In 2007, "Forbes" listed eco-awareness at the top of its list of travel trends. Since then, ecotourism has exploded among travelers eager to visit new places and meet new people while minimizing harm to the environment and local cultures. Canada, a vast country comprised of mountains, lakes, forests and tundra, boasts several eco destinations. The impact of ecotourism reveals the value of greener, socially responsible travel.
More than 90 percent of Canadians live near the U.S. border, which leaves plenty of open territory to explore. You can hike the rainforests on Vancouver Island, or kayak around its shore. Another possibility is to take a buggy ride across the tundra to study polar bears. Roaming the prairies of a goat farm in Manitoba is an enriching experience, as is visiting a fish hatchery in Alberta. Birding and working on a farm in Saskatchewan should also be memorable.
According to "Ecotourism: Impacts, Potentials and Possibilities," ecotourism is estimated to grow at10 to 30 percent each year. As timber and farming industries face economic instability, especially in Saskatchewan, ecotourism offers a more promising alternative and allows the economy to rely less on a single sector. The Saskatchewan Environmental Society reports that the use of wildlife and wildlife habitat for ecotourism can be more profitable than mining, oil development, trophy hunting, farming or logging.
In 1990, the "Saskatchewan Long-Term Integrated Forest Resource Management Plan" reported that just more than 2,170 people were employed by the province's forestry industry. Its tourism industry in Saskatchewan employed over 20,000 people, with half of the jobs located in forested regions. These numbers indicate that tourism plays a larger role in employment of people living in rural Canada than forestry.
Environmental issues, such as deforestation, extinction and climate change, have caused global concern. Some of the environmental impacts of ecotourism in Saskatchewan have included diversity of natural resources, stronger shorebird populations and decreased crowding and pollution. Tourists spend about 2.4 billion dollars in Canada annually to experience the country's natural areas--at the same time, they are helping to alleviate some of the pressing environmental problems.
Since many ecotourists plan for an educational or volunteer experience as part of their adventure, more opportunities arise for communication between visitors and natives. This interaction promotes understanding and consciousness of cultural differences.
The impact of ecotourism on rural Canada has sparked several new government programs. Canada began working with Finland and Sweden on the Sustainable Model of Arctic Regional Tourism (SMART) program to develop tools, resources and incentives to ensure that arctic tourism served the best interest of the environment. As part of SMART, traveler guidelines were also developed to encourage visitors to choose accommodations that provided jobs to local people, use local transportation and eat local foods.