One of the first definitions of ecotourism was made in 1983 by the Mexican architectHéctor Ceballos-Lascuráin, who defined it as follows:"That form of environmentally responsible tourism that involves travel and visitation torelatively undisturbed natural areas with the object of enjoying, admiring, and studying thenature (the scenery, wild plants and animals), as well as any cultural aspect (both past andpresent) found in these areas, through a process which promotes conservation, has a lowimpact on the environment and on culture and favours the active and socioeconomicallybeneficial involvement of local communities".Ecotourism EcotourismTourism to places having unspoiled Tourism to exotic or threatened ecosystems tonatural resources. observe wildlife or to help preserve nature.
Ecotourism is the maintenance of very The Australian Commission on National Ecotourismsmall-scale, low density tourist Strategy calls it:developments, usually in locations where “[Ecotourism is] nature-based tourism that involvesthe environment is particularly fragile or education and interpretation of the naturalsensitive to human activity, so that environment and is managed to be ecologicallydegradation does not occur in those areas. sustainable" .To the website The International Ecotourism Society definesEcotourism is the term applied to tourism Ecotourism as:and travel that pays special attention to “[Ecotourism is] responsible travel to natural areas thatenvironmental concerns. To the website conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people".Ecotourism seeks to educate travellers on conservation of the environment and respect for differentcultures. It also pursues the creation of an ecological conscience, encouraging more activism amongvisitors so that they become enthusiastic and effective conservation agents.
ECOTOURISM is a sustainable kind of travel since according to its premises, it contributes tosustainable development.SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT is the one which seeks to optimize the present social and economicbenefits, without compromising the potential to obtain similar benefits in the future.It is also referred to as ETHICAL TOURISM because it seeks the wellbeing of local communities withoutleaving the appreciation and conservation of the environment aside.The terms ECOLOGICAL TOURISM and NATURE BASED TOURISM are synonyms for ECOTOURISM.ECOTOURISM seeks to improve local communities welfare, by boosting their economic and socialdevelopment, creating economic opportunities which in turn will produce sustainable benefits in time.Therefore, it is an activity which promotes employment as well as economic and social development,acting as an alternative income source for social sectors living in hard economic situations.
Martha Honey’s definition is becoming the ‘standard definition’.From her book: “Ecotourism and Sustainable Development”. To the websiteShe has seven (7) defining point. • 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.
The destinations are often remote areas, whether inhabited or uninhabited.They are usually under some kind of environmental protection at the: • National • International • Communal or • Private level.
TOURISM causes damage.ECOTOURISM strives to minimize the adverse effects of hotels, trails and otherinfrastructure by using either: • Recycled materials or plentifully available local building materials, • Renewable sources of energy • Recycling and safe disposal of waste and garbage • Environmentally and culturally sensitive architectural design.Minimization of IMPACT also requires that the numbers and mode of behaviour of touristsbe regulated to ensure limited damage to the ecosystem.
ECOTOURISM means education for both tourists and residents of nearby communities.Tour operators should prior to departure, supply travellers with reading material about : • The country • Environment • Local people • A code of conduct.This abides by the Ecotourism Societies guidelines which state:"to learn about the places and peoples visited" and "to minimize their negative impactswhile visiting sensitive environments and cultures".
Essential to GOOD ECOTOURISM are: • Well trained, multilingual naturalist guides with skills in: natural and cultural history environment interpretation ethical principles effective communication.ECOTOURISM projects should also help educate members of the surrounding community,school children, and the broader public in the host country. To achieve this they must offergreatly reduced entrance and lodge fees for nationals and free educational trips for localstudents and those living near the tourist attraction.
ECOTOURISM helps raise funds for: • Environmental protection • Research and educationThrough a variety of mechanisms including: • Park entrance fees • Tour company • Hotel • Airline and airport taxes • Voluntary contributions.
National Parks and other Conservation Areas will only survive if ‘happy people’ live aroundtheir perimeters.The local community must be involved with and receive income and other tangible benefitslike: • Portable water • Roads • Health clinics • From the conservation area and its tourist facilities.Campsites, lodges, guide services, restaurants and other concessions should be run by or inpartnership with communities surrounding a Park or other tourist destination.
IMPORTANTLY:If ECOTOURISM is to be viewed as a TOOL for rural development, it must also help shifteconomic and political control to the: • local community • cooperative or • entrepreneur.This is THE MOST difficult and time-consuming principle in the economic equation.The ONE PRINCIPLE foreign operators and partners most often let fall through the cracks orfollow only partially or formally.
ECOTOURISM is not only ‘GREENER’ but attempts to be less • culturally intrusive and • exploitative that ‘Conventional Tourism’.ECOTOURISM strives to be culturally respectful and have a minimal effect on both thenatural environment and the human population of the host country.This can be difficult in REMOTE AREAS where there is little experience of ‘the foreigner’.There is an UNEQUAL RELATIONSHIP between ‘visitor’ and ‘host’.
Part of being a RESPONSIBLE ECOTOURIST is learning beforehand about: • The local customs • Respecting dress codes • Social norms and • Not intruding on the community unless either: Invited or As part of a well organized tour.
ECOTOURISM demands a more HOLISTIC APPROACH to travel - in which participants striveto respect, learn about and benefit both the local environment and local communities.Although not part of THE ECOTOURISM SOCIETIES definition: giving economic benefits and showing cultural sensitivities to local communities cannot be separated from understanding their political circumstances.In many developing countries, rural populations living around national parts and otherecotourism attractions are in deadlock over control of assets and benefitsThe ECOTOURIST needs to be sensitive to the host country’s political environment andsocial climate and needs to consider the merits of international boycotts called for by thosesupporting Democratic Reforms, majority rule and human rights.
For example:The campaign by the African National Congress (ANC) to isolate South Africa through aboycott of investment, trade, sports and tourism helped bring down apartheid.Determining whether to boycott or visit a country is not always easy.Among questions to be asked are: • Does the economic growth fuelled by tourism really improve the chances of human rights being respected? • Will boycotting a country harm already impoverished workers more than it will corporate of government titans? • Are the short term economic penalties more than offset by the ultimate benefits change?
Ecotourism:Perhaps the most over-used and misused word in the travel industry.But what does it mean?The Ecotourism Society defines it as "responsible travel to natural areas which conservesthe environment and improves the welfare of the local people".• A walk through the rainforest IS NOT ECOTOURISM unless that particular walk somehow benefits that environment and the people who live there.• A rafting trip IS ONLY ECOTOURISM if it raises awareness and funds to help protect the watershed.A loose interpretation of this definition allows many companies to promote themselves assomething that they are not. If true ecotourism is important to you, ask plenty of questionsto determine if your trip will help "conserve and improve" the places you visit.