Ecotourism is responsible travel to fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas that strive to be low impact and (often) small scale (as an alternative to mass tourism). Its purpose is to educate the traveller; provide funds for ecological conservation; directly benefit the economic development and political empowerment of local communities; and foster respect for different cultures and for human rights. Since the 1980s ecotourism has been considered a critical endeavour by environmentalists, so that future generations may experience destinations relatively untouched by human intervention. Several university programs use this description as the working definition of ecotourism.
Generally, ecotourism focuses on volunteering, or voluntourism, personal growth and environmental responsibility. Ecotourism typically involves travel to destinations where flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions. One of the goals of ecotourism is to offer tourists insight into the impact of human beings on the environment, and to foster a greater appreciation of our natural habitats.
Responsible ecotourism includes programs that minimize the negative aspects of conventional tourism on the environment and enhance the cultural integrity of local people. Therefore, in addition to evaluating environmental and cultural factors, an integral part of ecotourism is the promotion of recycling, energy efficiency, water conservation, and creation of economic opportunities for local communities. For these reasons, ecotourism often appeals to environmental and social responsibility advocates.
Ecotourism is a form of tourism that involves visiting natural areas -- in the remote wilderness or urban environments. According to the definition and principles of ecotourism established by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) in 1990, ecotourism is "Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." (TIES, 1990).
Martha Honey, expands on the TIES definition by describing the seven characteristics of ecotourism, which are:
• Involves travel to natural destinations
• Minimizes impact
• Builds environmental awareness
• Provides direct financial benefits for conservation
• Provides financial benefits and empowerment for local people
• Respects local culture
• Supports human rights and democratic movements such as:
← conservation of biological diversity and cultural diversity through ecosystem protection
← promotion of sustainable use of biodiversity, by providing jobs to local populations
← sharing of socio-economic benefits with local communities and indigenous peoples by having their informed consent and participation in the management of ecotourism enterprises
← tourism to unspoiled natural resources, with minimal impact on the environment being a primary concern.
← minimization of tourism's own environmental impact
← affordability and lack of waste in the form of luxury
← local culture, flora and fauna being the main attractions
← local people benefit from this form of tourism economically, often more than mass tourism
For many countries, ecotourism is not simply a marginal activity to finance protection of the environment, but is a major industry of the national economy. For example, in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nepal, Kenya, Madagascar and Antarctica, ecotourism represents a significant portion of the gross domestic product and economic activity.
The concept of ecotourism is widely misunderstood and in practice is often used as a marketing tool to promote tourism that is related to nature. This is an especially frequent malpractice in the realm of Jungle tourism. Critics claim that these greenwashing practices, carried out in the name of ecotourism,...