Nature-based tour guides usually provide interpretation about flora and fauna in a natural area. Such education enhances the tour participant’s knowledge and promotes environmental conservation in the place explored. Nature-based tour businesses and organizations benefit from the existence and amenities of the natural area where the tour takes place.
In contrast with mere nature-based tourism, ecotourism generally involves responsible travel to natural areas, which involves appreciation of nature and traditional cultures regarding the natural areas as well as interpretation and education, fosters environmental conservation and awareness among tourists and locals, and helps sustain the well being of local people. +
Below we share examples of ways that nature-based tour guides and organizations may do their bit in order to directly or indirectly aid communities residing close to the natural area which these tour suppliers benefit from. Some of our suggestions also allow tour participants to support these efforts.
Ecotourism Tips for Nature-Based Tour Suppliers to Help Sustain Locals’ Well Being:
1) Develop a Sponsorship Program to Assist the Ecosystem and Communities Nearby the Tour Natural Area
For instance, the tour guide or organization may create a program that promotes clients’ sponsorship of small trees for purposes of reforestation of the tour natural area. The client may plant the small tree, which may be identified with a small sign showing the sponsor’s name. The money collected through sponsorships can be used to cover expenses of environmental educational projects for the benefit of both the neighboring communities and the natural area’s conservation. For example, sponsors’ donations may be useful for the purchase of computers for nearby schools or an educational center in the tour area. as part of a project to educate students about the natural area’s ecosystem and conservation. ++
2) Foster Economic Development of Local Businesses Near the Tour Location
Examples of how nature-based tour businesses or organizations may help encourage such economic development are: (a) promote the local artisan or food business offer during the guided tour, (b) subject to the control over the tour place’s management, allow artisans who live in close neighborhoods to sell their handcrafts in the tour location, (c) if snacks or lunch are included in a tour package, purchase such food in nearby food establishments, and/or (d) establish a training and recruitment program targeted towards nearby residents who may be interested in becoming tour guides of the natural area.
3) Contribute to the Cleaning or Maintenance of a Natural Area Close to a Neighboring Community
For instance, the tour guide or organization may: (a) coordinate or assist in the cleaning of another natural area next to a school or residential area near the tour location, and/or (b) create or participate in a reforestation project regarding a proximate natural area, and exhort clients to join such efforts through voluntourism.
4) Inform Tour Participants about the Nearby Communities’ Needs or Nonprofit Community-Based Organizations’ Cause
Tour suppliers may be surprised at the amount of clients who may be interested in helping others through volunteer services or donations.
5) Help Neighboring Communities in Seeking Solutions to Prevent or Oppose Environmental Contamination
For example, the tour guide or organization may join community efforts to conserve a nearby natural area. The tour supplier may file complaints before the corresponding authorities in order to stop actions detrimental against environmental and natural resources.
6) Donate Money Generated from Tour Service’s Earnings to Aid Nearby Communities
The tour business or organization may allocate a particular percentage of its earnings to serve as donation to neighboring communities in need or nonprofit organizations that have the mission to empower communities close to the tour location.
7) Empower the Neighboring Communities through Education
For instance, tour guides or organizations may give gratuitous talks to community members, regarding flora and fauna in the tour spot or about environmental conservation. Also, these may establish a program to give talks targeted towards nearby schools’ students. In view of the related costs, a sponsorship program may be implemented so that tour participants may donate money to cover expenses regarding the talks.
Such talks program may influence the communities’ feeling of belonging with respect to a group that protects the tour natural area. Listening to the talks may be more rewarding that being offered a discount price of the tour service.
The above-mentioned tips are examples of how nature-based tour suppliers may support communities nearby the tour spot, contributing to their well being. Even if these tour businesses or organizations do not intend to comply with all ecotourism standards, they can engage in some practices that positively impact the people who may become great protectors and ambassadors of the tour area: its neighbors. It just takes one step to start.
+ This is a general interpretation based on ecotourism principles stated by the United Nations World Tourism Organization and the International Ecotourism Society. (Sources: www.sdt.unwt.org/content/ecotourism-and-protected-areas, www.ecotourism.org/what-is-ecotourism).
++ This idea was inspired after reading about a program implemented by an ecotouristic tour business, located in Latin America, and regarding the tour participants’ sponsorship of small trees that eventually were planted by them in the tour area. Sponsors’ names were shown on signs next to the planted trees. The money collected contributed for the purchase of computers for environmental educational purposes. Students from a school nearby the tour area used the computers to learn about the tour natural area’s ecosystem.
Translated by N. Michelle Rodríguez Amadeo