Alternative tourism can be defined as ‘forms of tourism that set out to be consistent with natural, social and community values and which allow both hosts and guests to enjoy positive and worthwhile interaction and shared experiences’. It involves traveling to relatively remote, undisturbed natural areas with the objective of admiring, studying and enjoying the scenery and its wild plants and animals and cultural attributes. It also considers the conservation of the environment and sustenance and well-being of local people. Further, clients are expected to be individuals. Accommodations are locally owned and small-scale. In general, alternative tourism is an alternative to the mass standard tourism as philosophy and attitude. The main accent in these travels is the preserved natural environment, authentic atmosphere and cuisine, and local traditions. The alternative forms of tourism combine tourist products or separate tourist services, different from the mass tourism by means of supply, organization and the human resource involved. These are rural, ecotourism, adventure (biking, horseback riding, snowshoeing, ski mountaineering, rafting, diving, caving, climbing), thematic tourism – connected with the cultural and historical heritage, the esoteric, religion, wine, traditional cuisine, ethnography and traditional music and handicrafts.
Features of Alternative Tourism
- The attempted preservation, protection and enhancement of the quality of the resource base which is fundamental to tourism itself.
- The fostering and active promotion of development, in relation to additional visitor attractions and infrastructure, with roots in the specific locale and developed in ways that complement local attributes.
- The endorsement of infrastructure, hence economic growth, when and where it improves local conditions and not where it is destructive or exceeds the carrying capacity of the natural environment or the limits of the social environment whereby the quality of community life is adversely affected.
- Tourism which attempts to minimize its impact upon the environment, is ecologically sound, and avoids the negative impacts of many large-scale tourism developments undertaken in areas that have not previously been developed.
- An emphasis on not only ecological sustainability, but also cultural sustainability. That is, tourism which does not damage the culture of the host community, encouraging a respect for the cultural realities experienced by the tourists through education and organized 'encounters'.