One of the growing trends within the tourism industry is the growth of ecotourism, a type of tourism that centres on ecological conservation. However, to fully understand this concept, it is essential to look at the advantages and disadvantages and some real-world examples of ecotourism in action.

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What is Ecotourism?

Ecotourism is a form of tourism based on the concept of organising travel to places of natural beauty, but doing so in a way that avoids damaging the environment, while also helping local people. It can be viewed as a means of limiting the damage caused by travelling to natural areas, while trying to leave a positive legacy.

Generally speaking, ecotourism places a strong focus on areas featuring plant life, animal life and cultural heritage. There is also often an educational component to ecotourism, with travellers aiming to learn something from their trip and to give something back to the people who are living in the area too.

Ecotourism is a kind of responsible tourism and is especially popular with environmentalists and those who are concerned with protecting the natural world. Another key aim of ecotourism is to minimise negative consequences that may be linked to a human presence in locations of natural beauty, so that future generations can enjoy them too.

What Are the Principles of Ecotourism?

There are a number of core principles that those who participate in ecotourism, as well as those who are involved in relevant tourism marketing efforts, should stick to. These can be summarised as follows:

  • Minimise the negative physical, social and behavioural impacts of tourism to natural areas.
  • Generate environmental awareness and respect for local culture.
  • Provide financial benefits and positive experiences for local individuals and businesses.
  • Deliver positive, memorable experiences for visitors travelling to places of natural beauty.
  • Work in partnership with indigenous people and recognise their rights, customs and beliefs.

Responsibility for delivering the benefits for local people and businesses should fall on travellers themselves, as well as companies that are selling ecotourism products and services.

What is the Difference Between Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism?

The concepts of ecotourism and sustainable tourism or green tourism share some similarities, including a focus on environmentally responsible travel. However, there are some significant differences too and it is important that these differences are fully understood by marketers, providers and travellers.

Ecotourism has a clear focus on travel to areas of natural beauty, combined with nature conservation and benefiting the local community. By contrast, sustainable tourism is primarily focused on sustainability and making travel less harmful. As a result, sustainable tourism can include a greater number of different types of travel, to a wider variety of locations, whereas ecotourism has a narrower focus on nature and conservation efforts.

Why is Ecotourism Important?

Ecotourism is important because companies and individuals who abide by the core principles and prioritise ecology and education within their travel habits help to benefit local people and the world as a whole.

Traditional tourism can place a huge strain on destinations, because it increases the number of people who are active in that location and who are reliant on its resources. At the same time, it can encourage the destruction of the natural world, as businesses strive to keep up with ever-increasing levels of demand.

Companies that market and sell ecotourism products and services help to educate travellers about the negative consequences associated with many other forms of tourism and this can assist with conservation efforts. Environmental tourism is also a growing trend and ecotourism helps to cater for this trend, while providing jobs too.

Different Types of Ecotourism

Ecotourism can take many different forms, but there are four main types, as outlined below:

Mutually Beneficial Community Development Trips

Many instances of ecotourism can be described as being based on the concept of community development. Often, this will mean a traveller goes to a developing country, or a poorer community, and experiences what life is like, while also engaging in activities or project work that is intended to be of benefit to local residents.

The act of travelling to these communities helps their local economy, while the project work benefits those living there. The traveller benefits from an authentic experience of local culture, traditions and ways of living.

Eco Lodging and Low Impact Accommodation

Eco lodging refers to accommodation that is designed and developed to have as little impact on the surrounding natural environment as possible. Accommodation of this kind can take many forms, with examples including huts, tents and houses, and their location is chosen to minimise disruption to local wildlife and local people.

Generally, accommodation that falls into this category will be built using ethically sourced materials and care will be taken to limit the extent to which local resources are used for water and energy.

Eco Trekking and Activity-Based Ecotourism

Eco trekking and other similar types of ecotourism can be thought of as active educational travel, combining physical activities with a wider purpose. Travellers participate in hiking, climbing, nature walking, water-based activities, etc. with these activities being carried out while causing minimal disruption to the local environment.

The activity will be combined with educational experiences, teaching travellers about the area and its culture. Companies offering eco treks may donate a percentage of their profits to help local causes.

