What Is Ecotourism? Definition, Examples, and Pros and Cons

  • Chapman University
  • Sustainable Fashion
  • Art & Media

Ecotourism Definition and Principles

Pros and cons.

  • Examples of Ecotourism
  • Frequently Asked Questions

Ecotourism is about more than simply visiting natural attractions or natural places; it’s about doing so in a responsible and sustainable manner. The term itself refers to traveling to natural areas with a focus on environmental conservation. The goal is to educate tourists about conservation efforts while offering them the chance to explore nature.

Ecotourism has benefited destinations like Madagascar, Ecuador, Kenya, and Costa Rica, and has helped provide economic growth in some of the world’s most impoverished communities. The global ecotourism market produced $92.2 billion in 2019 and is forecasted to generate $103.8 billion by 2027.

A conservationist by the name of Hector Ceballos-Lascurain is often credited with the first definition of ecotourism in 1987, that is, “tourism that consists in travelling to relatively undisturbed or uncontaminated natural areas with the specific object of studying, admiring and enjoying the scenery and its wild plants and animals, as well as any existing cultural manifestations (both past and present) found in these areas.”

The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), a non-profit organization dedicated to the development of ecotourism since 1990, defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education [both in its staff and its guests].”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) looks at ecotourism as a significant tool for conservation, though it shouldn’t be seen as a fix-all when it comes to conservation challenges:

“There may be some areas that are just not appropriate for ecotourism development and some businesses that just won’t work in the larger tourism market. That is why it is so important to understand the basics of developing and running a successful business, to ensure that your business idea is viable and will be profitable, allowing it to most effectively benefit the surrounding environment and communities.”

Marketing an ecosystem, species, or landscape towards ecotourists helps create value, and that value can help raise funds to protect and conserve those natural resources.

Sustainable ecotourism should be guided by three core principles: conservation, communities, and education.


Conservation is arguably the most important component of ecotourism because it should offer long-term, sustainable solutions to enhancing and protecting biodiversity and nature. This is typically achieved through economic incentives paid by tourists seeking a nature-based experience, but can also come from the tourism organizations themselves, research, or direct environmental conservation efforts.


Ecotourism should increase employment opportunities and empower local communities, helping in the fight against global social issues like poverty and achieving sustainable development.


One of the most overlooked aspects of ecotourism is the education component. Yes, we all want to see these beautiful, natural places, but it also pays to learn about them. Increasing awareness about environmental issues and promoting a greater understanding and appreciation for nature is arguably just as important as conservation.

As one of the fastest growing sectors of the tourism industry, there are bound to be some downsides to ecotourism. Whenever humans interact with animals or even with the environment, it risks the chance of human-wildlife conflict or other negative effects; if done so with respect and responsibility in mind, however, ecotourism can reap enormous benefits to protected areas.

As an industry that relies heavily on the presentation of eco-friendly components to attract customers, ecotourism has the inevitable potential as a vessel for greenwashing. Part of planning a trip rooted in ecotourism is doing research to ensure that an organization is truly providing substantial benefits to the environment rather than exploiting it.

Ecotourism Can Provide Sustainable Income for Local Communities

Sustainably managed ecotourism can support poverty alleviation by providing employment for local communities, which can offer them alternative means of livelihood outside of unsustainable ones (such as poaching).

Research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that communities in regions surrounding conservation areas in Costa Rica had poverty rates that were 16% lower than in areas that weren’t near protected parks. These protected areas didn’t just benefit from conservation funds due to ecotourism, but also helped to reduce poverty as well.

It Protects Natural Ecosystems

Ecotourism offers unique travel experiences focusing on nature and education, with an emphasis on sustainability and highlighting threatened or endangered species. It combines conservation with local communities and sustainable travel , highlighting principles (and operations) that minimize negative impacts and expose visitors to unique ecosystems and natural areas. When managed correctly, ecotourism can benefit both the traveler and the environment, since the money that goes into ecotourism often goes directly towards protecting the natural areas they visit.

Each year, researchers release findings on how tourist presence affects wildlife, sometimes with varying results. A study measuring levels of the stress hormone cortisol in wild habituated Malaysian orangutans found that the animals were not chronically stressed by the presence of ecotourists. The orangutans lived in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, where a local community-managed organization operates while maintaining strict guidelines to protect them.

