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The Rise of Eco-Tourism and Conservation Vacations

By Scott Dicken The Rise of Eco-Tourism and Conservation Vacations If you’re like me, by early January Christmas pudding is merely a fond memory, and I guiltily admit to friends that I haven’t made a New Year’s resolution yet, particularly one I will endeavor to keep. Yet, this year I’m feeling inspired by a recent trip to Zimbabwe. Picture this: a newborn rhino, barely 3-months old, shelters from the mid-day sun in its mother’s shadow as we sit, gazing in awe, a mere handful of feet away. Everything is silent other than the consistent staccato of camera shutters; everyone angling for the perfect photo that will no doubt later adorn social media feeds, including my own. This is what a classic African safari is all about – and the Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve on the outskirts of Victoria Falls Town, Zimbabwe, provided us with ample such encounters. But for most of us on the trip, our stay is about more than just capturing envy-inducing holiday snaps. “I chose to volunteer on a conservation project to learn as much as possible about wildlife, conservation and local culture,” says my fellow volunteer, Greg Salter from the UK. “But this baby rhino is definitely an added bonus.” By prioritizing vacations that give back to the environment and communities they impact, my fellow travelers are echoing a fast-growing sustainability-focused, eco-tourism trend. Resolution worthy? You bet. What is Eco-Tourism? Ecotourism, largely thought of as a subset of the broader sustainable tourism industry, is defined by the International Ecotourism Society as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”. That broad definition encompasses everything from directly funding conversation programs to harnessing the tourism industry to build environmental awareness while minimizing negative social…

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