What is ecotourism and how does sustainable tourism help the world?

As humankind all across the globe becomes more attuned to the needs of the Earth and its environment, we are seeing quite a few innovative ideas to address these needs.

One of those ideas is something known as ecotourism. And many throughout the world have embraced this new concept of traveling the world. They propose traveling in ways that are much kinder to our planet.

Ecotourism has been hailed as a clever way to fund scientific research and conservation on a deeper level. In addition, experts believe ecotourism will protect fragile ecosystems, enrich rural communities, enhance ecological awareness within various cultures, and even promote development in developing countries.

They believe all this can be accomplished while pleasing and educating the most discriminating tourists while blazing a new path to world peace.

Learning about ecotourism

This article will define and discuss ecotourism to provide a more profound understanding to interested parties. Many scholars believe that sustainable tourism will become a mainstay in the future of the world’s society.

Listed below are the ecotourism topics we will discuss:

  • What is ecotourism?
  • History of ecotourism
  • Definitions of ecotourism
  • Types of ecotourism
  • Nature of ecotourism

If you’re anxious to discover the world of ecotourism, then you have come to the right place. In the following sections, you will be provided with a detailed overview of these new sustainable tourism brands.

What is ecotourism?

Ecotourism is based on several travel practices, but it all comes down to a general concept. First, ecotourists decide to travel in a way that respects nature without any negative impact.

Additionally, ecotourism is a part of environmental conservation, which is to understand the needs of the local people so that you can help to improve their quality of life. It also requires the preservation of historical landmarks and knowledge of other cities’ histories.

History of ecotourism

types of ecotourismOne of the earliest to use the term ‘ecotourism’ appeared to be Hetzer(1965), who outlined four ‘pillars’ for responsible tourism: minimizing environmental impacts, respecting host cultures, maximizing benefits to locals, and maximizing tourist satisfaction. Ecotourism was considered to possess the first of these characteristics.

In addition to Miller’s (1978) work on national park planning for ecodevelopment in Latin America, Environment Canada developed road-based ecotourism excursions between the mid-1979s and the early 1980s.

In the 1970s and 1980s, ecotourism grew out of the environmental movement. However, with the increasing concern about the environment and the growing dissatisfaction with mass tourism, nature-based experiences of an alternative kind have increased in demand.

Moreover, less developed countries realized that nature-based tourism offers a way to earn foreign exchange and is less environmentally destructive than alternatives such as logging and agriculture.

Several of these countries had identified ecotourism as a means of achieving conservation and development goals by the mid-1980s. Ceballos Lascurain is generally credited with the first formal definition of ecotourism in 1987.

Definitions of ecotourism

As described by Ceballos-Lascurain, ecotourism is traveling to relatively undisturbed or uncontaminated natural areas to study, admire, and enjoy the scenery, wildlife, and cultural manifestations (past and present) of the area.

As defined by the Ecotourism Society, ecotourism means traveling responsibly to natural areas of the world in a manner that protects the environment while enhancing the well-being of local people.

The Ecotourism Association of Australia defines ecotourism as nature-based tourism that educates and interprets the natural environment and is environmentally sustainable.

As identified in this definition, the concept of ‘natural environment’ involves cultural components, and ‘ecological sustainability’ calls for the return of resources to the local community while preserving the resource for long-term use.

Tickell defines ecotourism as “traveling to enjoy the world’s amazing diversity of natural and cultural life without harming either.”

An ecotourism destination promotes environmental and cultural awareness, appreciation, and conservation.

Types of Ecotourism

At an initial level, Fennell considers ecotourism to be part of the broader classification of tourism types, which can be divided into the following categories:

Mass Tourism

sustainable tourismWe viewed mass tourism as a more traditional form of tourism development, where short-term, free-market principles predominate, and the maximization of income is paramount. In addition, tourism development was initially viewed as a desirable and relatively ‘clean’ industry for nations and regions to pursue. This was especially true in foreign exchange earnings, employment, and infrastructure development, such as transport networks.

Today, we characterize conventional mass tourism as a horror with little redeeming qualities for the destination region, its people, or its natural resources.

The point is not to deny that mass tourism has caused problems because it has. Therefore, the need for an alternative approach to tourism development that lessens the harmful effects of mass tourism is quite understandable.

Alternative Tourism

Consequently, alternative tourism has become a popular paradigm. The alternative approach has been described as a ‘competing paradigm’ to mass tourism, but it can also be viewed as complementary. To put it differently, it is not possible to have ‘alternative tourism’ there.

We are back to semantics again; perhaps the best approach is to accept that alternative tourism is a natural consequence of a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of tourism development. According to Fennell:

Alternative tourism is a broad umbrella term encompassing a range of tourism strategies (e.g., appropriate, eco, soft, responsible, persons-to-people, and green tourism) that claim to be more benign alternatives to conventional mass tourism to certain types of destinations.

Despite this, Weaver points out that there are also many criticisms of alternative tourism. Even though alternative tourism developed as a reaction to the negative consequences of mass tourism, it is not necessarily less harmful or better than its alternatives.

Nature of Ecotourism

Experts believe the tourism industry will grow by 4.3% annually. Ecotourism, or nature-based tourism, is the fastest-growing segment of the tourism industry, growing three times more quickly than the industry overall.

The increasing trend of environmental concern and the historically prevalent trend of traveling as an escape to nature, fueled by the pressures of urban living, encourage people to seek solitude with nature, thus increasing the number of visitors to national parks and other protected areas.

Nature-based tourism has many dimensions. Travel to natural areas is not necessarily ecotourism, but this provides a starting point for distinguishing nature-based tourism from ecotourism and offers different levels at which to differentiate the relationship between specific tourism activities and nature:

  • The activities that are dependent on nature.
  • The activities that are enhanced by nature.
  • The activities for which the natural setting is incidental.

There are several types of nature-based tourism, each utilizing a combination of these dimensions. Bird watching, for instance, can provide a pleasant and relaxing holiday related to nature and the environment. Hence, it would be challenging to perform the activity without the natural environment.

Similarly, camping is an activity/experience that is often enhanced by nature. Many people prefer to camp in a natural setting rather than alongside a busy road. Therefore, nature is an integral part of these experiences but not the underlying motivation.