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34437 Istanbul / TURKEY

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What is Ecotourism?

Our association which presents the principles of travelling “responsibly” for nature, for the environment, and for local cultures, reminds us of our responsibilities towards our planet and for sustaining life here and now without being corrupted…
What is Ecotourism?
Ecotourism is a rather recent concept. For the first time, in 1992 Rio Environment Summit, criteria have been declared for a sustainable earth and environment. Being adapted to tourism as well, these criteria were summarized in following manner: without harming the environment to develop the methods of how to make use of it, and without ever destroying the culture of any local people, to help them make use of tourism activities.
Within the process up to now the concept of “ecotourism” and its definition are embraced gradually, and in May 2002 in Quebec, Canada, in the “World Ecotourism Summit” which is actualized by the participation of 1100 delegates from 133 countries a common definition is identified, which is embraced by every country. According to this definition ecotourism is embraced as “an approach or attitude assuring the sustainability of the natural sources of the earth, and upholding the economic development of local people as well, and protecting and watching for their social and cultural integrity.”
The principles and methods, to be embraced as a natural corollary and to be practiced by countries, who embrace this concept, are as following:

To develop ecotourism policies and make schedules
To develop rules for ecotourism
To develop products, make marketing and presentation in the sphere of ecotourism
To pursue and identify the advantages and the disadvantages of ecotourism (material and immaterial)
The rules which have to be obeyed in Ecotourism

According to the abovementioned definition ecotourism is conceived first of all as “a tourism assuring the sustainability of environmental and cultural values, and providing material benefit to local people”, it encompasses the tourism types practiced in nature as its main sphere of activities.
According to this, every kind of tourism made in virgin nature is within the scope of ecotourism. The principle of “sustainability of natural environment”, which is one of the two important criteria of ecotourism in these nature trips, has to be obeyed closely.
The route chosen in nature trips, that a professional guide trained for these trips is preferred, the rules which have to be obeyed definitely are of utmost importance. Other rules, which both the agencies organizing the tour and the tour participants must obey, may be summarized this way:
- In regions which are declared as National Park, Reservation etc. to obey the rules set by respective ministries and institutions absolutely, to obey the prohibitions in regions where the entrance or camping is prohibited or restricted,

- to obey certainly these routes, if there are tour routes determined before in regions where trips are made or camped, to obey the route guidance and warnings of the professional nature guide
- To move in peregrinated spaces in a way minimally harming flora and fauna
- During the tour activity not to leave waste to the environment at all, not to leave indelible traces in nature.
- Not to make noise, not to pollute in regions where especially endangered species are present.
- For agencies: to change frequently the tour routes by overseeing the principles of protection both annually and in the long run in regions where it is put special emphasis to the protection of flora and fauna; making use of certified guides absolutely, if they have nature and mountain certificates given by authorized, legal institutions, if not, to make use of professional guides trained by professional institutions and individuals concerning nature routes.
The second important criterion of ecotourism “the sustainability of local cultures and that the people should benefit from this tourism activity” encompasses two important principles. First, local people of the region where ecotourism activity is done may have a material share from this activity.
First of all, it is desired that agencies nationwide or rather smaller agencies regionwide rather than international big tour operators may take part so that this may be provided. When making the tour program, that these agencies should provide the necessities of the tour from the region as much as it is possible is a precondition in material benefit to the region.
The second important principle is that when one contributes to the region through tourism, the material and immaterial cultural aspects should not be ruined. In regions where authentic cultures and moral values are experienced without ever being deteriorated, tourist groups should behave respectfully against these values (to pay attention to the dress, pay respect to the religious and traditional values, to be complaisant to local eating-drinking-entertaining etc. traditions and to participate as much as it is possible). Besides, both as tourism professional ad as consumer, one has to be respectful against material culture works of art, to support protectionism, to prefer and support accommodations paying service in authentic buildings protected rather than those in modern architectural buildings incongruous to the local pattern. Now agencies embracing this environmental attitude and their tours are being supported and preferred in the entire world. Moreover, it is given special prizes and certificates to agencies operating according to this understanding.

In fact tourism movements allowing people from the entire world to meet, commingle and stay together in peace may sustain only without harming the values which can only be present with such an understanding.

The chance of Turkey in ecotourism and where it stands
The rich geography and natural potential of our country is a big chance for the types of nature tourisms. However, if it is behaved unconsciously, the ruin of environmental values will rapidly be inevitable. Seeing this potential danger immediately, we have to embrace a manner and methods “in peace with environment” in every tourism type accomplished in nature. The concept ecotourism has been recently acknowledged in Turkey, but legal institutions unfortunately have not prepared the necessary regulations yet in order to sustain this type of tourism. Among the most prior measures there are the establishment of common and precise rules (and penalties if necessary) by relevant ministries (Tourism, Forestry, Environment, Culture) through a coordinated work immediately, the development of certification programs for mountain and nature guidance by these ministries, and the identification of ecotourism regions and routes. In parallelism with these and for a longer process as well, both tourism professionals and local people have to be made conscious and trained about ecotourism. Especially those people of the region who will earn their income from ecotourism have to become conscious about the natural and cultural riches, which they possess, and of which they are a custodian, and they have to be made aware that they may only be able to serve mankind and themselves by protecting these. One has to provide support to local administrators and people of the region by training them, giving them courses and briefings about the types and kinds of ecotourism and its methods so that they may themselves develop product and eco-accommodation opportunities. Except for some coastal regions which have been opened to tourism earlier, the nature in most regions of our country is still not ruined and has remained virgin, and there is richness, which is rare in the world, especially as to the endemic types, flora and fauna. Whence added to socio-cultural values Turkey is a potential paradise concerning ecotourism. To make use of this potential and to develop it is the duty of everybody.



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