ECOLODGE DEVELOPMENT AROUND THE WORLD: THE NEED FOR TRUE SUSTAINABLE ARCHITECTURE IN ECOTOURISM
by Arq. Hector Ceballos-Lascurain,
International Consultant in Environmental Architecture,
Ecotourism and Regional Planning
Director General PICE
Special Advisor on Ecotourism to IUCN
Av. Constituyentes 1076 Euc 602
Col. Lomas Altas, Del. Miguel Hidalgo
11950 México, DF, MEXICO
Tel: (52) (55) 5676 8734; Fax: (52) (55) 5676 5285; Cel.: (52)(55) 2272 7795
Web site: http://www.ceballos-lascurain.com
1. INTRODUCTION. ECOTOURISM DEVELOPMENT AROUND THE WORLD
At the beginning of this new millennium, ecotourism is not merely a buzzword. It is something real happening around the world. Ecotourism is starting to provide tangible benefits for a variety of countries, both developed and developing.
It is a well-known fact that tourism has now become the world’s most important economic activity, representing annually a US$ 4 trillion activity. The travel and tourism industry employs 212 million workers (one in 9 workers worldwide). According to results released by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), international tourist arrivals totaled 983 million in 2011, an all-time record, and for 2012 the figure is expected to exceed one billion (WTO, 2012).
The segment of tourism undergoing the fastest growth is nature-based tourism, which includes ecotourism. Nature-based tourism has been estimated to account for between 15 and 20 percent of all international travel expenditures, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), and that figure seems to be increasing rapidly (WTTC, 2008). It is quite clear that unless this growth receives careful and professional guidance, serious negative consequences – some of which may have terminal effects – could occur.
Ecotourism, as defined by IUCN – The International Union for the Conservation of Nature -, is “environmentally responsible travel and visitation to relatively undisturbed natural areas, in order to enjoy, study and appreciate nature (and any accompanying cultural features – both past and present), that promotes conservation, has low negative visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local populations” (Ceballos-Lascurain, 1996). In other words, ecotourism denotes nature tourism with a normative element.
Only a few years ago, the word “ecotourism” didn’t exist, let alone the principles it now embodies. It is only recently that ecotourism has emerged as a feasible option for both conserving the natural and cultural heritage of nations and regions and contributing to sustainable development.
Natural areas, and especially legally protected areas, their landscape, wildlife and flora – together with any existing cultural features – constitute major attractions for the peoples of the countries in which they are found and for tourists around the world.
These last several years have witnessed a remarkable upsurge of ecotourism activities around the world. Governments of the most varied countries are showing heretofore-unknown interest in ecotourism, recognising its enormous capabilities for conserving the natural and cultural heritage of their nations and also its rich potential for ensuring sustainable development. Conservation NGOs around the planet are also embarking upon ecotourism projects, recognising in them an important ally. Ecotourism operators and professional membership organisations are sprouting everywhere. Local communities in remote localities, which until very recently had very little contact with “modern” civilisation, are now attracting ecotourists to their settlements in the jungle, the desert or the island (Ceballos-Lascurain, 2012).
Unfortunately, accurate statistics as regards ecotourism are still lacking. Institutions such as WTO and WTTC are urging both governments and private firms to generate trustworthy data in order to evaluate the true magnitude of ecotourism around the world. Some preliminary studies indicate that perhaps around 15 % of international tourism is ecotourism-oriented and that the annual rate of growth of this type of tourism is also around 15 % (compared to a 4 % growth rate for overall tourism in the 1990s (UNWTO, 2008).
International agencies such as the World Bank, UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), UNESCO, WTO, the European Union, WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature), IUCN (The World Conservation Union), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and Conservation International (CI), are all involved in promoting and developing studies and specific projects in different fields of ecotourism.
The Program of International Consultancy on Ecotourism (PICE), coordinated by the author, acting as Special Advisor to IUCN on Ecotourism, has carried out since 1990 consultancy work for governments, NGOs and private firms in many countries around the world, carrying out a number of national ecotourism strategies, local and regional ecotourism plans, as well as the design and construction of ecolodges and other physical facilities required for ecotourism.
But not everything about ecotourism is on the bright side. There are also serious problems. Since the term “ecotourism” has currently become very popular, being overused and misused in numerous instances, many pseudo-ecotour outfits are being set up, masquerading as “green operations”, but in reality only seeking a fast profit, engaging in no real environmental consciousness or co-responsibilities. In other cases, projects with the intention of being “ecotouristic” have failed because the training aspects were neglected, or the active involvement of the local communities was not achieved, or for a number of other reasons.
