What is ecotourism? According to the International Ecotourism Society, ecotourism should aim to preserve the environment and improve the well-being of local communities by sponsoring responsible travel to natural areas. Sustainable tourism, on the other hand, has a wider definition as it does not have to take place in a natural area, but simply covers social, environmental and economic considerations to all areas of tourism. Consumer choice in both fields are expanding fast, but certification and labelling remain vague so beware of false advertising as tour operators are not bound by any universal standards.
In France, there is the newly launched Ushuaia Voyages which offers treks all over the world and promises carbon offsets, ecolodges, respect for local populations and emphasis on local suppliers. Nature de Decouvertes Voyages also offers an interesting selection of nature discovery and education programmes which are open to children aged 8 and over.
Huttopia runs nature campsites in exceptional natural areas – there’s a choice between tent camping or wooden huts. Gites de France, France’s biggest and most popular source for rural holiday rentals, now has an Ecogite label. WWF France has also launched a “Gites Panda” label covering around 300 rentals, which have to meet environmental criteria specified on the website as well as be located in a national or regional nature park.
Finally, to travel in style, check out Lafuma’s newest Eco 40 backpack, a model of sustainable manufacturing. Priced at 75 euros, the sleek grey backpack has a capacity of 40 liters and is made of hemp and recycled polyester, with no plastics.