Ecotourism: Is Your Lodge Authentic?2 min read
The popularity of ecotourism continues to grow, and as with all marketable movements—“organic” foods come to mind—suppliers wrap themselves in the buzzword in order to sell their wares. How is the buying public to discern what hews to the highest standards? Enter the experts with the experience and knowledge to set the standards.
The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) (www.ecotourism.org/) has spent the last twenty years pursuing a goal of “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” Now a member of TIES’s international Board of Advisors, Hitesh Mehta, brings us a 275-page, coffee-table-worthy guide to thirty-six of the most authentic ecolodges on the planet. Mehta is a leading authority on physical planning and landscape architecture for ecolodges and natural parks for endangered species. He spent three years traveling to 46 countries on six continents to research Authentic Ecolodges (Harper Collins, 2010, $31.50 on Amazon), along the way devising and applying a detailed set of eleven criteria by which to measure authenticity. His book is a treasure trove of destinations, accommodations and insights into the multiple ways of measuring an ecotourism facility and experience against an ideal.
The book is organized along twelve different facets of ecotourism, and Mehta brings us three lodges as prime examples of each. For instance, the “sustainable materials” section features lodges in China, Venezuela and Jordan, and “community ownership” presents lodges in Canada, Bolivia and Kenya. Lodges are profiled succinctly in text, depicted with a full site plan and shown off with dramatic photos. Mehta rates each on a scale of seven “butterflies” indicating their relative degree of “ecological and social enlightenment.” He told HTB that his butterfly scale corresponds directly to how many of his specific criteria have been met. While it is a handsome reference book and conversation piece, the payoff is that it introduces us to real resorts, which the Foreword promises, run “the full spectrum from budget to luxury ($15-500/night), where the guest, the natural environment and the local people come together to deliver a positive return on life.”
Our globetrotting readers should know that in addition to the countries mentioned above, Mehta profiles ecolodges in Australia, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Belize, Egypt, Ecuador, Malawi, Malaysia, Namibia, Costa Rica, Vietnam, India, Mozambique, U.S. Virgin Islands, South Africa, Chile, Saba Island (Caribbean), Indonesia, New Zealand, Panama, Morocco, Mongolia and Brazil. Let us know if you dip into this fascinating resource and if you agree with Mehta’s choices.