Also, tourist “mega-projects” continue rampant in many countries, especially in beach environments, with their well-known ravaging effects on the natural and cultural environment.
But genuine, well-planned ecotourism projects are definitely becoming more and more numerous and popular everywhere and hopefully they will establish new trends for the 21st century, in which all human activities will have to be of a sustainable nature.
The question is no longer if tourism may perform a role in the conservation of the natural and cultural heritage of our planet, but rather what are the specific steps that need to be taken in different countries to carry out activities that will ensure an adequate symbiosis between tourism, conservation, and sustainable development.
2. SITE PLANNING
Site planning and design is a process that involves in an integrated way the issues of land use, human circulation, structures, facilities and utilities within the natural and human environment. In order to ensure harmony between tourism developments and environmental protection, it is indispensable to apply sensitive design of infrastructure, master site planning, ecologically and socially conscious site design, and landscaping.
Preserving the special characteristics of a tourism destination demands an in-depth understanding of the natural systems on the site, as well as an immersion into the time-tested cultural responses to that environment’s opportunities and constraints. If we want to change the way we build tourism facilities in environmentally-sensitive sites, we need a new way of thinking about site planning and design, which involves a holistic approach. Sustainable site planning and design can lead to a better integration of physical facilities for tourism and their site and surroundings and can indeed help to lessen the environmental impact of these facilities.
Site planning and design for any tourism facility must clearly indicate the process of ordering human actions and works in a specific tract of land. In addition to constituting a graphic representation (to scale) that shows location, layout, general size and shape, and orientation of the different elements of the project, site planning and design should indicate the sequence of activities that make up the project, clearly establishing a space-time interaction. Also, it should ensure that all on-site human activities should have a minimum negative impact on the natural and human environment (Ceballos-Lascuráin, 2010).
The site planning and design for any ecotourism facility must be, first of all, an instrument that safeguards the sustainability and conservation of the surrounding natural and cultural heritage. Not only should it conserve the natural ecosystems but it must also contribute to repairing and restoring the environmental damages that may already be present in the site. The development of the site should strive to leave the site better off after development than before.
Zoning is a very important tool in the site planning and design process. It is the process of applying different management objectives and regulations to different parts or zones of a specific area.
EXAMPLE OF AN ECOTOURISM MASTER PLAN IN A PROTECTED NATURAL AREAS: WADI EL GEMAL ON THE RED SEA COAST OF EGYPT. DESIGNER: HECTOR CEBALLOS-LASCURAIN.
The success of any tourism facility (including ecolodges, which are the appropriate facilities for ecotourism) often lies on the initial process of site evaluation and selection. Careful evaluation, in some instances, may reveal that the site is not appropriate for developing the facility. All considerations involved in selecting the most appropriate site will be essential in any forthcoming decisions dealing with design and construction.
Considering the increasing visitation to wilderness areas over the past decade and the resultant effects on the carrying capacities of the ecosystems, it would be prudent to select sites for developing ecotourism facilities that are situated just outside the nature preserves, although this is not always possible since some of the preserves are very large. As such, a well-conducted site evaluation can assist developers in finding alternatives to developing in protected areas. Selection of an appropriate site is critical for ensuring the sustainability and viability of an ecolodge. The selected site should support the lodge within natural and biophysical resource limits while offering ecotourists the opportunity to experience and enjoy the environment (Ceballos-Lascurain, 1996).
Frequently, in those sites which are more appropriate for ecolodge development there are limited or no infrastructural elements or public services, because of typical isolation and remoteness.
It is important to analyse how much infrastructure should be provided by the local authorities, and how much by the private sector. Since the extra service demand is often only used part of the year (seasonal), and takes precedence over use by local communities, tourism providers must invest in their own infrastructure needs. Both communities and tourism sector should benefit from infrastructure development.
In every case, the private sector has an enormous responsibility in sustainable hotel planning and design, appropriate scale of development, zoning and compliance to environmental regulations. It is essential to ensure that your site plan is environmentally-friendly, minimising negative impacts on the natural landscape, local biodiversity and any existing cultural features found nearby.
3. ECODESIGN OF ECOTOURISM FACILITIES
A new approach to architecture and physical facilities planning is needed, not only in tourism, but in all human activities, if we are really going to stop the irreversible damage to the environment, further pollution, and depletion of energy sources. This new approach should be based on the concept of ecodesign, which may be defined as “any form of design that minimises negative environmental impacts, by integrating itself into the surrounding ecosystem” (Ceballos-Lascurain, 2002).
