2020 is just around the corner, and many of us are beginning to think of our New Year’s resolutions. One of the most common choices always seems to be to travel more and see the world. This year, recognising the ever-growing need for the current sustainability movement, why not put green practices at the forefront of your tourism agenda?
Listed below are 10 countries that, in one way or another, are moving into 2020 with a more sustainable focus. So if you are on a mission to travel more, by choosing to support one of these ecotourism destinations, you can fulfil your travelling resolutions all while making a more positive impact too.
While many people may be familiar with Costa Rica as an ecotourism destination, its neighbouring country is catching on to the trend as well. Sandwiched in the middle of Central America, Nicaragua is a hotspot for biodiversity — its landscape includes rainforests, dry plains along the Pacific Coast, marine Atlantic areas, mountains, and volcanoes, which are also habitats to diverse wildlife.
In 2020, the local government, tourism body, and businesses are on a collaborative mission to expand the tourist infrastructure sustainably; aiming to have all tour groups leave a minimal environmental impact when visiting natural areas while highlighting cultural and historic sites for the most authentic experience.
Due to its unstable past, the country’s natural landscapes are still relatively untouched by tourists, which makes this country truly “off the beaten path”. However, because tourism is still developing in the region, it can still be challenging to get around. With this in mind, tour packages are a great way to make the most of your trip. The most popular, trustworthy company to go to is Tours Nicaragua.
The Amazon Rainforest is the largest and most biodiverse rainforest on the planet. Sadly, in 2019, the world started to tune in to the devastating news that the “Earth’s lungs” are being destroyed at an alarming rate due to fires, deforestation, and mining. And while these issues are still highly prevalent, surprisingly tourism has been a suggested solution to combat these industries and work towards preserving this irreplaceable natural resource. Research indicates that in comparison to the crop and cattle farming, logging, and mining industries, ecotourism trips to the rainforest are a greater long-term profitability model than any other use of land. Additionally, it would provide an opportunity for other local businesses to profit. So while some government officials still need to catch on and give up their short-term profits, tourists can facilitate this by exemplifying a stronger demand for these eco-travel experiences.
If you are interested in trekking to the Amazon, Responsible Travel and Adventure Life are companies that respect this research by offering holidays that keep environmental conservation, the circular economy, and the livelihood of local communities a priority. The companies also assist travellers with which country would be the best access point for them; whether that be Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, or Bolivia.
The Finnish government, private sector, NGOs, academia, science community, and media have collaborated to actively develop the country of Finland sustainably since 1987. The country has taken incredible strides and showcases how, if policy is done right, conscious living can be a usual way of life.
Finland’s current tourism strategy pushes its operating tourism bodies to honour local culture, leave a minimal ecological footprint, and make the most positive impact possible on nature, society, and the economy. This is done by enforcing regulatory themes involving local, fresh food; ethical, slow shopping; sustainable green building designs; and maintaining partnerships with environmental conservation bodies.
While not every tourism body in Finland is verifiably green, as the country tends to operate as green as possible, sustainable travel choices are abundant. Yet with so many to choose from, the decision can be overwhelming. The offers on Harriniva span throughout the entire country, are separated by season and seem to be the most diverse, trustworthy and authentic Finnish experiences out there.
As of 2017, the tiny European country of Slovenia, with a population of just over 2 million residents, was named the most sustainable destination in the world by the European Commission. This came after Green Destinations, a Netherlands-based organisation, awarded them with a 96/100 compliance score when measuring criteria points considering the environment and climate, culture and authenticity, nature and biodiversity, and so on.
This picturesque destination is 60% covered in forest, hosts over 40 parks and reserves, and has pockets of quaint, cobblestone towns throughout the country. Making this lesser-known spot an ideal place to slow down and truly immerse yourself into the natural world.
With so many beautiful places to explore, it will be hard to choose just one spot to go. Luckily, the Slovanian tourism board put together a list of all the eco-accommodation within the country so you can cover ground with a greener peace of mind.
Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa. With white-sand beaches, crystal blue waters, and eternally summer, the country is undeniably gorgeous. However, because the entire country is low-lying and considered to be a small island developing state, it is incredibly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. From rising sea levels to coral bleaching, global warming has been putting the Seychelle’s primary source of income — tourism and tuna fisheries — under threat.
Recognising this, the Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Foundation has stepped up to the task to change all travel operations into sustainable ones by collaborating with the public and private sectors, academia, and NGOs. This campaign has been so successful that, in 2018, the destination received the support of The Nature Conservancy and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation via the ‘Debt-for-Nature’ swap. In short, this deal paid off US$21 million dollars worth of the national debt in return to protect 81,000 square miles of their ocean, where only regulated tourism and research are allowed.
