Adventure Travel vs. Eco-Tourism Can the Road Less Traveled Get Trampled Too Often?

By Beeh, Jenny E. | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), April 5, 1998 | Go to article overview

Adventure Travel vs. Eco-Tourism Can the Road Less Traveled Get Trampled Too Often?


Beeh, Jenny E., Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Jenny E. Beeh Daily Herald Correspondent

GO: If you're interested in immersing yourself in the natural landscape and local culture and you're willing to learn how to tread lightly.

NO: Those seeking high-adventure activities over educational experiences should keep to the beaten paths.

If You Go

Choosing a travel company: Do your homework to find travel companies that conduct environmentally responsible tours. Find out how outfitters run their trips. Ask about:

- Guides: "The whole trip is based on the guide that's taking you," Hitchie says. "Find out their background. Anyone can call themselves a bird-touring company. Examine their credentials."

Likewise, in addition to interpretive skills, find out if the staff is trained in low-impact camping, advanced first aid and other wilderness training. Also, how long and how well do they really know the region?

"The key is too have a local person who has a vast appreciation for that area," Mueller says.

- The local connection: Find out how committed the company is to the destination. Who is their local partner? Why are they there? Is it a matter of convenience and money or do they have an emotional tie?

"Is the tour company doing something proactive to work with the local people?" Anderson asks. Is there an economic incentive for locals? "If they become involved then they have an awareness of protecting the environment where tourism takes place," he says.

- Accommodations and travel practices: Are the lodges, camps and hotels that their clients use built and run under strict guidelines? Do they follow low-impact camping rules? How do they treat their waste? Do they keep tour group sizes small? How do they minimize wildlife and habitat disruption? Do they have all the correct permits? Are they licensed? Basically, do they go out of their way to be the least imposing?

- Client education: Does education and hands-on experience play a large role in the trip? What do they expect out of you?

"If they do it all for you, that's just tourism with a little landscape," Mueller says. "Eco-tourism involves interacting on the local level."

What kind of pre-departure material do they provide travelers? How comprehensive is it? Do they have a code of conduct for clients?

- Customer satisfaction: What kind of insurance coverage do they have? Can they accommodate special needs, diets or customize trips? Don't be afraid to ask for references.

Eco-tour operators: Among the travel companies that offer environmentally friendly tours are:

R.E.I. Tours, 1427 Fourth St., S.W., Cedar Rapids, IA 52404; (319) 366-4230

David Anderson Safaris, 4635 Via Vistosa, Santa Barbara, CA 93110, (805) 967-1712

Destinations Downunder, 230 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1030, Chicago, IL 60601; (312) 332-1222

Mountain Travel-Sobek, 6420 Fairmount Ave., El Cerrito, CA 94530; (510) 527-8100

International Expeditions Inc., 1 Environs Park, Helena, AL 35080; (205) 428-1700

Be prepared: Brush up on low-impact traveling and camping skills before you tread. You'll find these and more at your local library and bookstore.

- "Backwoods Ethics: Environmental Issues for Hikers and Campers" by Laura and Guy Waterman

- "Eco-Journeys" by Stephen Foehr

- "The Modern Backpacker's Handbook" by Glenn Randall

- "Wilderness Ethics: Preserving the Spirit of Wildness" by Laura and Guy Waterman

- "Adventure Travel North America" by Pat Dickerman

- "The Green Travel Sourcebook" by Daniel and Sally Wiener Grotta

- "The Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook" by Paul McMenamin

For more information:

The Ecotourism Society, (802) 447-2121; e-mail ecomail@ecotourism.org, www.ecotourism.org.

The Adventure Travel Society, (303) 649-9016

Web sites:

GoGreen - http://www. …

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