Ecotourism May Also Hurt Those Same Natural Ecosystems

Somewhat ironically, sometimes ecotourism can hurt ecosystems just as much as it can help. Another study in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution found that ecotourism can alter animal behaviors in ways that put them at risk. If the presence of humans changes the way animals behave, those changes may make them more vulnerable by influencing their reaction to predators or poachers.

It's not just the animals who are at risk. As ecotourism activities become too popular, it can lead to the construction of new infrastructure to accommodate more visitors. Similarly, more crowds mean more pressure on local resources, increased pollution, and a higher chance of damaging the soil and plant quality through erosion. On the social side, these activities may displace Indigenous groups or local communities from their native lands, preventing them from benefiting from the economic opportunities of tourism.

Ecotourism Offers the Opportunity to Experience Nature

Renown conservationist Jane Goodall has a famous quote: “Only if we understand, will we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help, shall all be saved.” It can be difficult to understand something that we haven’t seen with our own eyes, and ecotourism gives travelers the opportunity to gain new experiences in natural areas while learning about the issues they face. 

Ecotourism also educates children about nature, potentially creating new generations of nature lovers that could someday become conservationists themselves. Even adult visitors may learn new ways to improve their ecological footprints .


The East African country has some competitive advantages over its neighbors thanks to its rich natural resources, paired with the fact that it has allocated over 25% of its total area to wildlife national parks and protected areas. Because of this, an estimated 90% of tourists visit to Tanzania seeking out ecotourism activities. Ecotourism, in turn, supports 400,000 jobs and accounts for 17.2% of the national GDP, earning about $1 billion each year as its leading economic sector.

Some of Tanzania’s biggest highlights include the Serengeti, Mount Kilimanjaro , and Zanzibar, though the country still often goes overlooked by American tourists. Visitors can take a walking safari tour in the famous Ngorongoro Conservation area, for example, with fees going to support the local Maasai community.

The country is also known for its chimpanzees , and there are several ecotourism opportunities in Gombe National Park that go directly towards protecting chimpanzee habitats.

Galapagos Islands

It comes as no surprise that the place first made famous by legendary naturalist Charles Darwin would go on to become one of the most sought-after ecotourism destinations on Earth, the Galapagos Islands .

The Directorate of the Galapagos National Park and the Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism require tour providers to conserve water and energy, recycle waste, source locally produced goods, hire local employees with a fair wage, and offer employees additional training. A total of 97% of the land area on the Galapagos is part of the official national park, and all of its 330 islands have been divided into zones that are either completely free of human impact, protected restoration areas, or reduced impact zones adjacent to tourist-friendly areas.

Local authorities still have to be on their toes, however, since UNESCO lists increased tourism as one of the main threats facing the Galapagos today. The bulk of funding for the conservation and management of the archipelago comes from a combination of governmental institutions and entry fees paid by tourists.

Costa Rica is well-known throughout the world for its emphasis on nature-based tourism, from its numerous animal sanctuaries to its plethora of national parks and reserves. Programs like its “Ecological Blue Flag” program help inform tourists of beaches that have maintained a strict set of eco-friendly criteria.

The country’s forest cover went from 26% in 1983 to over 52% in 2021 thanks to the government’s decision to create more protected areas and promote ecotourism in the country . Now, over a quarter of its total land area is zoned as protected territory.

Costa Rica welcomes 1.7 million travelers per year, and most of them come to experience the country’s vibrant wildlife and diverse ecosystems. Its numerous biological reserves and protected parks hold some of the most extraordinary biodiversity on Earth, so the country takes special care to keep environmental conservation high on its list of priorities. 

New Zealand

In 2019, tourism generated $16.2 billion, or 5.8% of the GDP, in New Zealand. That same year, 8.4% of its citizens were employed in the tourism industry, and tourists generated $3.8 billion in tax revenue.

The country offers a vast number of ecotourism experiences, from animal sanctuaries to natural wildlife on land, sea, and even natural caves. New Zealand’s South Pacific environment, full of sights like glaciers and volcanic landscapes, is actually quite fragile, so the government puts a lot of effort into keeping it safe.

