Ecotourism is a form of tourism which places a heavy emphasis on appreciation and protection of the natural environment, with ecotourists traveling to regions of ecological interest around the world. This form of tourism is also sometimes called ecological tourism, nature travel, or responsible tourism. Like other forms of tourism, ecotourism touches on some very complex environmental, social, and ethical issues, and a number of professional organizations have banded together to create a firm definition for ecotourism so that standards can be established for ecotourism programs.
Ecotourism started out in the 1970s as an alternative to mass tourism. Today it is one of the fastest growing sectors of the tourism industry because more and more people are becoming aware of it. As a result, some countries are using ecotourism to gain money and profits. In some areas, it is operated by foreign investors who are only interested in their own profits. Bringing too many people to a remote place could, however, damage local culture.
In order to qualify as ecotourism, several criteria must be met. The most important criterion is, in the eyes of many people, minimal environmental impact, as people do not want to damage the natural environment while they are trying to appreciate it. Ecotourism also typically includes an educational aspect, with visitors learning about the environments they visit, and there is a heavy emphasis on conservation. In some cases, people may even participate in a service program on an ecotourist trip, doing something to actively benefit the environment while enjoying it.
Ecotourism is especially popular in Africa, South America, and Asia, where stretches of largely untouched land still exist extant in some regions. Tourists can travel to various locations by animal, boat, or foot, and while on location, they are typically encouraged to camp or use basic facilities provided by the tourist company. Companies which cater to ecotourists typically minimize luxuries, with the understanding that luxury often has a negative environmental impact.
Eco tourists can help preserve the local environment by walking instead of using motor vehicles using less water turning off electricity if they dont need it eating locally produced food not throwing things away keeping to footpaths wearing clothes that do not offend the locals not scaring animals respecting the local customs and traditions Eco tourists can help preserve the local environment by walking instead of using motor vehicles using less water turning off electricity if they dont need it eating locally produced food not throwing things away keeping to footpaths wearing clothes that do not offend the locals not scaring animals respecting the local customs and traditions
In order to truly understand ecotourism and all of it's attendant pros and cons it is necessary to do some background research. This page offers an introduction to the topic along with several links to more detailed information. The basic definitions below have been adapted and clarified from commonly used travel industry lingo. Some of the links are to articles that help further define ecotourism, some promoting, some critical, but all are thought provocative and informative.
Specifically, ecotourism possesses the following characteristics: Conscientious, low-impact visitor behavior Sensitivity towards, and appreciation of, local cultures and biodiversity Support for local conservation efforts Sustainable benefits to local communities Local participation in decision-making Educational components for both the traveler and local communities Specifically, ecotourism possesses the following characteristics: Conscientious, low-impact visitor behavior Sensitivity towards, and appreciation of, local cultures and biodiversity Support for local conservation efforts Sustainable benefits to local communities Local participation in decision-making Educational components for both the traveler and local communities
There are many different benefits that can be derived from ecotourism if it is used as a tool by local communities rather than large outside interests. However, the results are a direct reflection of the motivation behind the project. Since these motivations are often mixed it follows that the results are often mixed too.
Ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. This means that those who implement, participate in and market ecotourism activities should adopt the following ecotourism principles: Minimize physical, social, behavioral, and psychological impacts. Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect. Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts. Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
Generate financial benefits for both local people and private industry. Deliver memorable interpretative experiences to visitors that help raise sensitivity to host countries' political, environmental, and social climates. Design, construct and operate low-impact facilities. Recognize the rights and spiritual beliefs of the Indigenous People in your community and work in partnership with them to create empowerment.
Ecotourism operations occasionally fail to live up to conservation ideals, even where efforts are being made to meet many of the conditions for ecotourism. At the local level, ecotourism has become a source of conflict over control of land, resources, and tourism profits, which has led to harming the environment and the local people. Ecotourism also may have more limited potential for protecting the environment than is assumed. Although ecotourism is intended for small groups, even a modest increase in population, however temporary, puts extra pressure on the local environment and necessitates the development of additional infrastructure and amenities.