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The Independent Culture
HOW CAN you be sure an ecotour is ecologically and socially sensitive? The US-based Ecotourism Society has published "Questions to an ecotour operator" and suggests "ideal" answers.

Q. Does the ecotour operator show a commitment to local conservation?

A. Conservation can be actively encouraged by developing local conservation projects. Donations to local organisations concentrating on environmental concerns are also a good indicator of commitment.

Q. Does the ecotour directly benefit local inhabitants?

A. This should be a key component. An operator can aid the community by using local workers, local produce and locally owned lodges.

Q. Does the operator have a waste-management policy?

A. This can include using recycled and biodegradable materials; advising visitors to minimise the disposable products carried on trips; and ensuring that all rubbish taken into fragile areas is removed after visits.

Q. How else is the impact of ecotours minimised?

A. By educating travellers about the best way to minimise their impact; protecting fresh water and other limited natural resources; by choosing locally owned and/or sustainably managed lodges; respecting a community's privacy; care when viewing wildlife.

Q. Does the operator limit visitor numbers to fragile environments?

A. Natural ecosystems may be degraded due to sheer visitor numbers. Ecotour operators should liaise with local authorities and competitors to co- ordinate visits. Fragile environments should be monitored and examples of environmental destruction reported.

The Ecotourism Society, PO Box 755, North Bennington, VT 05257, US (802- 447-2121; fax: 802-447-2122; e-mail: ecomail@ecotourism.org, website: www.ecotourism.org

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