The most commonly accepted definition as "responsible travel to natural areas which
conserves the environment and improves the welfare of the
In addition to using this definition, uses
ecotourism principles to evaluate itself. The ecotourism
principles used by
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about the ecotourism principles that we use or to investigate
more about ecotourism in general.
As the new millennium unfolds, we are becoming increasingly aware of the finite, interconnected and precious nature of our planet home. Likewise, tourism is becoming an increasingly popular expression of this awareness. With advances in transportation and information technology, ever more remote areas of the earth are coming within reach of the traveler. In fact, tourism is now the world's largest industry, with nature tourism the fastest growing segment.
In response to this increasing appreciation of nature experiences, a new travel ethic has arisen which is now called ecotourism. This term has become increasingly popular in both conservation and travel circles, but what exactly does it mean?
"Environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and accompanying cultural features, both past and present) that promote conservation, have a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples."
Most tourism in natural areas today is not ecotourism and is not therefore, sustainable. Ecotourism can be distinguished from nature tourism by its emphasis on conservation, education, traveler responsibility and active community participation. 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
It is becoming evident that increased tourism to sensitive natural areas in the absence of appropriate planning and management can become a threat to the integrity of both ecosystems and local cultures. Increasing numbers of visitors to ecologically sensitive areas can lead to significant environmental degradation. Likewise, local communities and indigenous cultures can be harmed in numerous ways by an influx of foreign visitors and wealth. Additionally, fluctuations in climate, currency exchange rates, and political and social conditions can make over-dependence upon tourism a risky business.
However, this same growth creates significant opportunities for both conservation and local community benefit. Ecotourism can provide much needed revenues for the protection of national parks and other natural areas, revenues that might not be available from other sources. Additionally, ecotourism can provide a viable economic development alternative for local communities with few other income-generating options. Moreover, ecotourism can increase the level of education and activism among travelers, making them more enthusiastic and effective agents of conservation.