Tongariro National Park, for example, is the oldest national park in the country, and has been named by UNESCO as one of only 28 mixed cultural and natural World Heritage Sites. Its diverse volcanic landscapes and the cultural heritage of the indigenous Maori tribes within the create the perfect combination of community, education, and conservation.

How to Be a Responsible Ecotourist

  • Ensure that the organizations you hire provide financial contributions to benefit conservation and find out where your money is going.
  • Ask about specific steps the organization takes to protect the environment where they operate, such as recycling or promoting sustainable policies.
  • Find out if they include the local community in their activities, such as hiring local guides, giving back, or through initiatives to empower the community.
  • Make sure there are educational elements to the program. Does the organization take steps to respect the destination’s culture as well as its biodiversity?
  • See if your organization is connected to a non-profit or charity like the International Ecotourism Society .
  • Understand that wildlife interactions should be non-invasive and avoid negative impacts on the animals.

Ecotourism activities typically involve visiting and enjoying a natural place without disturbing the landscape or its inhabitants. This might involve going for a hike on a forest trail, mountain biking, surfing, bird watching, camping, or forest bathing . 

Traveling in a way that minimizes carbon emissions, like taking a train or bike instead of flying, may also be part of an ecotourism trip. Because these modes of travel tend to be slower, they may be appreciated as enjoyable and relaxing ecotourism activities.

The Wolf Conservation Center ’s programing in New York State is an example of ecotourism. This non-profit organization is dedicated to the preservation of endangered wolf species. It hosts educational sessions that allow visitors to observe wolves from a safe distance. These programs help to fund the nonprofit organization’s conservation and wildlife rehabilitation efforts.

Stonehouse, Bernard. " Ecotourism ." Environmental Geology: Encyclopedia of Earth Science , 1999, doi:10.1007/1-4020-4494-1_101

" What is Ecotourism? " The International Ecotourism Society .

" Tourism ." International Union for Conservation of Nature .





" Galapagos Islands ." UNESCO .

" About Costa Rica ." Embassy of Costa Rica in Washington DC .


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Softback Travel

What Are The Advantages Of Ecotourism?

By: Author Leoni

Posted on Last updated: April 7, 2021

Ecotourism is on the rise. The movement has been gaining popularity since the 1980’s and is today also referred to as nature travel, responsible travel, mindful travel or conscious travel. Many different terms for more or less the same principles – but what exactly does this mean and what are the advantages of ecotourism?

The advantages of ecotourism include

  • sustainable rural development based on environmental protection
  • the creation of jobs
  • education and awareness about endangered animals and climate change
  • the improvement of life quality for locals
  • understanding of and sensitivity towards other cultures

Let’s dig a bit deeper to understand how this is achieved.

Table of Contents

What is Ecotourism and what are its Advantages?

Ecotourism  means responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment, while improving the welfare of local people.

Principles of Ecotourism

According to the International Ecotourism society , those who implement, participate in, and market ecotourism activities should adopt the following principles:

  • Minimize physical, social, behavioral, and psychological impacts.
  • Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
  • Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
  • Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
  • Generate financial benefits for both local people and private industry.
  • Deliver memorable interpretative experiences to visitors that help raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climates.
  • Design, construct and operate low-impact facilities.
  • Recognize the rights and spiritual beliefs of the Indigenous People in your community and work in partnership with them to create empowerment.

Advantages of Ecotourism

So, how does this work and what are the main advantages of ecotourism? Let’s take a look at the economy , our environment , and your experience .

ecotourism in nature - Softback Travel

Economic Advantages of Ecotourism

The tourism industry means rapid development and rapid development can lead to huge disadvantages for local communities.

Ecotourism on the other hand aims to promote sustainable rural development, with the goal to generate revenue based upon the conservation of the environment, rather than through its transformation. That basically means that the communities are reaping the financial rewards from protecting the local land.

economic advantages of ecotourism

Local jobs for example are advantages of ecotourism. According to a study by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, ecotourism can return as much as 95% of revenues to the local economy, compared to only about 20% for “standard all-inclusive package tours”.

