In this guide, you'll learn all you need to know about the growing eco-responsible tourism movement in France.
73% of French people go on vacation every year. Add to that the fact that France is one of the world's top tourist destinations, and you've got a lot of people coming and going. But above all, the impact on the environment is enormous.
Let's not be defeatist. Yes, here's some good news: in 2020, 37% of holidaymakers want to change their travel habits to be more respectful of the environment. Compared to 2016, that's 10% more.
The question is: how can you help reduce your impact on the environment and society when you go on vacation? Well, that's what this guide is all about.
About the author
I'm Géraldine, the founder of Parcel Tiny House. I've spent the last few years working in the tourism industry for major groups whose names you may not be familiar with: Club Med and Sofitel.
In 2019, I decided that I too had to do something right, so I launched Parcel. Parcel is a tiny house rental website, in partnership with French farmers. Since then, many couples have enjoyed eco-responsible weekends on the land of local farmers.
What is ecotourism?
Green tourism, sustainable tourism, eco-responsible tourism or ecotourism, chances are you've read one of these words lately.
And yet, they all mean the same thing.
So what exactly is ecotourism? According to the International Ecotourism Society's definition, "ecotourism is a form of responsible travel in natural areas that contributes to the protection of the environment and the well-being of local populations".
The definition is still a few lines long, but it can already be summed up in two points:
- No or little impact on the environment;
- No or little impact on the locals.
Easy to remember, eh?
And if the figures are anything to go by, this movement is gaining momentum and has no end in sight.
The sustainable tourism sector is booming in France, thanks to the initiatives of various eco-responsible tourism players and changing attitudes.
Statistically speaking, the ecotourism sector is growing at an annual rate of between 20% and 34%.
And that's great.
Examples of responsible tourism
As we saw above, combining the concept of slow life with sustainable tourism for your vacation promotes authenticity through complete immersion.
What does this mean in practice? I've listed a few that might whet your appetite:
Backpacking (you know, traveling with only your backpack) combines sustainable tourism and slow life in its speed. As a general rule, a backpackers' trip lasts several months or even years, and you get a real kick out of integrating into each city and country where you set down your bag.
Although the environmental aspect is criticized, especially for all the young people who fly direct to Southeast Asia to party, there are many benefits for the local populations that flow naturally from the slowness of travel.
Travelling as a volunteer
The volunteer tourist visits a destination for the purpose of volunteering. You can take part in many different types of project, including those concerning the environment or the local community. For example, the restoration of a historic monument or the conservation of a natural park. In any case, these types of projects generally last a month or more and involve a high level of integration with the local community.
Visiting friends and family
Seeing loved ones usually involves staying several days where they are. These extended trips can be considered a type of slow tourism.
Often, they allow us to integrate into the local community and have a profound cultural experience. Go for a coffee in the little corner store, take a tour of the vegetable market or discover your favorite bar. When I was living in Australia, my friends came to visit me. Most of them stayed for several weeks and lived like real Australians.
Hiking and biking
The slow pace, the near-zero environmental impact (provided you pick up your garbage properly) and the discovery of little-known trails. In short, I don't need to tell you any more. Hiking or cycling is the ultimate combination of responsible travel and taking your time.
Find green accommodation for short stays
There's no need to travel far from home to combine slow tourism and responsible travel.
There are numerous gîtes, guest houses and eco-friendly accommodations in France. Rent one for a weekend and you're guaranteed a break in the great outdoors.
And that's exactly what we offer at Parcel, with tiny house rentals all over France. But we're not the only ones, and local projects are multiplying.
While a multitude of online platforms make it possible to rent some of these accommodations for short getaways, it's not easy to find those who are truly committed to this slow tourism lifestyle.
Fortunately, there's a solution: labels.
Eco-friendly accommodation labels
Sustainable tourism players in France have developed several labels to help you find your way around your responsible vacation. Here are the most important:
And what does it mean in practice? I've listed a few to whet your appetite:
- Gites Panda
- The Chouette Nature ecolabel
- European ecolabel
- La clef verte
Each of these labels is a guarantee of quality and commitment to sustainable development and responsible tourism. Beware, however, that they are all issued by different organizations whose criteria may vary. I'll take this opportunity to write an article on the subject.
One thing's for sure, they all have one objective in common: to preserve and enhance nature, while providing greater transparency for holidaymakers .
Slow living and ecotourism as a way of life
To conclude this long guide, you don't have to live in a world recluse and eat nothing but wild nettles to be able to combine these lifestyles of slow tourism and reduce your ecological impact.
However, despite the growth of slow tourism, it remains relatively under-researched. If you'd like to find out more about slow tourism, you'll find some key texts below.
What is slow living?
It was the Italians who first put a word to this concept.
In opposition to "fast food", they developed the word "slow food" in the 80s. It has to be said that, gastronomically speaking, fast food doesn't really fit in with the dolce vit a lifestyle of our border neighbors.
And rightly so!
In the meantime, slow food has expanded beyond catering to become slow living (sometimes referred to as slow life).
And in concrete terms, slow living is not, as the literal translation would have it, living slowly: it's the art of not going fast. The nuance is fine, but it's there. Slow living is a return to authenticity and the basics.
We stop chasing time. It has to be said that we've become specialists at this: phone notifications, emails, work: there's always an emergency and something to see or do. Finding the time to do things and taking your time is what slow living is all about.
Combining ecotourism and slow living
As you can see, slow living and eco-responsible tourism are not mutually exclusive - on the contrary. It's about establishing a new form of tourism, an alternative tourism if you like.
The best part? You can adopt this type of travel wherever you go, as long as you respect these two fundamental elements:
- Strive for quality rather than quantity
- Taking the time to do things
Unsurprisingly, when you're a tourist abroad or in France, it's possible to travel responsibly while taking advantage of the slow lifeconcept.
This simply means taking more time to immerse yourself in the local culture, getting to know the region or community in which you're staying. It goes against all the phrases you've inevitably heard at one time or another, such as: "Do you know Thailand? Yes, I spent a weekend in Bangkok. "
Goodbye to those scratch-off maps of the world where you tick off a country even though you've only spent a weekend in the capital.
In short, slow living and ecotourism are about taking time to see and time to do, all while minimizing our environmental impact.
Careful, I can see you coming. An eco-friendly vacation doesn't mean you're going to stay in a place with no running water or electricity, watching plants grow.
In fact, let me show you a few examples.