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|Author :||Wolfgang Strasdas|
|School/Work Place :||Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development, Germany|
Nature-based tourism is a form of travel that is often believed to lend itself more to sustainable development than other tourism segments. In fact, the concept of ecotourism – defined as nature tourism that is sustainable – was developed in the 1990s not only to minimize negative impacts, but also as a means to actively support biodiversity conservation and generate income for rural communities. But what about nature-based tourism and climate change? This aspect is conspicuously absent from the idea of ecotourism which tends to focus on the destinations while neglecting how to get there and back (Strasdas 2005). Overall in tourism, transportation is responsible for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions of a given trip, even if it is domestic. For long-haul travel transport is by far the predominant source of emissions (UNWTO/UNEP 2008).
Since pristine natural attractions tend to be remote and difficult to access, thus increasing distances and transportation needs, it may be hypothesized that this tourism segment produces even higher emissions than mainstream tourism. So far, there are very few studies that have specifically dealt with the climate impact of nature tourism. One such study from New Zealand has, in fact, confirmed this hypothesis early on (Simmons/Becken 2004). Two more recent studies have also shown the extremely high climate footprint of tourism to the Polar Regions (Dawson et al. 2010, Eijgelaar et al. 2010). In spite of this, and not any different from the tourism industry in general, the ecotourism community does not appear to have significantly responded to the transportation challenge during the past years, with the exception of local measures (accommodation, local transport) to save energy and increase the share of renewable energy sources.