With eco-tourism in the rise, affluent travellers are moving towards greener pastures for a more conscience-friendly holiday. Where are they off to? let's find out
By: Karishma Parkash
Posted on: June 10, 2011
With eco-tourism on the rise, affluent travellers are moving towards greener pastures for a more conscience-friendly holiday. Where are they off to? Let’s find out.
Planning a holiday away from the hustle-bustle of everyday life? Unwind from worldly stress and take a step back from the monotonous lifestyle. Lush greenery, bright blue skies, fresh air and beautiful blue waters are a welcome breather. Forget luxury tourism, eco-tourism is the latest mantra chanted by old and young alike.
As affluent consumers continue to increase their support for environment, it is another step closer towards making all the difference in the world. Some of the popular and certifiably green hotels topping the list of many affluent travellers are Disney, Marriott, Hilton and Wyndham. These huge corporations understand the demands of consumers and are now considering eco-friendly construction. Efforts are being made towards conserving Mother Nature in whatever way possible. Whether saving water by reusing towels throughout the duration of the stay or conserving energy through various methods, these luxury temples are doing their bit. As a traveller, consider places that are green and which also complete your fun quotient for your intended travel. We talk about five green destinations that you can consider for your next vacation, which have been chosen with help from The Economist’s Environmental Performance Index 2010 – an index based on a range of factors like environmental health, biodiversity, air pollution, water use, agricultural methods and tackling climate change. Go ahead, be green!
With most of Switzerland made of breathtaking mountains and pristine lakes, it’s of little surprise that it tops The Economist’s enviro-rankings when it comes to the greenest countries in the world. Having travelled to this destination myself, it even tops the list of must-travel-to places for an unwinding holiday experience. A green visit to Switzerland is incomplete without feasting on the beauty of WhitePod Village - a collection of pods, tucked away on a Swiss mountainside. Complete with cosy wood burning stoves, comfy beds and incredible views, many call it eco-camping in luxury.
Neighbours to this clean and green country, including Austria, France, and the Scandinavian countries, are also usually considered green, but Switzerland is always somewhere in the top three – no surprise there. With a strong and auctioned recycling policy, Switzerland is also deemed to have some of the cleanest water in the world. As explained on the site SwissWorld ( HYPERLINK "http://www.swissworld.org" www.swissworld.org), “drinking water that comes out of Swiss taps is as pure as bottled mineral water - and 500 times cheaper”. Thirsty for more?
My way is Norway!
Following the beauty of Switzerland, Norway is also a hot favourite among many tourists. Take a trip through the fjord land and you will see the slogan of Norway’s tourist board in action: ‘Powered by nature’. Steep cliffs plunge into deep blue fjords while waterfalls cascade down the mountainsides creating a landscape of sheer beauty. Norway’s spectacular fjords are breathtaking, with Geirangerfjord and the Naroyfjord both included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
The best way to experience Norway’s nature is to set your feet in motion and consider making Bergen your base for hiking the area. Some also recommend exploring the region by train which takes you through the fjords and up the mountains. Get set to hold your breath as you watch Norway’s beauty passing by.
The Nordic region also has a Green Key, an eco-label for hotels, inns, youth hostels, conference facilities, camping sites and holiday houses. Swedish Lapland also offers a green experience in the Arctic wilderness of the Sarek and Abisko national parks with perfectly pristine mountains, alpine meadows, glaciers and wending rivers. The mantra of the local eco-tourism packages is – leave the place as you found it, unique and untouched!
Welcome to Sweden!
Moving on to number three, Sweden offers cascading northern lights, white sandy beaches, mountains, meadows and a glittering array of over 24,000 islands. For those who weren’t aware, Sweden was the second country in the world to introduce an eco-tourism charter, and also created Europe’s first eco-label that assures the quality of around 180 holidays and activities run by its 80 eco-certified tour operators around the country.
Sweden has always been a green destination with its deep respect for nature, and its dedication to eco and sustainable tourism. Skåne and West Sweden have many programs that emphasize their dedication to being a green destination. Lena Anderson (Project Manager Culinary Skåne) highlighted some of the interesting programs that this area was doing. “There is a network of 25 of the best restaurants in Skåne and West Sweden that take care of nature, buy locally produced products, and ecology is very important for the restaurants. Each of the restaurants has at least one dish on the menu that is completely ecological.”
Land of Finland
Going in at number four, a paradise for campers, hikers and bikers, Finland was recently named ‘Best Country in the World’ by Newsweek, and is one great escape for those looking for a break. The Finns are very nature-conscious and environmentally aware people, accustomed to unrestricted right of public access to the wilderness and nature parks. As such, the Finnish people are also environmentally conscious travellers, and many hope that visitors to their country will treat it with the same green respect that the locals do.
To facilitate a healthy, green tourism industry, a Green Tourism of Finland (GTF) was established. It is associated with some other green Finnish initiatives, including NatureGate, a portal of nature and species found in Finland’s vast landscapes. In addition to flora, Finland is home to many fantastic fauna species, and NatureGate also has an extensive visual list of birds, including a number of arctic species not commonly seen elsewhere, and butterflies sporting some beautiful colourings and patterns. For the avid fishermen that enjoy fishing in Finland’s many rivers and lakes, NatureGate has a fish identification tool too, including extensive details on size, appearance, colouring, and distribution and habitat. NatureGate also has a neat landscape identification map that may inspire travellers to visit certain locales based on beautiful photographs of regional landscapes.
Additionally, GTF is associated with VisitFinland, the official tourism organisation of Finland. They are extremely focused on promoting the wonderful forests, islands and lakes that offer endless opportunities for exploration and discovery.
Finland is a beautiful country with welcoming people and spectacular outdoor experiences. In a land such as this, that is so dedicated to environmental preservation and nature protection, it is important that visitors are consistent with sustainable initiatives and practice ecotourism while in Finland. This is why GTF and its network of ecotourism businesses provides visitors with some great resources to ensure they enjoy the natural landscapes without hampering the Finns’ dedication to protection and preservation.
Cushy Costa Rica
Placed at number five, the small but effective Central American country of Costa Rica, well-known as a haven for eco-tourism and peaceful, tropical living, is proving to the world that being a small developing nation is no barrier to sustainability, happiness and ecological consciousness.
While many countries have gained wealth through the exploitation of their natural resources, Costa Rica has opted to use its natural environmental wealth to pursue an ecologically sustainable path to economic growth. Costa Rica has protected more than 27 per cent of its land by creating a network of wildlife refuges, biological reserves and national parks. The destination also offers a diverse range of ecosystems and activities: trek through a million-year old rainforest, hike volcanoes, raft wild rivers, and spy jaguars, reptiles and multicoloured birds. No wonder that Costa Rica has been deemed the world’s ‘most natural conservation area’.
Costa Rica has also endorsed a program that grants companies Certification for Sustainable Tourism provided they meet certain performance standards. This differentiates sustainable businesses from others in the tourism sector that still have not adopted responsible environmental management practices. Not only this, but international agreements have been signed with United Nations by the country to promote green tourism around the world.
So I ask again, thinking of a holiday? Book your green ticket now!