Before explaining ecotourism in Iran, I’d rather explain the word. To better understand what it is, I will quote the definition by the International Ecotourism Society: “Ecotourism is a responsible trip to natural attractions while it conserves the environment, secures local people’s welfare in local communities, and upgrades local people’s awareness by educating them.”
Thanks to conscious and responsible tourism, this type of travel can be put into practice with the help of an international network of individuals, institutions, and professional travelers. It isn’t easy to launch ecotourism correctly and based on principles. It’s also important to understand how to manage it to avoid negative consequences for local people and the environment.
Ecotourism (Boomgardi in Persian) in Iran has been somewhat understood wrongly as a way of Iran tourism. Some people visit the countryside, pristine nature, national parks, etc. Some stay in ecolodge accommodation and some camp for a night or two and overlook the principles of protecting the environment and local people’s benefits. They call themselves ecotourists! This is wrong!
This understanding and attitude that “whoever tours nature is an ecotourist” must change.
What Are the Principles Constituting Ecotourism?
The International Ecotourism Society insists on the principles that constitute ecotourism’s pillars:
- Minimizing the physical, social, behavioral, and psychological effects of tourism,
- Creating a culture of respecting the environment and preserving it,
- Generating positive experiences for the tourists and hosts,
- Creating value for the local communities and tourism industry,
- Increasing society’s sensitivity toward social, economic, and environmental issues.
How Could True Ecotourism in Iran Grow?
Here’s a list of the benefits of this style of traveling so that we understand why it could grow:
- Access to ecotourism destinations are easier than in the past due to the presence of aviation and advanced infrastructure,
- Many world travelers are tired of the same destinations and their activities hence look for journeys combined with the challenges and education,
- People are more aware of the necessity to protect the environment and have more enthusiasm to support the local communities,
- Professional travelers like to be different from others and take practical steps to help the environment,
- Ecotourism can help people protect the vulnerable places in nature and boost the awareness of the travelers of delicate social and environmental issues, and
- Ecotourism can provide opportunities to create jobs for the local communities.
Dimensions of Ecotourism in Iran Local Communities
If we only focus on this point that this type of traveling can cause positive consequences for the local communities and the environment, and launch it on large scales, we may inflict harm to them largely. You may ask what could be wrong with ecotourism. Here are some examples of the negative consequences of ecotourism in Iran and other parts of the world:
- Ecotourists who generally travel to the fragile points in nature, can easily wear out or destroy the environment,
- The living conditions of various wild fauna species will be disrupted, flora species will be destroyed (by walking on them or taking specimens), and littering will happen on large scale,
- Some visits will occur in sensitive times (like breeding times or egg-laying times),
- Invisible negative effects will be brought about (like the pollution of vehicles transporting travelers),
- There’s a risk of converting ecotourism to mass tourism, which will largely inflict damages (not only on the environment), and
- The inevitable negative effects of land preparation for building infrastructure (ecolodge or roads) will cause serious damages to the environment.
Some of the above has already happened in the realm of ecotourism in Iran. Therefore, we must urgently take these facts seriously and take action.
Wise and Conscious Tourism
Now that you have a better understanding of ecotourism, it’s time to think more wisely about planning our trips. On a vast scale, tour operators should be more cautious while planning Iran tour packages and take responsible tourism into consideration.
Policymakers and tourism authorities must consider the principles of responsible tourism. They shouldn’t focus just on short-term results for certain groups (contractors and builders) and wrongly planned job creation schemes.
On the other hand, let’s suppose tourists have a correct idea of ecotourism and how useful it can be for the local communities and the environment. This shouldn’t be the reason to plan plenty of tours to the vulnerable pristine points of our nature. Ecotourism in Iran must follow scientific findings and well-researched principles.
For us, Iranians, this type of traveling shouldn’t become the only style of tourism to target the endangered places in our nature. There are other styles of traveling too. We must also consider the principles of responsible tourism and sustainable development in our country.
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