What is Ecotourism?

Ecotourism is:"Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people."Ecotourism is about connecting conservation,communities, and sustainable travel.

Sustainable tourism is:"Tourism that meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunities for the future." This means that those who implement and participate in responsible tourism activities should follow the following ecotourism principles:

  1. Minimize impact
  2. Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect
  3. Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts
  4. Provide direct financial benefits for conservation
  5. Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people
  6. Raise sensitivity to host countries' political, environmental, and social climate

Ecotourism means ecological tourism where Ecology has both environmental and social connotations. It is defined both as a concept-tourism movement and as a tourism (specifically sustainable tourism section.)

Born in its current form in the late 1980's, Ecotourism came of age in 2002, when the United Nations celebrated the "International Year of Ecotourism". The meeting was a watershed event, but it was not created with those who had pioneered the niche.

There are various definitions as this is a vibrant movement and ecotourism may be defined by its lack of definition.

Generally speaking, ecotourism focuses on local cultures, wilderness adventures, volunteering, personal growth and learning new ways to live on the planet. It is typically defined as travel to destinations where the flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions. Responsible ecotourism includes programs that minimize the adverse effects of traditional tourism on the natural environment, and enhance the cultural integrity of local people. Therefore, in addition to evaluating environmental and cultural factors, initiatives by hospitality providers to promote recycling, energy efficiency, water re-use, and the creation of economic opportunities for local communities are an integral part of ecotourism.

Many global environmental organizations and aid agencies favour ecotourism as a vehicle to sustainable development

Ideally, true ecotourism should satisfy several criteria, such as

  1. Conservation (and justification for conservation) of biological diversity through ecosystems protection
  2. Promotion of sustainable use of biodiversity by providing jobs to local populations
  3. Sharing of socio-economic benefits with local communities and indigenous people by having their informed consent and participation in the management of ecotourism enterprises.
  4. Increase of environmental and cultural knowledge
  5. Minimisation of tourism's own environmental impact
  6. Affordability and lack of waste in the form of luxury
  7. Local culture, flora and fauna being the main attractions

The concept of ecotourism is widely misunderstood and, in practice, is often simply used as a marketing tool to promote tourism that is related to nature. Critics claim that ecotourism as practiced and abused often consists of placing a hotel in a splendid landscape, to the detriment of the ecosystem . According to them, ecotourism must above all sensitize people with the beauty and the fragility of nature. They condemn some operators as "green-washing their operations ? that is, using the label of "ecotourism" and "green-friendly", while behaving in environmentally irresponsible ways.