Urban Nature Youth Ecotourism Charter
We, the youth of the World, came together at the Urban Nature – Youth Ecotourism Forum as part of the 2006 International Ecotourism Conference, held in Townsville, Queensland, Australia. Through forums and technology we shared our views, ideas, experiences and opinions on Ecotourism, Sustainability and our Environment, and
Convinced that our views and ideas should not only be heard but acknowledged and included in government and decision-making processes;
Bearing in mind the Queensland Youth Charter’s principles, where the Queensland government recognises its obligation to involve young people in government decision-making to develop appropriate policy, programs and services;
Reminding that young people are valued members of the community and that half of the world’s population is under the age of 25;
Recognising that as tomorrow’s leaders, our actions and activities can and do really make a difference; and
Realising that the global environment is a common concern for all young people and that we share a sense of universal responsibility to protect it by changing our dominant patterns of production and consumption, particularly in our approach to tourism,
We Do Hereby proclaim our views on ecotourism and set forth the following Ecotourism Youth Charter: (:)
Young people are more and more disconnected from their natural environment, leading to a fragmentation of their natural appreciation.
The world’s population is becoming more and more urban, with a massive rural exodus and some 640 million people living in the world’s 300 largest cities. It is now critical to harmonise our built and natural environments and to recognise that humans are part, not apart, from nature. This human-nature harmony can be achieved through sustainable development and the promotion of urban ecotourism, involving local communities, and allowing the preservation of biodiversity and natural habitats within cities.
Our understanding of ecotourism is based on a triple bottom line principle which includes:
- ENVIRONMENT: ecotourism shall respect and protect the environment by reducing its negative impacts on ecosystems, biodiversity and natural habitats;
- ECONOMY: ecotourism shall contribute to the local economy by fostering business opportunities and employment and include an equitable sharing of costs and benefits, including between generations; and
- SOCIETY: Ecotourism shall involve local communities, respect local culture and traditions, contribute to poverty alleviation, and lead to community empowerment (e.g. though micro-credit promotion and support).
ISSUES & CHALLENGES
Urban sprawl, development, production and consumption have various negative impacts on communities and the environment which can hinder the development of ecotourism. Issues and challenges include:
- Reduced wilderness experiences due to destruction of habitats, environmentally-unfriendly urban design, uncontrolled urban development, biodiversity loss and fragmentation;
- Increased pollution due to rubbish and littering (especially plastic bags and cans which can be washed into the sea and onto the streets), use of four-wheel-drives in cities, unregulated transportation, or untreated drainage;
- Greenhouse gas emission that disrupt natural cycles, generate allergies and respiratory diseases and affect the cleanliness of the air;
- Noise disruption (e.g. honking, motorbikes, construction sites, traffic jams due to high number of private car use);
- Introduction of invasive exotic species (plants and animals) which compete with natives for resources and disrupt local ecosystems balance;
- Disruption and damage of cultural traditions and monuments from pollution, and social disruption due to conflicting land use;
- Threats on local economy;
- Seasonality of tourism with peak & off-peak periods ;
- Difficulties in finding initial capital to start ecotourism business;
- Competition with mass tourism operators.
Issues and Challenges are also associated with traditional mass tourism. They include:
- Increase in social disparities by mass tourism in developing countries, leading to conflicts, loss of traditional values, disruption of social structures, cultural clashes;
- Potential loss of employment opportunities because of imported skilled workers and lack of local capacity building;
- Initial rejection of tourist intrusions by the local communities;
- Concealing of social problems by tourism operators which leads to inappropriate behaviours of tourists such as lack of respect and prejudices. Other problems include begging, prostitution and paedophilia around tourism complexes.
- Development of illegal rubbish dump stations;
- Over consumption of water in hotels;
- Non-treatment of wastewater;
- Erosion of soils and negative impacts by tourists on natural habitats and native plants and wildlife ;
- Land and forest clearing due to tourism facilities development;
- Absence of environmental policies in countries visited.
Many opportunities arise to move towards a sustainable tourism:
- Increased awareness of unique ecological processes, endangered species and the need to protect the environment;
- Local involvement in sustainable projects and processes through volunteering, conferences, local conservation groups and non-government organisations (NGO);
- National promotion of ecotourism to generate interest in townships;
- Sustainable infrastructure and development of public transport;
- ‘Globalisation’ and a rising interest for a variety of different cultures worldwide;
- Adapted behaviour from tourists: tourists can become responsible, culturally sensitive eco-travellers;
- Growing demand of ecotourism experiences, leading to larger market potential.
Other opportunities arise once ecotourism activities are established in an area:
- Multiplied effect of local economical benefits;
- Increase in local employment rate;
- Potential international recognition for ecotourism activities;
- Enhancement of local skills and capacity building;
- Increase in community services such as new roads, especially in developing countries;
- Increase in local environmental awareness;
- Development of local partnerships between universities, operators, businesses, communities etc.
- Potential for ecotourism accreditation of products;
- ‘Environmentally-friendly’ promotional image of the lending banks;
- Increased morale of individuals and their community as a whole.
YOUTH ECOTOURISM ACTION PRINCIPLES
Having shared our ideas and experiences on ecotourism, we agreed on a set of action principles, which could be adopted by government bodies and institutions or non-governmental organisations, to facilitate ecotourism promotion and development:
- Encourage environmental appreciation amongst communities and tourists;
- Foster responsible (ecologically neutral, culturally sensitive) tourism behaviours amongst tourists including:
- Taking time to listen, learn about the local culture, costumes/traditional dress, political situation, environment and language before travelling;
- Avoid contribution to overuse of natural sites by travelling out of peak seasons, going to less “touristy” places or places that adopt an ecotourism approach;
- Participating in environmental protection by visiting eco-museums, parks, natural reserves etc;
- Avoid buying products derived from endangered species of plants or animals;
- Avoid feeding wild animals and disturbing their habitats or natural behaviours;
- Not collecting native plants or stones;
- Try to use ecological means of transportation, such as horse-riding, cycling or electric train, as much as possible;
- Claiming disapproval of unstainable tourism behaviours;
- Respect private lives and dignities of local communities by asking before taking pictures of people, not giving money to children, adapt to local traditions, customs and behaviour’
- Chose eco-friendly and/or accredited accommodation, tours, and operators;
- Reduce the impact of plane transportation by:
- Avoid multiple air travel in one trip;
- Prefer local/regional destinations and travel by train or boat or other more sustainable methods;
- Calculate the ecological footprint before travelling by plane and try to compensate by concrete actions such as reduction of energy consumption, reforestation, choice of ecotourism destinations and operators.
- Transform our urban nature to foster ecotourism opportunities by:
- Moving towards a sustainable development of cities, based on sustainable eco-designs
- Shift towards more sustainable transport systems (public transport, biodiesel-fuelled cars, hybrid cars, electric cars and motorbikes)
- Ban littering and promote waste recycling
- Recycle water; and
- Encourage biodiversity conservation and development within cities by reproducing natural habitats and ecosystems, planting trees, creating more parks.
- Encourage community education and skill enhancement where ecotourism is developed
- Use local skills and knowledge and encourage partnerships
THE WAY FORWARD
We, the youth of the World, recognise that we stand at a critical time in the history of the Earth, and that we must make sustainable choices for our future now.
We are convinced that ecotourism is the tourism of the future, and that it is one of the best paths towards complete community sustainability; allowing profit-making and creating employment whilst protecting and conserving our environment.
Consequently we must take the fundamentals of Ecotourism into account when working towards a sustainable future for our wonderful, culture-filled, ecosystem-packed Mother Earth, and from now on, work on transforming all tourism into ecotourism.