Ecotourism and Socially Responsible Travel
Latter-day jet travel has brought droves of vacationing tourists to developing countries largely unprepared for the consequences. As the visitors’ numbers swell, power grids black out, sewers overflow, and roads crack under the strain of accommodating more and larger hotels, restaurants, cars, buses, and airports.
Worse yet, armies of vacationers drive up local prices and begin to change native customs. While visions of tourists as sources of fast money replace traditions of hospitality, television wipes out folk entertainment, Coke and Pepsi substitute for fruit drinks, and prostitution and drugs flourish.
Some travelers have said enough is enough and are forming organizations to encourage visitors to travel with increased sensitivity to native people and customs. They have developed travelers’ codes of ethics and guidelines that encourage visitors to stay at local-style accommodations, use local transportation, and seek alternative vacations and tours, such as language-study and cultural programs and people-to-people work projects.
A number of especially active socially responsible travel groups sponsor tours all over the world, including Oaxaca. These include organizations such as Global Exchange, Green Tortoise, Green Globe, and Third Eye Travel. They all have websites that can be accessed via Internet search engines, such as Google and Yahoo, or their umbrella website.
The related ecotourism movement promotes socially responsible tourism through the strategy of simultaneous enjoyment and enhancement of the natural environment. Oaxaca has become an ecotourism center partly because of the dedication of Oaxaca-based Ron Mader, founder and moving force behind the superb Planeta website. Log on and you’ll find virtually everything you need to know about Oaxaca-based ecotourism, from nature tour companies and village recycling projects to indigenous handicrafts cooperatives and international conferences.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Oaxaca, 5th edition