To enjoy this tropical paradise with as minimal of a footprint as possible, Blue Safari is a local hotel brand that has a unique, green lodge on each Atoll.
During the 20th century, Morocco began to notice that tourism was negatively impacting its indigenous communities and the overall environment. Instead of letting it slide, the country stepped up to prevent further harm from happening by shaping an ecotourism direction; putting the focus on protecting what its cities, mountains, deserts, plains, beaches, and forests have to offer. Alongside encouraging foreign visitors to participate in activities that involve their rich, local culture and traditional lifestyle.
Since then, travel-related eco-initiatives have been popping up around the country. Such as Kasbah du Toubkal, a native brand recognised by National Geographic that is committed to leading responsible travel experiences for travellers to truly get a taste of the Moroccan way of life.
Palau is a tiny cluster of islands in the Pacific that is making a significant impact in the world of sustainable destinations. In an unprecedented effort to instil conscious efforts into its visitors, the country makes you sign the immigration stamp in your passport pledging to “tread lightly, act kindly, and explore mindfully”. And according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, this initiative has been working on tourists and their actions.
On top of the eco-pledge, the local government has also begun to enforce nation-wide regulatory practices; such as capping the number of visitors who come to the destination, focusing mainly on attracting experienced divers to conserve the coral reefs, and setting laws to protect 80% of their waters from commercial fishing and mining. For such a small country, its commitment to safeguarding its land from the negative stresses of mass tourism is inspiring.
While the biggest draw to the country is diving, stingless jellyfish lakes, bird watching, and cultural events are all other famous native experiences that can keep tourists busy during their island time. To make sure that your entire experience stays green from where you stay to your participation in water activities, Dolphin Bay Resort is an eco-accommodation that also assists with booking ethical experiences.
Due to being extremely rich in consideration to socio-culture, heritage, and natural aspects, Nepal has been named one of the top 2020 eco-destinations to watch. Amazingly, the Nepalese government has put together a tourism development plan entirely revolving around sustainable environmental, socio-cultural, and economic objectives. It has even been suggested that the country is likely to have this extra motivation to focus on tourism, as the travel industry can provide the country with economic opportunity to relieve some of the impoverished stressors relevant to the nation.
As you likely know, the most popular destination in Nepal is Mount Everest. But if summiting the highest mountain in the world is not for you, there are many other green options… such as Her Farm Nepal that encourages visitors to volunteer at a local homestay that provides a safe home for Nepali women and empowers them through employment; allowing them to thrive against the oppression of patriarchy happening within the country.
Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia
For big ocean lovers, swimming with whale sharks is likely at the top of your to-do list. Millions of people venture to at least 10 different destinations across the globe each year to experience swimming with the biggest fish in the sea. Nonetheless, some destinations don’t always consider ethical interactions. The Ningaloo Coast in Western Australia is different.
An estimated 300-500 whale sharks aggregate each year in this location between March to the end of July. And because the Ningaloo Coast is a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation World Heritage Site, all operating tourism bodies in the area must follow their criteria as it is protected under these regulations to support the best intentions for these wild creatures.
Ningaloo Discovery is a great company that educates its guests and makes sure that all on board are following respectful practices; like staying at least 3 metres from the animal at all times, only spending an hour following one specific whale shark, and allowing no more than 10 people in the water at once. For sustainable places to stay in the area, the Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef beachside safari camp in the Cape Range National Park is designed to have a minimal impact on the surrounding bush environment — as it utilises the natural coastal breeze to save energy, generate 100% of its power by solar panels, compost all waste, provide all-natural and organic amenities, and donate 5% of all business profits to the Department of Parks and Wildlife Western Australia conservation fund.
While New Zealand is not a lesser-known destination, it is worth mentioning due to its conservation efforts towards the natural environment. With more than 14 national parks, at least 30% of the entire country is considered to be conserved land, paying particular attention to protect the unique wildlife within. And with only 4.5 million inhabitants, New Zealand prides itself in only contributing 0.2% of total worldwide greenhouse gas emissions; it was also one of the first countries to pledge a carbon-neutral future. The country has so many eco-initiatives in place that it has picked up the motto ‘Green, clean New Zealand’.
One of the most popular ways to see New Zealand among travellers is renting a campervan and road-tripping between natural sites. Britz, an Oceania-based car rental company, recently released a fully electric campervan so that all the natural sites can be enjoyed while keeping CO2 emissions to a minimum.
A Greener New Year
Whether you choose to travel to one of the above 10 ecotourism destinations or elsewhere, remember that there is always the opportunity to make your travels a little bit greener. This checklist can help you get familiar with indicators to look out for when choosing responsible travel-related companies, and you can find some suggestions here of choices that minimise your carbon footprint.