Ecotourism facilities (including ecolodges), should be particularly designed in an environmentally-friendly way, since they are usually located in areas of great scenic beauty and ecological significance. Application of appropriate waste treatment methods and the use of alternative energy sources (especially in remote locations) are especially important items to be considered. Physical facilities should be technologically viable and adequate, and also socially acceptable and economically feasible. Joint ventures, communication and working with funding agencies can assist with addressing the expense of technologies. Physical planning and building (planning for expansion) should always be long term endeavours.
It is important to remember that economic benefits come from environmentally-friendly facilities and technologies.
A product of the ecotourism industry is packaged lodge accommodation in remote, natural areas. According to The International Ecotourism Society, “the term ecolodge is an industry label used to identify a nature-dependent tourist lodge that meets the philosophy of ecotourism” (Hawkins et al., 1996). In other words, an ecolodge is the accommodation preferred by ecotourists.
At a purist level an ecolodge will offer a tourist an educational and participatory experience, be developed and managed in an environmentally sensitive manner and protect its operating environment. An ecolodge is different from mainstream lodges, like fishing and ski lodges and luxury retreats. It is the philosophy of ecological sensitivity that must underlie, and ultimately define, each operation. It is this philosophy that the client is seeking both from the lodge operator and from government in their support of resource conservation.
It must be stressed that “the most important thing about an ecolodge is that the ecolodge is not the most important thing” (Ceballos-Lascuráin, 1997), i.e., it is the quality of the surrounding environment that most counts: the nearby natural and cultural attractions – and the way ecotourism circuits are set up, operated and marketed, also the way in which local populations are actively involved in the process.
The main reason for a tourist coming to an ecolodge is that it provides the opportunity of being in close contact with nature (in some cases, supplemented by interesting cultural elements).
The major distinction between an ecolodge and a traditional lodge is that in the latter the main attractions are of an artificial character, as well as the facilities and activities which take place there (golf, tennis, gymnasiums, water-jetting and water-skiing, windsurfing, swimming pools, etc.). Inversely, the main attractions of an ecolodge are its natural setting and nature-based activities, which allow for a better appreciation and enjoyment of the ecological environment. In the conventional resort-type lodge, much of the site is typically reconfigured (patios, terraces, lawns, garden compositions, sporting fields, water basins, swimming pools, etc.), the tourist’s experience being heavily controlled and programmed, reflecting the view that earth’s resources are for human use.
Ecolodges are often located in remote and wild areas, and therefore very few typical infrastructural elements and services found in more traditional settings are available, such as access by paved highway, public transportation services, electric and telephone lines, piped potable water, public drainage and sewage, refuse collection and disposal, nearby school and medical services, shopping areas, etc.
SIAN KA’AN ECOLODGE IN THE BIOSPHERE RESERVE OF SIAN KA’AN, QUINTANA ROO, MEXICO. DESIGNER:HECTOR CEBALLOS-LASCURAIN.
For this reason, a totally new and different approach to physical planning is required, one based on a high level of functional, energy and food self-sufficiency. Before designing and building an ecolodge, realistically and clearly identify the specific characteristics of isolation and difficulty of access to infrastructural elements and public services and define beforehand the level of self-sufficiency you wish or need to attain.
It is always important to harmonise tourism facilities with the surrounding environment (both natural and cultural), using architectural forms in harmony with the natural landscape (vegetation and land forms), designing with long-term environmental criteria. An ecotourism facility should always possess a sense of place.
Some good examples of ecodesign of ecotourism facilities are the following:
1) Manu Lodge, located in the Peruvian Amazonian rainforest, is a rustic facility using local building materials (wood, palm leaves, bamboos), designed in such a way that it is practically hidden in the deep forest, its building height well below the tree line. Situated in Manu Biosphere Reserve, one of the areas of major biodiversity in the world (1,100 species of birds), the lodge attracts ecotourists from around the world (especially US bird watchers), who are willing to pay US$250 per night, without having such conventional amenities as electric light (kerosene lamps are used instead), air conditioning or jacuzzi.
