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Published on May 1, 2015

As travel to Southeast Asia continues to rise – an estimated nearly 100 million tourists visited the region in 2014 – many visitors are forgoing traditional packages and chain hotels and instead discovering the nascent ecotourism market.

Ecotourism is broadly defined as “responsible” or “ethical” travel, during which tourists try their best to minimize environmental impact and ensure their spending and presence benefits the local community. This niche market has grown steadily in recent years.

Though still a niche market, ecotourism is providing a myriad of revenue-generating options for locals of ecotourism destinations. Micro-businesses throughout Southeast Asia are therefore beginning to offer local communities financial incentives to protect their environments as they take advantage of the region’s growing ecotourism industry.

Southeast Asia remains one of the top tourist destinations in the world for a number of reasons. Not only does it contain some of the most primeval forests known to still exist, but it contains a rich cultural heritage that is founded upon the sustainable use of the land. Tourists will find that they can fish, trek, mountaineer and kayak through some of the most pristine habitat on Earth. There are many animals in this part of the world that are endemic to their respective habitats, making Southeast Asia a bastion for those looking to see rare and endangered animals.

As the laws governing the sustainable use of resources and land begin to take hold, so too does further ecotourism development. Some of the countries in this region have even gone so far as to officially state that their conservation strategies have come about in direct response to the rise of the ecotourism industry.

In order to draw more tourism and help preserve the natural beautiful settings of Southeast Asia, many countries are designing conservation or eco-friendly resorts and holiday packages. This effort will entice travelers, reduces costs for the resorts and of course have less impact on the environment so future generations can visit and enjoy the natural beauty of these lands. Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Viet Nam, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines are the ones that have taken the most to these projects and innovations. These countries are at a cross roads of sorts; they want to bring in more tourism but that same income can have a negative impact on the picturesque environment around them. The joint effort of these countries can improve the environment and economy with a focus on eco-development and growth.

The region of Southeast Asia has so much to offer to its visitors. To Western tourists, it can seem like an expensive area to visit, but for those who need a holiday loan to make it happen, there are plenty of offers always available. As airline prices decrease and the awareness of the fragility of the environment increases, now may be a great time to see this stunning part of the world with a clear conscience. And once you’ve seen the natural beauty of Southeast Asia, you’ll know why it’s so important to preserve it. The region is ready and waiting for “green” travelers, so what are you waiting for?