Money Well Spent

In the mainstream tourism industry, sometimes you can’t be sure that your money doesn’t go to corrupt governments or organizations that use it for purposes you don’t support. In the ecotourism industry however, the opposite is the case.

With access to business training and employment opportunities, ecotourism may result in an improved quality of life – You basically pay the locals directly for whatever service they offer.

Environmental Benefits

Commercializing tourist destinations poses a huge threat to natural environments throughout the world. Deforestation, air pollution and habitat loss of wild animals are only a few of the devastating results.

environmental advantages of ecotourism

Ecotourists however pay to see a country’s natural beauty, not the destruction caused by short-run exploitation. That makes ecotourism a leading way for developing countries to generate revenue by preserving their  rainforests , and protecting their wildlife .

Education Goals

It’s one thing to watch Netflix documentaries on the most beautiful places on earth and how they are being destroyed by climate change and overtourism: It’s sad. You are shocked. You want to make a difference. But you don’t really know where to begin. And a few days later, you have already forgotten about it again.

Experiencing an issue firsthand is a whole different story. Imagine standing in the middle of a rainforest. Listen to the diverse sounds of wildlife in the background, feel the fresh air on your skin.

Diving experience

Or picture diving through crystal clear warm waters, surrounded by colorful corals, playful dolphins and exotic fish.

While this is not supposed to imply that you can only make a difference if you have seen the place, ecotourism allows travelers to become aware of an area’s fragile biodiversity and its community’s needs. The impact such an experience can have on you is a powerful one.

Responsible tourists will also increase their understanding of and sensitivity toward other cultures.

And when back home, the newly gained knowledge and passion can educate and inspire others.

Are There Disadvantages of Ecotourism?

This all sounds a little bit too good to be true, don’t you think? Well, as always, there is a flip side – ecotourism can have disadvantages as well.

Threats to indigenous people : A significant amount of the world’s indigenous communities reside in remote areas, often the most marketable of destinations. Sometimes, local communities are forcefully relocated in order to make space for accommodation and ecotourism expansions.

threat to indigenous people ecotourism

TIP : Make sure you are not supporting the displacement of indigenous people with your money. It is important that the ecotourism industry works closely together with indigenous groups through effective business partnerships that support their cultural survival.

Travel impacts: This is a very obvious one: Even as the most conscious and careful ecotourist, you still produce emissions. You have to get to your destination somehow and in the worst case, that includes flying.

TIP: It doesn’t always have to be that remote island on the other side of the globe. Why don’t you rather explore what’s right in front of you? There is fascinating wildlife and natural beauty all over the world.

And if you are already there, use low-impact transport, buy local and try to eat vegan .

Disadvantages of ecotourism

Greenwashing: The advantages of ecotourism can have a positive impact, however, that only works if all persons and organizations involved actually follow the ecotourism principles mentioned above.

Unfortunately, greenwashing has become a real problem. Companies can call their products and experiences ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘green’ without actually having such practices in place, which sometimes makes it hard for tourists to find the real eco-conscious and responsible operators.

TIP: Always do a proper background check before you book accommodation or tours. Ask questions – a good, eco-friendly organization will be happy to help you understand their methods and goals.

Embrace the Advantages of Ecotourism

Embrace the Advantages of Ecotourism

Before you plan your next adventure, make sure to follow the ecotourism principles and do your research.

The following resources can help:

The International Ecotourism Society :

The membership site TIES offers certificates as well as master classes related to ecotourism.

Planeta.com :

Planeta.com provides free access to more than 10,000 pages for travelers, students, and policy-makers. It features news, articles, an eco-travel directory, and recommended reads.

Ecoclub.com :

This global cooperative network promoting ecotourism is one of the most popular websites spotlighting eco-lodges and activists around the globe.

Sustainable Travel International :

The non-profit organization’s mission is to promote sustainable development and responsible travel by providing programs that help travelers as well as organizations in the tourism industry to protect wildlife, environment and locals.

Greenloons :

Greenloons helps you find the perfect eco adventure anywhere in the world.

