A relatively new and growing sector in the tourism industry is the concept of urban ecotourism. Until recently, ecotourism occurred exclusively in environmentally pristine and relatively untouched landscapes, such as those found in Costa Rica and Madagascar. This is no longer the case, as there are now ways to embrace all of the values that are important in classical ecotourism into urban ecotourism.
Urban planners are beginning to realize that they can plan cities to offer tranquil and relaxing adventures in nature along with the traditional fast-paced activities that bring tourists to cities. One of the cities who has really capitalized on this type of tourism is Toronto. Some of the activities that they offer for the urban ecotourist include:
- Architecturally green environmental design.
Any city with some type of waterfront can offer these various activities to potential tourists.
Urban ecotourism, however, is not just about sights and experiences. There is a certain level of respect for the environment and other responsibilities that ecotourists find important and valuable, such as the following:
- Restoring and conserving natural and cultural heritage;
- Maximizing local benefits and engaging the local community as owners, investors, hosts and guides;
- Educating visitors and residents on environmental matters and sustainability;
- Reducing ones’ ecological footprint.
It is also argued that touring urban areas is much more eco-friendly than touring the environmentally “pristine” areas such as Costa Rica and Madagascar. Secluded areas require more energy and emissions to get individuals and consumables there, not to mention construction, in what was once a virgin landscape. Urban ecotourism doesn’t develop any landscapes that haven’t already been tampered with. Also, architects have now designed green hospitality buildings, such as the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, to have green capabilities such as rooftop gardens and grey-water usage.
Do you believe that urban ecotourism is a sector of the tourism industry that is worth developing? If so, what do you think should be done to encourage such activities?