What is Ecotourism?

Ecotourists on a rainforest trail.
Ecotourists on a rainforest trail.

Ecotourism is a type of tourism that involves visiting pristine, fragile, and relatively uninterrupted natural areas, planned as a small scale alternative and low-impact tour as an alternative to standard commercial tourism. Ecotourism promotes conservation, and aims to have a positive socio-economic impact on the local people surrounding the attraction. The primary objective for ecotourism may be to provide finances for the conservation of ecology, to champion for the respect of different cultures, to educate the traveler or to politically empower local communities. Environmentalists have considered ecotourism as a critical endeavor since the 1980s, when the environmental "green" movement was just starting to emerge.

An Overview On Ecotourism

In general, ecotourism handles interaction with living things that shape an ecosystem of the natural environments while focusing on environmental sustainability, personal growth, and socially responsible travel. Typically, ecotourism involves going to places where cultural heritage together with flora and fauna are the main attractions. The primary intention for ecotourism was to provide tourists with insight on the effects of human beings on the environment thus encouraging the appreciation of the existing natural habitats.

The History Of Ecotourism

The term ecotourism traces its history back to the late twentieth century. It is believed that ecotourism was first recorded in 1982 after the word ecotour which was recorded in 1973. While ecotourism refers to tourism in areas that are of ecological interest for purposes of conserving the environment, ecotour refers to a visit to areas that are of ecological interest for purposes of education. However, there are some accounts that the term ecotourism had been used earlier than 1970s. Some say that Claus-Dieter Hetzer, an adventurer and academician from Berkeley, California, was the first person who supposedly came up with the word ecotourism in 1965 and conducted the first ecotours during the early 1970s in the Yucat√°n.

Benefits Of Ecotourism

An ecotourist is different from a regular tourist in the sense that they are more mindful of their surroundings and they help contribute to the sustainability of natural environments. Ecotourism is beneficial because it promotes water conservation, recycling, and energy efficiency together with the development of economic opportunities for the local communities living in such areas. Other benefits include the potential to spread environmental awareness to the rest of the world, respecting the cultures of different people, protecting the ecosystem and the conservation of both cultural and biological diversities which go hand in hand with supporting democratic movements and human rights.

Ecotourism And Economy

Ecotourism is not only a marginal activity used in the financing of environmental protection but also a significant industry that boosts the national economy of many countries. Ecotourism in countries like Ecuador, Madagascar, Costa Rica, Kenya, Nepal and territories such as Antarctica represent an important sector of the economic activity and gross domestic product (GDP). Due to the confusion of ecotourism and tourism, there have been moves to establish international and national programs for accrediting ecotourism. However, the process of accreditation might be controversial. There have been national ecotourism certification programs established in different countries where ecotourism is popular such as Kenya, Costa Rica, and Australia.


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