What is your favorite ecotourism initiative that everyone should experience? Let us know in the comment section below!

eco tour advantages

What Is Ecotourism and Why Is It Important? Principles & Benefits

  • By Christian Brandt
  • September 22, 2023

Ecotourism, a term that was first brought up in the late 1980s, has gained significant attention in recent years. But what is ecotourism exactly and why is it important? In simple terms, ecotourism refers to responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local communities. It goes beyond just sightseeing and immerses travelers in the natural and cultural beauty of a destination.

In this post, we will delve into the principles and benefits of ecotourism, shedding light on how this form of travel can make a positive impact on both the environment and the people. So, let’s embark on a journey to explore the world of ecotourism and discover why it is more important than ever.

Key Takeaways

  • Ecotourism combines exploration of natural environments with conservation and sustainability.
  • It raises awareness and appreciation for the natural world.
  • Ecotourism generates economic benefits for local communities.
  • The industry aims to minimize negative impacts on the environment.

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The Concept of Ecotourism

Ecotourism is a form of tourism that focuses on exploring natural environments while promoting conservation and sustainability. It is all about immersing oneself in the beauty of nature and gaining a deeper understanding of the delicate balance between humans and the environment. Unlike traditional tourism, which often prioritizes mass entertainment and superficial experiences, ecotourism aims to create meaningful and educational encounters with nature.

It involves responsible travel practices that limit negative impacts on the environment, such as reducing carbon footprints, minimizing waste, and respecting local customs and traditions. Ecotourism also emphasizes the importance of supporting local communities and economies, ensuring that the benefits of tourism reach those who need it the most.

Ecotourism Is Responsible Travel That Conserves Nature and Benefits Local Communities

One of the key aspects of ecotourism is the emphasis on education and raising awareness. Through guided tours, travelers have the opportunity to learn about the unique ecosystems, wildlife, and cultural diversity of a particular destination. This knowledge fosters a sense of appreciation and responsibility towards the environment, encouraging us to become advocates for conservation efforts even after their trip has ended.

Moreover, ecotourism provides a platform for scientific research and conservation projects. By supporting these initiatives, travelers actively contribute to the preservation of biodiversity and the protection of endangered species. This collaborative approach between tourism and conservation helps to create a sustainable future for both nature and local communities.

In essence, ecotourism offers a unique and enriching travel experience that goes beyond mere sightseeing. It allows us to connect with nature on a deeper level, fostering a sense of responsibility and appreciation for the environment. By choosing ecotourism, we can make a positive impact and contribute to the conservation of our planet’s natural wonders.

Principles of Ecotourism

Ecotourism is based on a set of principles that aim to promote sustainable tourism practices, conserve natural and cultural heritage, and involve local communities in the process. These principles are the foundation of responsible travel that not only benefits the environment but also helps to support the local economy and empower communities.

Sustainable Tourism Practices

Implementing sustainable tourism practices is crucial for the long-term viability and environmental conservation of tourism destinations. Sustainable tourism refers to the practice of minimizing the negative impacts of tourism on the environment, while also maximizing the social and economic benefits for local communities.

It involves a careful balance between the needs and desires of travelers and the protection of natural resources and cultural heritage. Sustainable tourism practices can include reducing carbon emissions through energy-efficient transportation and accommodations, promoting local businesses and products , and supporting conservation efforts. By adopting these practices, destinations can ensure that their natural and cultural resources are preserved for future generations to enjoy.

Moreover, sustainable tourism can also lead to job creation and economic growth, particularly in rural areas where tourism is often a major source of income. Both tourists and tourism operators need to be aware of and support sustainable tourism practices to protect the environment and promote the long-term viability of tourism destinations.

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Conservation of Natural and Cultural Heritage

Preserving Natural and Cultural Heritage Is Crucial for Sustainable Tourism and Resource Preservation

By conserving these resources, we can protect their intrinsic value and promote responsible tourism that minimizes negative impacts and maximizes positive contributions to local communities and the environment. Conservation efforts involve the protection, management, and restoration of natural and cultural sites, as well as raising awareness and educating travelers about their significance.

This allows for the enjoyment of these resources by current and future generations, while also preserving their integrity and supporting the sustainable development of tourism destinations.

Community Involvement and Benefits

Active community involvement in ecotourism initiatives can lead to significant economic benefits for residents and a strong sense of ownership over the conservation of natural and cultural resources. When local communities actively participate in the planning, development, and management of ecotourism projects, they become key stakeholders in the process.