2) Kapawi, an ecotourism/ecolodge project in a rain forest locality of the Amazonian region of Ecuador, with community-based participation (members of the Achuar nation), provides a model of environmentally-friendly design and also a model of how private capital investments can be integrated with local community goals, with minimum cultural and environmental impacts. Kapawi offers a model which avoids the integration/destruction paradox that faces most indigenous Amazonian groups (Rodríguez, 1999). Living in the remotest area of southeastern Ecuador, the Achuar community had practically no contact with westerners before the arrival of missionaries in the late 1960s. Even today western influence is minimal and the Achuar remain nearly self-sufficient in their territory, still able to obtain most of what they need from the forest. The traditional Achuar architecture represents an ancient knowledge of technologies and concepts that have evolved in order to fulfil the conditions imposed by the tropical rain forest. The structure is simple and harmonious with the environment.
The techniques used for the building of the Kapawi Ecolodge followed this traditional concept of architecture and was performed only by members of the Achuar community. Within this framework, a few foreign elements were added to the original Achuar design, such as individual rooms within each house, installing electrical systems powered by solar energy and bathrooms with sanitary installations that required non-traditional materials such as wires, cement, metallic mosquito netting, furniture, modern waste management, organic black water treatment, etc., yet without invalidating the traditional concept. The Kapawi Ecolodge was built on the edge of a lagoon, accommodating a maximum of seventy people, including guests and staff, this being not larger than a medium-size Achuar village. The Kapawi Ecolodge consists of 21 huts (double rooms), each room with private bathroom and a terrace facing the lagoon. By building the huts on stilts, less impact was caused to the surrounding vegetation. The complex includes kitchen, dining room, bar, reading room and boutique, various houses to accommodate staff, storage rooms for food, camping equipment and fuel, a workshop, two docks (one at the nearby river, another at the lake), and shelter for backup generators.
As regards water supply, a well provides sediment-free water. The water is pumped into five plastic reservoirs of 2,000 litres each, fed by the pump at a rate of 15 litres per minute. Submersible solar-powered pumps pressurise the system and distribute the water to the different parts of the ecolodge. The water is filtered in a carbon filter where a silver-nitrate element kills micro organisms. Sun showers provide 10 litres of warm water per passenger at the end of the day. Throughout the day there is unlimited cold water.
3. Simunye Zulu Natural Heritage Site, in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, is a tiny and as yet little known Zulu heartland getaway tucked away in the bend of a river, constituting a very interesting ecotourism experience, combining lodge and tribal village seemingly in holistic harmony. Simunye’s virtues lie not only in its unique physical facilities (which, although rustic, are of a very high architectural quality), but in its overall concept of ecotourism development and operation, which is conceived as an effective mechanism for sustainable development and integration of local communities.
Simunye is a joint effort between the local villagers and Barry Leitch, the “white Zulu”, who was born in this region, a descendant of a European religious preacher, and who has grown up according to Zulu cultural traits and speaks their language perfectly. The Simunye Ecolodge, using local materials and building traditions, was built about 500 m from the village. No pre-conceived architectural design was used; the local villagers started building according to their local customs and their own tastes. The results are extremely pleasant, with an attractive combination of riverbed stone, wood, bamboo and thatch. The adjoining cliff, with its huge boulders, has also been appropriately utilised as part of the architectural expression. The bathtubs inside the huts are carved out of the native rock and water is heated in pots and poured by hand by village women. Toilets have wooden flush levers and use anaerobic septic pits. There is a total of seven tourist huts, plus six others in the nearby village, with a total capacity of 24 tourists. Electricity is not available. In the public areas kerosene lamps and campfires are used at night. This atmosphere of rusticity seems to charm the foreign visitors who are in fact looking for this type of experiences.
4. Explorean Ecolodge in Kohunlich, Quintana Roo, Mexico, is located in the midst of the Mayan rainforest in southeastern Mexico, alongside the ruins of an important Maya ceremonial site. The architectural design is inspired on the vernacular practices of the region, using local building materials and forms, complemented by a number of ecotechniques. The facility is comprised of 38 bungalows and 2 cabanas. A number of ecotourism and adventure tourism activities are offered to its guests, including bird watching excursions, archaeological exploration, biking, rappel, kayaking in nearby streams and lake, and jungle trekking.
TWO EXAMPLES OF ECOLODGES IN LATIN AMERICA: Left: LAPA RIOS ECOLODGE, COSTA RICA. DESIGNER: DAVID L. ANDERSEN. Right: EXPLOREAN ECOLODGE IN KOHUNLICH, QUINTANA ROO, MEXICO. DESIGNER: HECTOR CEBALLOS-LASCURAIN.
