By Sarah Lander
Ecuador’s position in Latin America provides diverse opportunities for ethical tourism. Within its borders it holds diverse landscapes, allowing for accommodation of a vast field of interests. With tourism generally, it is crucial to acknowledge the complexities of the nation you are planning to visit and how to enjoy your holiday with these in mind. Tourism accounts for a good chunk of Ecuador’s annual revenues and is becoming increasingly important to the nation’s economic stability in recent years. It is important to do your research before travelling to Ecuador or any new destination, to ensure that your trip will be ethical and beneficial to the nation you are visiting. Travelling of course inherently uses harmful emissions through air travel and other means of transportation, but there are certainly ways to guarantee that your time away from home will be as ethical and environmentally efficient as possible. This guide does not necessarily only apply to Ecuador but will use Ecuador specific examples given its unique diversity and geographical location.
The most crucial responsibility of any tourist is to put an effort into understanding the place you are visiting, before, during and after your trip. Not only is it necessary to understand basics such as geography and currency, it is also of equal importance to learn about the languages, cultures and customs you may encounter on your travels. For example, Two Rivers Reserve is located on the indigenous lands of the Kichwa people. Where you may have done your research and are conscious of traditions and values in Quito for example, in this region and other regions, these may differ. Moreover, preserving and reclaiming traditions are of utmost importance to this community and other indigenous communities around the world. Always make a valiant effort to immerse yourself in your surroundings without being offensive or harmful to them.
When travelling to Ecuador and its regional counterparts, most people assume that the language used is Spanish. Ecuador holds within it a diverse population and has at least eleven languages spoken throughout the country- so be weary of this when assuming Spanish will be the spoken language of the region you are visiting. As well as language, Ecuador offers a diverse range of activities and landscapes that suit every kind of tourist. Whether you are interested in backpacking, eco or adventure tourism, luxury beach vacations or volunteer work, Ecuador has something for you. Regardless of your interests, there are ways to guarantee that your trip will help and not hinder the economy and the nation at large.
Eco-Tourism, a trend that began in the Galapagos has gained ground in Ecuador in recent past. Eco-tourism aims to immerse tourists in natural environments without damaging the local life at said destination. Furthermore, it focuses on benefitting the people and the land in the region while maintaining significant tourism into the area. In this particular region of the world, there has since been an increase in “green” tourism that preaches eco-tourism’s values, however in practice does not carry out the same principles and values which guarantee a beneficial experience for the host and the tourist. Deforestation is a major issue in Ecuador, and organizations such as Two Rivers Reserve serve the purpose of allowing tourists to engage with and re-establish local life without doing any of the damage that larger corporate “green” tourism companies would do. Always do your research into the values and principles of organizations when choosing an organization to volunteer with.
If your travelling style leans more towards luxury travel, look into the tour companies and hotels you book with to guarantee that these offer authentic local experiences that benefit the local economy and environment, rather than manicured experiences which harm both the locals and tourists’ experience. If you have more of a taste for adventure and wish you do your trip on a smaller budget, there are certainly ways to do this which would benefit local life. You can book yourself into locally owned eco hostels and meet other likeminded travelers or eat and shop at locally owned restaurants and eateries. Ensure that you are avoiding large chain fast food where possible. This can also save your budget and allows you to try new foods which better help you connect with your environment and enhance your experience and understanding. There is certainly something for everyone in Ecuador, and there are always ways to be a more responsible tourist, regardless of your travelling style.