Responsible tourism is conscientious travel. It means taking care to maintain the preservation of the environments you explore and respecting the communities you visit. In a place like Panama, with such extremely high levels of natural and cultural diversity, this is particularly important.
In 2015, the Panamanian government launched a strategy to develop sustainable ecotourism, which included an application for smartphones that directs tourists entering protected forest areas throughout the country. The program, known as the Iniciativa Turismo Verde (Green Tourism Initiative), is a joint venture of the Ministry of Environment, the Tourism Authority of Panama (ATP) and the National Institute of Culture (INAC). Known as Ecotur Panama, the app works with Android and Apple- powered cell phones to provide comprehensive information about the country’s protected wildlife areas, including maps and trail information. It also features an alert system that can be engaged in the event someone finds them- selves lost in the woods.
The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.” TIES suggests that ecotourists follow these principles:
Minimize environmental impact. Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect. Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts. Provide direct financial benefits for conservation and for local people. Raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climates. Support international human rights and labor agreements.
You can find tips for responsible travelers under “Get Involved” at the TIES website.
Although much of the focus of ecotourism is about reducing impacts on the natural environment, ethical tourism concentrates on ways to preserve and enhance local economies and communities, regardless of location. You can embrace ethical tourism by staying at a locally owned hotel or shopping at a store that employs local workers and sells locally produced goods.
General Resources for Green Travel
In addition to the resources listed above, the following websites provide valuable wide-ranging information on sustainable travel:
Carbonfund, TerraPass, and Cool Climate provide info on “carbon offsetting,” or offsetting the greenhouse gas emitted during flights. Greenhotels (www.greenhotels.com) recommends green-rated member hotels around the world that fulfill the company’s stringent environmental requirements. . For information on animal-friendly issues throughout the world, visit Tread Lightly. For information about the ethics of whale-watching, visit Whale and Dolphin Conservation.
Responsible Travel is a great source of sustainable travel ideas; the site is run by a spokesperson for ethical tourism in the travel industry. Sustainable Travel International promotes ethical tourism practices and manages an extensive directory of sustainable properties and tour operators around the world.
In the U.K., Tourism Concern works to reduce social and environmental problems connected to tourism. The Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) is a group of specialist operators leading the field in making holidays sustainable.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.