Ah, the Serenity

What better way to spend a holiday than by enjoying the glories of nature? This can involve walking through forests, swimming with dolphins, exploring caves, lazing around on the beach and visiting areas of natural splendour, beauty and serenity. It can make cities seem ugly and noisy!

Tourists have always loved visiting nature but today more people are doing it than ever before – and that’s no surprise. You humans treasure your environment – most of the time, anyway! – so when you holiday in it, you’re always careful to protect it.

Environment vs Livelihood

Responsible holidaying with nature is called eco-tourism and it’s a part of the travel industry that earns billions of dollars a year and employs thousands of people.

But can good business and good environmental management live side-by-side? This is a big question that a lot of people ask – and sometimes fight over. Because, while protecting the environment is important, protecting people’s livelihoods is important as well. Sometimes doing good for nature can be good for people. But sometimes it isn’t.

Though eco-tourism is designed to leave the smallest possible footprint on the environment, it’s impossible for it to have no impact at all. For instance, if you want to develop a remote island as an eco-tourism destination, you have to build hotels, an airport, roads and shops. Otherwise people won’t be able to get there!

Also, creating such places gives people jobs and can make lives better for the poor and for those who have limited opportunities in life. This is why eco-tourism is growing so quickly in developing nations such as those in Asia and Africa.

The natural wonders of such places are increasingly being seen as valuable resources that should be tapped, just like oil or gas or gold. Attracting people from around the world to come and visit them can stimulate the economy and lift many people out of poverty.

Natural Balance

The chief issue, of course, is balance. You have to care about what you sell, or else what you are selling won’t be worth buying! For instance, if you have a delicate forest full of rare wildlife and plants that you want people to come and see, it’s not going to do you or your community much good if you allow 20 000 people a day to tear through the place with their four-wheel drives!

Are some places so special that people shouldn’t be allowed there? That’s a tough question and it often comes up when those who want to protect the environment get into conflict with those who make a living from it.

It might sound like a good idea to declare marine parks to protect sea creatures – but what about the local tourist industry that is based on fishing? This is usually the time when politicians have to try and figure out who will give them more votes – the conservationists or the tourist industry people!

Much of the time, the two sides complement each other. And there are many laws, standards and restrictions imposed on tourism operators to ensure that the beauty they want to exploit is properly protected.

When describing nature at its most pristine and beautiful, we often hear the word ‘harmony’. And that’s really what eco-tourism strives for. After all, making money might be wonderful – but so is nature.

It’s a beautiful world that everyone should see, just so long as they don’t all see it at once!

Based on the article by Jim Schembri