4. GREENING MASS TOURISM
It must be recognised that conventional mass tourism is still the mainstream of the tourism industry and it is quite probable that this situation will prevail for some time. For this reason it is vitally important to aim our attention on mass tourism, striving to apply measures to make it more environmentally friendly and minimising its negative impacts on biodiversity.
We should not consider only ecotourism linkages with biodiversity conservation, but also linkages of mass tourism, especially the effects of big hotels on the environment and how their design and operation can become more environmentally friendly. At a global scale, perhaps providing an important number of ecolodges is not going to make much of a difference – ultimately we have to affect the larger tourism industry. This means we have to consider how to improve the environmental record of very different items like big city hotels, mega-resorts, airlines, airports, big amusement and theme parks, golf courses, and sports stadia.
Again, the private sector has an enormous responsibility in providing environmentally-friendly hotel design, construction and operational methods.
Training to develop skills of hotel owners and operators to understand what sustainable tourism is and education about best practices are vital activities. There is a need to strengthen and to revise legislation so that this approach is well understood and widely disseminated. Environmental legislation should act as a motivation force, and also as a base for certification. Also, a widespread educational campaign so that tourists will be demanding environmentally-friendly hotels is urgently needed.
It is vital to disseminate codes of ethics for conventional tourists, which will serve as a tool for alleviation of negative impacts. The effects of negative impacts are frequently long term and not always obvious in the short term.
Saving water and energy by reducing the number of towels used in hotel rooms has become a cliché – but only because notices have made a difference in hotels around the world.
In analysing mass tourism impacts, both new tourism facilities and pre-existing tourism facilities must be considered. In the former case, the application of minimal environmental standards for siting of new tourism services and facilities is urgently required. In the latter case, methods for improving the operation, making it more environmentally-friendly, should be applied, through retro-fitting or adding new, more appropriate technologies. In every case, the benefits to the tourism sector (market demand, economics, effective management) must be persuasively demonstrated.
It is not a matter of sanctions and pressuring, rather encouraging the tourism sector to become more environmentally friendly (which will result in economic benefits for them). For example, water heating in many conventional hotels around the world is currently very inefficient and costly, so that wide use of alternative energy sources should be more than welcome by mainstream tourism operations. Also, many traditional beach destinations are experiencing a loss of repeat visitors because of water pollution, so that more environmentally-friendly practices are definitely in the interest of beach resort owners and operators.
Cruise ships cause enormous environmental damage. It is estimated that they discard many thousands of tons of untreated waste into the oceans of the world every day. Strict regulations have to be applied to this type of destructive tourism.
It is important to encourage linkages between all-inclusive resorts and local enterprises (e.g. local food suppliers, daily bazaar, local excursions, etc.), promoting symbiotic relationships between big hotels and smaller tourism suppliers, including small lodges. One should avoid isolation or enclaves and have tourists be in contact with the social and natural environment (when desired by the community).
Following are some good examples of environmentally-friendly measures taken by larger hotels in different parts of the world.
1) Kingfisher Bay Resort & Village is located in Fraser Island, Australia, a World Heritage site located 250 km north of Brisbane. The site encompasses 65 ha and includes a 152-room hotel, 75 self-contained villas, a 114-bed wilderness lodge, a day-visitor pavilion, the staff village, three restaurants and conference rooms for up to 300 people. Although due to its scale not an ecolodge, Kingfisher Bay was built to strict environmental guidelines with the aim of offering a modern resort to blend harmoniously with the island’s sensitive ecosystem. Before construction began, extensive environmental impact assessments were performed. Striving for a high level of environmental integration: roads and buildings were planned around the major trees to the greatest extent possible; colours reflect the surrounding vegetation; buildings are limited to two levels and are below the tree line; all timber used is from common, native species; the hotel centre complex is designed without air-conditioning; natural convention currents are created by windows and vents at the upper and lower levels of the building; impacts on the dunes and marshlands are minimised through the use of either hardwood boardwalks or wood chip walking tracks; the resort has an on-site sewage treatment plant. The design of the resort is estimated to save over 500,000 Kwh of energy each year, which is equivalent to the annual energy consumption of 100 households.
Left: KINGFISHER BAY RESORT IN FRASER ISLAND, QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA. DESIGNERS: TIM GUYMER, RALPH BAILEY, MARK FRENCH. Right: QUSEIR RESORT ON THE RED SEA COAST OF EGYPT. Designers: MUHAMMAD FATY, HÉCTOR CEBALLOS-LASCURAÍN.
