what is an ecolodge

When you plan your holidays, what is one of the first questions you ask yourself? Probably where you will be sleeping ?

With more and more lodgings adopting environmentally friendly practices, when it comes to selecting green accommodation, you have more options than ever before

Green cottages, eco-hotels, eco-friendly hostels or homestays, the sustainable lodging offer is expanding.

In today’s article, we’ll try to understand what makes these green accommodations often associated with ecotourism destinations different and what are they specificities.

Eco-lodge and ecotourism

ecolodge and ecotourism

Ecolodges, have often been associated with ecotravel. Guess what : there’s a reason for that.

The principle of ecotourism is to operate a tourism business in such a way that a fair share of the benefits remains in the local hosting community while reducing the environmental impact and providing a more rewarding nature-based experience for the visitor.

Ecotourism is strongly linked to the conservation and understanding of natural areas, which distinguishes it from the more global concept of sustainable travel.

An eco-lodge is, therefore, ideal for travelers who want to experience nature while supporting ecotourism.

 I would like each building to be an ecolodge or be designed or planned as an ecolodge because it is such a win-win approach. You think of everything: nature, the local population, your customers.
Hitesh Mehta, landscape architect, and ecolodge specialist

Principles and criteria for eco-lodges

ecolodge sustainable lodgings in nature


Originating in Africa, the lodge, also known as safari-lodge, was a traveler accommodation made of wood or canvas, set in the middle of an animal reserve or natural park. It is the association between this style of housing as such and its anchoring on preserved sites that led to the interest of adding the particle eco for ecological to the word lodge.

Criterias of an ecolodge

This term was coined in the 1990s and was created to describe a habitat type that differs from others in the way it has been built or operated. Since then, there have been multiple interpretations and opinions on what constitutes the right to use the word eco.

Hitesh Mehta, architect and founding member of the International Tourism Society, wrote the ecolodge guidelines in 1999 in the International Ecolodge Guidelines.

To be recognized as such, these accommodations must comply with the three fundamental principles of ecotourism, namely:

  • Be based in a natural environment;
  • Benefit the local population;
  • Provide awareness and education programs.

The International Eco-Lodge Guidelines of 1999 include all the criteria that these accommodations must meet to be considered as ecolodges.

Among them, the lodging  must have the following attributes:

  • It is located in a natural or rural area within a short distance of a natural area and is not significantly affected by urban development, noise, traffic, smog or pollution;
  • It uses systems that protect the environment from pollution and degradation;
  • It often uses energy-saving systems and possibly renewable energy technologies;
  • It employs or has access to nature interpretation guides that have received training in biology or have an excellent local knowledge of the natural habitat;
  • It provides books, posters, maps, photographs, orientation presentations or other means of informing guests and visitors about the biology of the region;
  • It helps to educate guests, staff, and visitors about the importance and value of a healthy ecosystem and describes how best to enjoy the area without affecting it;
  • It contributes to the local economy and helps to demonstrate that ecotourism is a more sustainable way to earn income in the long term than destroying or modifying habitats for short-term gains.

A different green lodging

That looks very much like a sustainable accommodation, you could say. Indeed, eco-lodges have many similarities and eco-credentials in common with other types of eco-friendly accommodations. However, two characteristics make them different: their location and their mission.

In the heart of nature

An eco-lodge is almost always located in remote locations, usually in the heart of an unspoiled natural environment, to offer the traveler the opportunity to connect with the surrounding wilderness truly.

Raising environmental awareness

Similarly, an eco-lodge has an educational mission: to help travelers better understand the importance of preserving local flora and fauna, which is not always the case with a green hotel.

The concept of eco-lodge has a strong focus on environmental preservation. Its ambition is to prove that it is possible to settle in a territory without altering its environment, but also by setting up initiatives to ensure that tourist activity preserves the surrounding fauna and flora.

While the concept of eco-lodge initially developed significantly in key eco-tourism destinations such as Costa Rica, it is now found in many destinations, like Southeast Asia, for example.

Many travelers have the image of eco-lodge as off-budget accommodation. However, there are some in all price categories.

All in all, the ecolodge is one of the many options travelers can choose from to sleep green, and that is in line with the principles of sustainable travel.

What makes an eco-lodge different from other eco-friendly accommodations according to you? Share your view in the comments.

Want to contribute to the platform? Suggest an eco-lodge you’ve been to or give your opinion on one of the eco-lodges already indexed on holiable.

Holiable is an eco-friendly travel planner helping you find sustainable hotels, green restaurants and ethical tourism activities around the world. Holiable was developed to share experiences, advice and reviews on sustainable travel, making it easier to prepare your next eco-friendly holiday.
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