Responsible tourism can have a significant role to play in rewilding efforts. Like it or not, when choices are made about how land and sea are used – whether for nature, development, leisure or industry – money talks loudly. If a case can be made that protection and conservation of the planet’s wilderness areas will attract tourism and the economic effects it brings, then that can have an impact.
Obviously, we’re under no illusions that small group winter vacations in Lapland will be able to compete on a financial basis with the mining industry. But they can show local people, campaigners and politicians that there is an alternative to businesses that leave only environmental destruction in their wake.
As part of our drive to become a nature positive company
, putting vacations that benefit nature first, we’re working with our partners to help them reduce the impacts of their vacations on nature, and to increasingly promote their trips that support rewilding, habitat restoration and protection of wild places.
Julie Gough, marketing and communications manager at the John Muir Trust, feels there is great scope for tourism businesses to take the initiative ahead of government targets:
“Examples of how they could help include introducing a biodiversity indicator against different types of vacations to gauge which are the responsible vacations of the future, investing part of their profits in natural capital or ‘ecosystem services’ associated with the places that people like to visit, thereby protecting those places for people to visit and explore.”
“They can educate their clients in what it means to travel responsibly and promote travel options that are low carbon rather than those that are carbon intensive and very costly to biodiversity and the stability of the climate.”
The Brazilian rainforests are the obvious poster child for the conflict between industrial growth and the need to protect vitally important ecosystems. Rainforests are the ‘lungs of the earth’, storing carbon dioxide, and breathing oxygen out. But deforestation for industries such as logging and farming have got significantly worse in recent years with the arrival of Jair Bolsonaro’s right-wing authoritarian government. It’s estimated that an area of rainforest the size of a football pitch
is being lost every minute – and we are now well into injury time if we want to meaningfully protect it.
Breana Quesnel, co-founder of our partner Spirit of the West Adventures, sees similar pressures on wild places in Canada:
“There are many different demands on the spaces we enjoy, from industrial extractive activities such as logging, mining, power generation and fish farming. Tourism absolutely plays a role in conservation of these areas and in showing government sustainable, non-extractive uses of the land.”
“Many communities in British Columbia have had to transition away from resources extractive industries like logging and they are now embracing tourism, which provides meaningful well-paying jobs while the forests remain intact, providing for communities in so many ongoing ways.”
Just stressing the importance of protecting wilderness areas may not be enough. Environmentalists have been trying to raise the alarm since Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring
back in 1962, but sadly there are still significant numbers of influential politicians from the USA to Australia to Brazil that continue to miss the message. Or their donors would prefer they cover their ears. As Breana says above, there needs to be a sustainable, financial meaningful alternative that those in power can be pointed towards – such as wilderness tourism.