Considered the hottest trend in tourism, eco-tourism or ecotourism is an approach to tourism with a focus on sustainability, preservation and appreciation of the environment (both natural and cultural) to give tourists an experience that goes beyond just entertainment.
There are many braches of ecotourism including ethical tourism which promotes altruistic acts to local people by creating infrastructure and improving economic conditions.
Just an hour and a half from Puerto Vallarta, nestled in the Sierra Madre Occidental, you’ll find the Management Unit for Conservation which is operating a true ecotourism project called Potrero de Mulas (http://www.potrerodemulas.com.mx/).
Potrero de Mulas is an alternative tourism experience close to the municipalities of Puerto Vallarta, San Sebastian del Oeste and Mascota, Jalisco. The ecotourism ranch offers rustic cabins or low impact camping accommodations and environmentally friendly recreational activities.
On the National Geographic Spanish-language website (http://www.ngenespanol.com), there is a space dedicated to ecological tourism in Puerto Vallarta that gives a really good overview of the idea of ecotourism as a harmonious coexistence between humans and nature.
The web article talks about kayak tours to Las Caletas, dolphin encounters in their natural habitat, a 4×4 tour through the Sierra Madre and seasonal activities like humpback whale watching and sea turtle rescues.
But it’s not all rainbows and organic lollipops. Many times the villages near natural resources are very low incomes making them feel marginalized against the rise of entrepreneurs providing ecotours. Here some negative impacts of ecotourism:
• Inflated and often unrealistic expectations about the real value of land by landowners.
• Tourists visiting pristine areas can inadvertently cause damage to flora and fauna.
• Conflicts in the traditional use of land, animals and plants, like hunting bans, woodcutting or harvesting some vegetables which people used for sustenance.
• Tourist buildings (hotels, restaurants, etc.) are built closely around the natural resource or their architectural styles aren’t in harmony with the natural landscape.
• Tours are misrepresented, often by unscrupulous guides who do not have the training or qualifications to offer real ecotours.
• Promotions are aimed mainly at wealthy foreign tourists, limiting the access of local people to the resources.
Our entrepreneurs, governments and society as a whole have a responsibility to improve all these aspects ensure that ecotourism lives up to its pure definition: travel with the primary purpose of interaction, knowledge, contemplation of nature and participation in conservation.
Jorge Chavez is a Senior Editor Mijo! Brands of Mexico.
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