Agritourism and a Focus on Rural Communities

Finally, agritourism is a form of tourism that is centred around agricultural activities and rural communities. It will typically consist of travellers visiting rural areas and actively participating in local life and culture, allowing them to experience what life is really like in different parts of the world.

As part of the trip, travellers may help out with local farming tasks, or they might contribute to the local economy in other ways. This then assists the development and financial health of the rural community.

What Are the Advantages of Ecotourism?

Perhaps the single biggest advantage of ecotourism is the fact that it encourages both travellers and businesses operating in the tourism industry to become more mindful about nature and more committed to adopting the kind of sustainable and helpful behaviours that can limit the damage caused by tourism activities.

It can provide jobs and an economic boost for areas that need investment, while avoiding using up valuable resources, and this can then lead to improved living standards. Moreover, ecotourism activities can help to provide an incentive for governments, businesses, charitable organisations and others to take conservation efforts seriously.

The educational aspect of ecotourism can also lead to travellers adopting positive behaviour in their everyday lives, such as by making a more conscious effort to assist with conservation and sustainability. Meanwhile, the presence of tourists in areas that have not historically been tourist hot spots can help locals to learn new skills.

For travel companies, ecotourism products are also easier to sell to environmentally conscious travellers.

What Are the Disadvantages of Ecotourism?

While the motives that drive ecotourism are positive, there can be disadvantages associated with the practice too. For instance, while ecotourism does help to provide jobs for people living in the chosen tourist areas, many of these jobs may be unsteady or seasonal in nature, meaning there may be times of the year with no work.

Even when steps are taken to minimise the damage caused by tourism, there is still likely to be an increase in carbon emissions in the area, as tourists bring vehicles with them. The benefits created through ecotourism may not be distributed evenly or fairly, which can increase inequality, while over-tourism is still a possibility.

Despite efforts to avoid causing a negative impact on the natural world, ecotourism does also have the potential to make certain destinations much more popular for visitors and eventually this is likely to lead to some of the traditional problems with tourism manifesting, including displacement of wildlife or indigenous people.

6 Ecotourism Examples

A good way to improve your understanding of ecotourism is to look at real-life examples. In this section, you will be able to find out about six specific examples and what they offer to tourists and local people.

1. Trash Hero Cleanup Programmes

Trash Hero is a volunteer-led movement, which began in Thailand, but is now global. The project supports local action groups and offers hands-on education about the impact that everyday waste has on the environment and on nature. Through community-based projects, which include tourists, Trash Hero aims to remove existing waste through clean up programmes and increase awareness of the main issues, so that people adjust their behaviours.


2. Crystal Creek Meadows

Crystal Creek Meadows is an eco-friendly luxury accommodation, located in Kangaroo Valley, Australia. The property has earned sustainable tourism certification, and makes an effort to protect and regenerate native species in the area through tree planting. Ecotourism is made possible through a variety of conservation and sustainability activities and lessons, which become available to guests who stay in luxury eco-cottages.


3. Ecotourism in Bhutan

The Kingdom of Bhutan is situated in South Asia and its mountainous terrain and Buddhist traditions give it a clear appeal to hikers and culture lovers alike. The country’s tourism industry has a natural tendency towards ecotourism, because there is a “high value, low impact” policy. While this has been criticised in some circles for only attracting wealthy tourists, its strict limits on tourist numbers and its daily tariff do also help with conservation.


4. Summit Expeditions & Nomadic Experiences

Many tourism companies around the world offer summit expeditions that have ecotourism qualities. Typically, this will mean sustainable expeditions to summits like Kilimanjaro, where the most popular routes are left alone to regenerate, and where every effort is made to avoid unnecessary damage. Additionally, plenty of companies also offer sustainable nomadic experiences, which also take relevant measures to limit any negative impact.


5. Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Another example of ecotourism in Australia comes in the form of the Taronga Conservation Society Australia. The society offers a range of educational options for visitors who have an interest in learning about wildlife conservation, along with up-close encounters with animals. The money generated is used to help fund breed and release programmes, nature recovery programmes and ongoing efforts to protect native species and their natural living environments.


