism sector, and it has the possibility of contributing substantially economically while furthering socioeconomic development and environmental conservation.

Despite the challenges from climate change, Nepal can also benefit from ecotourism in the days to come. Our rich biodiversity and natural resources can be effectively harnessed for ecotourism. Protected zones like the Chitwan National Park, Sagarmatha National Park, and Annapurna Conservation Area can offer tourists the opportunity to engage in activities such as wildlife expeditions, bird watching, trekking, and mountain climbing.

Along with these wildlife parks and conservation destinations, Lumbini and the Kapilvastu region are significant sites with a great potential for ecotourism due to their cultural and natural richness. The region is rich in biodiversity and has several conservation areas, such as the Lumbini Protected Forest and the Ban Ganga-Jagdishpur Wetlands. These areas provide opportunities for eco-friendly activities such as bird watching, hiking, and wildlife safaris.

However, it is essential to ensure that ecotourism development is sustainable and does not harm the environment or cultural heritage. Effective management and planning is necessary to avoid over tourism and its negative impacts on the host communities and the environment. By engaging in ecotourism, tourists can gain a deeper appreciation for the country’s natural resources. Moreover, ecotourism can help reduce poverty and improve living standards by providing employment and income opportunities for local communities.

The author is President and Founder, Lumbini World Peace Forum

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