Can Ecotourism and Luxury be compatible? We ask ourselves that question a lot and have made it our declared goal to find the perfect balance between Sustainability and Luxury. Not always an easy task and a concept that is often questioned by conservationists and “ultra-luxers” alike.
Let’s look at the Definitions of Ecotourism, Sustainable Tourism and Luxury.
According to Wikipedia, Ecotourism is a form of tourism involving visiting fragile, pristine, and relatively undisturbed natural areas, intended as a low-impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial (mass) tourism. Its purpose may be to educate the traveler, to provide funds for ecological conservation, to directly benefit the economic development of local communities.
Ecotourism typically involves travel to destinations where flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions. Ecotourism is intended to offer tourists insight into the impact of human beings on the environment, and to foster a greater appreciation of our natural habitats.
Often related, but not quite the same thing, Wikipedia defines Sustainable Tourism as: “the concept of visiting a place as a tourist and trying to make only a positive impact on the environment, society and economy.”
According to Wiktictionary, Luxury means very wealthy and comfortable surroundings, something desirable but expensive or something very pleasant but not really needed in life.
So is sustainable luxury an oxymoron? Is it possible to provide a five star hotel or resort experience and at the same time create a positive impact on the environment, society and economy? We are not talking about not doing harm. We are talking about creating a POSITIVE impact. It probably depends on a closer look at both definitions.
All human activity has some kind of an impact on nature, so the formula here is not “zero impact” but rather “low and positive impact”. By carefully designing the hotel, resort or lodge experience taking into consideration the natural surroundings, we think that creating a low impact is possible. And if operations are run well with sustainability in mind, they can have a very positive impact on the local communities that in turn might improve the impact on the environment. In the past at several of our lodges, we have turned poachers into hotel maintenance staff, gold diggers into nature guides and lumberjacks into restaurant waiters.
Education is the other key element. By building and equipping schools and supporting environmental education through the work of our NGO partner Earth Equilibrium as well as on the job training of our staff to become professionals and pursue a career, we feel that that balance of our impact is definitely positive.
It is also important to define luxury. If we are thinking of golden faucets, exotic food shipped in from thousands of miles away, bottled water, helicopter and private jet travel, huge swimming pools in areas with water scarcity, there is a problem.
But if we think of luxury as the chance to observe wildlife in its natural habitat or to explore pristine beaches, learn from foreign cultures and enjoy locally harvested traditional food and drink, then the symbiosis of luxury and sustainability is possible. We live it every day at the various Cayuga Collection Hotels & Lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
If you are interested in learning more about the Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels and Resorts, drop us a note.
Or if you are interested in helping us design a sustainable luxury family vacation, apply here.