2) Disney World in Florida, USA, recycles fifteen million litres of wastewater a day for irrigation of landscaping and golf courses. The company found that this method was not only environmentally wise, but also cost effective, as using municipally treated water would have been much more expensive.
3) At the Le Sport Resort in Saint Lucia, sewage was formerly treated at an outdated plant. In 2006 the resort created a series of wetlands, in the form of three interconnecting lagoons, that filter wastewater with aquatic plants and mesh. The filtered grey water is then disinfected further with ultra violet rays and used for irrigation on the resort’s grounds. Fish in the ponds control mosquito larvae and algae. In its first year of operation, the new treatment method saved four million litres of water and thousands of dollars.
4) Several big hotels in Canada have been applying a series of environmentally-friendly practices: the Skydome Hotel in Toronto, by placing recycling boxes for glass and cans in just 70 rooms, collected 58,000 cans and 12,000 bottles in a single year; at L’Hôtel in Toronto, old bed sheets are sewn into reusable laundry bags, to replace disposable plastic bags; at the Banff Springs Hotel, a recycling programme that includes bottles, cans, paper, hangers, kitchen grease and used motor oil has cut waste by more than 85 % (Sweeting et al, 1999). By protecting the environment, there are obvious benefits to biodiversity conservation.
5) The Pukhet Yacht Club in Thailand is a resort with a radically different approach to environmental management. The hotel’s environmental committee was convinced that environmental sustainability could only be achieved through programmes that: increase environmental awareness, stress the urgent need to act due to the present state of the environment, and develop the notion of ‘environmental stewardship’ – a positive and caring attitude towards the environment. The main focus is on changing people’s attitudes, starting with the Yacht Club staff and widening the range of influence to reach the neighbouring village communities. Waste water from the hotel goes through a treatment process using BIO-BAC which treats the water biologically. It is then used for watering the gardens. The Yacht Club estimates that per day it saves 70 m3 of water and US$70 in high season. By cards in the bathroom, guests are invited to save water and reuse towels, and it is estimated that laundry loads have been reduced by 25%.
6) The Seattle Westin Hotel overhauled its entire lighting system in 2003, changing incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and improving control mechanisms. As a result, the hotel has achieved a 66% reduction in guest room wattage with overall savings from the lighting system estimated at US$400,000 per year.
7) In Costa Rica, there have been some NGO initiatives where hotels donate to the biodiversity conservation cause, through schemes like “Adopt a Reserve” and also providing opportunities for donation from tourists.
8) The city of Banff in Canada voluntarily stopped more tourism facility development by clearly establishing physical boundaries of the town, strictly limiting the depletion of the water table, and specifying a maximum height for buildings.
9) In Australia, for the 2000 Olympic Games the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG’s) mission was “to deliver the most harmonious, athlete oriented, technically excellent and culturally enhancing Olympic Games of the modern era”. SOCOG used its best endeavours to set a new standard of environmental excellence for organising and staging a large sporting event. To this end, SOCOG was committed to strict environmental guidelines, guided by the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD). Environment was considered by the organisers as the “third pillar of Olympism”. Among the major environmental achievements were: the SOCOG Environment Programme was established in 1996, early enough to allow sufficient time for staff to be integrally involved in planning; carrying out of the Olympic Greenhouse Challenge, a major project to assess the greenhouse impact of the Games for minimising greenhouse gas emissions; a programme of environmental education (including a waste education plan) as a component of staff training; an environmental specification for sponsors, licensees and suppliers; an integrated waste management solution; packaging and foodware specification to control inputs into the waste stream; an Olympic Results Information Service (ORIS), an electronic system which reduced the huge amount of paper required to provide media with results; saving water and energy at all Olympic buildings and facilities; facilitating access of spectators through public transport, resulting in energy conservation and pollution and greenhouse gas avoidance; Olympic merchandise had minimal packaging and minimised the use of PVC.
Hopefully, in the not too distant future, all ecotourism activities and facilities will be generally carried out in a more environmentally-friendly way, which will contribute to the conservation of our planet’s natural and cultural heritage, including the valuable resources contained in national parks and other protected areas around the world.
Most important, the paradigms and models of ecotourism and ecolodge development will hopefully affect the way other types of more traditional tourism are carried out. All tourism – including mass tourism – will surely benefit from this trend, since travel and lodging should become more ecologically appropriate and every kind of tourist will be expecting – and demanding – a clean and less disturbed environment.
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Nov 24 2012