6. Volunteering in Belize’s Rainforests

Finally, another excellent ecotourism opportunity involves volunteering to help conservation groups working in the rainforests of Belize. All efforts are carried out while respecting the local population, and strict guidelines are in place to assist volunteer groups with their efforts to protect the rainforest. However, it should be noted that spaces are limited and volunteers must pass stringent checks before participating.


2 Video’s Explaining Ecotourism

Below you find 2 videos explaining more about Ecotourism.

Video: What is Ecotourism

How would you describe Ecotourism’s three guiding principles? Tourism that preserves the environment and helps local people is the theme of our subject knowledge animation.


Video: Ecotourism – A Sustainable Way To Travel

Learn more about ecotourism and why it’s important to go green when you’re on the road! When you travel sustainably, you get the chance to observe a place, its people, and its culture up close. You get to experience the locals’ way of life and learn more about a place first-hand by participating in their activities.


Tourism Trends and Opportunities

Ecotourism is a good example of a growing tourism trend, but there are plenty of others to be aware of too. These include an increased focus on hygiene, a renewed focus on local customers, the rise of voice search and virtual reality, the growing need to provide personalisation, and the wider use of artificial intelligence.

You can explore all of these trends, learn more about what is driving them, and find out more about a variety of other trends by reading the “Tourism Trends: The Latest Opportunities for The Tourism Industry” article.

Destination Marketing Strategies

The concept of ecotourism goes hand-in-hand with destination marketing. Put simply, this is the process of marketing a destination to customers, highlighting the things to do there and the experiences that can be enjoyed. This is often the responsibility of a destination marketing organisation, or a tourist board, but it can be carried out by businesses too.

If you would like to find out more about destination marketing, what it is, why it is important, and some of the main destination marketing strategies, read “14 Destination Marketing Strategies to Attract More Visitors”.

Understanding Tourism Management

Working within the field of tourism management requires not only a deep understanding of the concept of ecotourism, but also of all aspects of the tourism industry as a whole. After all, tourism management means overseeing core business functions, managing staff, financial planning, training and coaching, staying up-to-date with trends, and more.

The “Tourism Management: All You Need to Know About Tourism” article goes into far more depth about the nature of tourism management, what it involves, the level of education required and the different tourism sectors.

Find Courses in Ecotourism

Ecotourism is a complicated subject, with a lot of depth to it, and there are specific courses that can teach you more and help you to find work within this particular sector of the industry. Alternatively, there are a wide variety of other courses that can help you to increase your understanding of tourism and develop new skills.

Read “Tourism Course: A Complete Overview of Courses & Tourism Educators” to learn about some of the main course types that are available, along with resources for actually finding and applying for these programmes.

An Overview of Tourism Jobs

The field of ecotourism provides a range of career options and there are even more paths available within the wider tourism industry too. If you are interested in working in the industry, it is important to use the right channels to explore vacancies and dedicated tourism job boards represent one of the best options.

Take a look at “Tourism Jobs: The Best Tourism Industry Job Boards for Your Career” for an overview of the main job boards covering different sectors, along with information about other channels to try.

Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Development

Ecotourism is just one example of sustainable tourism, and for tourism in a particular location to be sustainable, the right steps need to be followed. The actions that are taken to create, manage and maintain a sustainable industry in a particular part of the world is called sustainable tourism development and it is crucial to understand this process.

Read our article, “Benefits of Sustainable Tourism Development”, where you can explore the topic of sustainable tourism, learn about tourism development of this kind, and find out more about the main plus points and incentives.

The Growth of Slow Tourism

The concept of ecotourism can be further developed by promoting slow tourism. This is an approach to tourism that encourages travellers to slow down, avoid attempts to cram as many travel experiences into their trip as possible, and instead focus on a more sustainable form of travel, based on meaningful engagement with the area and its culture.

You can explore the topic of slow tourism in further detail, including learning about the definition and some specific examples, by reading the “Slow Tourism: What It Is, Its Importance, and Examples” article.

Ecotourism is a kind of tourism that focuses on travel to areas of natural beauty, with a view to aiding conservation and minimising the negative consequences of travel. Companies selling ecotourism products and services will often contribute to local causes, while travellers gain unique experiences and become more educated.

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