This involvement ensures that the benefits of ecotourism are shared among community members, rather than being solely exploited by external entities. By actively engaging in ecotourism, residents can create employment opportunities, generate income, and enhance their overall quality of life.

Additionally, community involvement fosters a sense of pride and responsibility for the preservation of their natural and cultural heritage. This sense of ownership encourages active conservation efforts, as local residents understand the long-term benefits of protecting their unique resources. This means, that community involvement in ecotourism initiatives is not only economically advantageous but also crucial for the sustainable preservation of natural and cultural resources.

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Benefits of Ecotourism

Ecotourism offers a multitude of benefits that extend beyond mere economic gains. By embracing ecotourism, we can not only experience the beauty of nature but also contribute to its preservation and the well-being of local communities. Let’s have a look at the three benefits of ecotourism:

Environmental Benefits

A Key Benefit of Sustainable Tourism Is Preserving Natural Resources Like Forests and Oceans

Another environmental benefit of ecotourism is the reduction of carbon emissions. Ecotourism destinations often prioritize sustainable practices, including eco-friendly transportation, renewable energy sources, and waste management systems. By implementing these measures, ecotourism helps mitigate the negative impact of tourism on the environment, contributing to the global efforts to combat climate change.

Furthermore, ecotourism promotes responsible and sustainable use of natural resources. It encourages tourists to engage in activities that have minimal impact on the environment, such as hiking, bird-watching, and wildlife observation. Local communities are often involved in the planning and management of ecotourism activities, ensuring that the resources are utilized sustainably.

Economic Benefits

In addition to the environmental benefits, ecotourism also brings significant economic advantages to a region. These benefits play a crucial role in promoting local development and sustainability.

One of the key economic benefits of ecotourism is the generation of revenue. When we visit ecotourism destinations, we spend money on accommodations, meals, transportation, and souvenirs. This influx of traveler spending directly stimulates the local economy, creating job opportunities and increasing income for local residents. Moreover, ecotourism often encourages the growth of small businesses, such as eco-lodges, local tour operators, and handicraft shops, which further contribute to the economic development of the region.

Another economic advantage of ecotourism is the diversification of the local economy. Many communities heavily rely on a single industry or resource, which can be vulnerable to fluctuations and downturns. By embracing ecotourism, these communities can reduce their dependence on a single sector and create a more resilient economy. Ecotourism provides an alternative source of income, allowing communities to tap into their natural and cultural resources, which may have previously been overlooked.

Furthermore, ecotourism can foster the preservation and conservation of natural resources. As tourists visit ecotourism sites, they often pay entrance fees or contribute to conservation initiatives. These funds can be used to protect and maintain fragile ecosystems, support wildlife conservation efforts, and promote sustainable practices. By investing in conservation, ecotourism helps safeguard the natural resources that are essential for long-term economic growth and prosperity.

Socio-Cultural Benefits

In addition to the environmental and economic benefits, ecotourism also brings about important socio-cultural advantages. These benefits revolve around the interactions between travelers and local communities and the positive impacts these interactions have on both parties.

Ecotourism Fosters Cultural Preservation and Community Support by Embracing Local Traditions and Lifestyles

Furthermore, ecotourism can contribute to the empowerment of local communities. By participating in ecotourism activities, such as guided tours or cultural performances, locals can showcase their skills and knowledge, and take pride in their cultural heritage. This empowerment not only boosts the confidence and self-esteem of community members but also provides them with economic opportunities. Locals can become guides, artisans, or entrepreneurs, creating sustainable livelihoods and improving their quality of life.

Lastly, ecotourism can play a vital role in the conservation of indigenous cultures. Many indigenous communities live in ecologically rich areas and have a deep connection to the land. By engaging with these communities through ecotourism, we can gain a greater appreciation for indigenous knowledge and practices related to environmental conservation. This recognition can lead to the protection of indigenous territories and their cultural heritage, ensuring the preservation of their way of life for future generations.

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Challenges and Concerns

Ecotourism, while offering numerous benefits, also faces several challenges and concerns.  It is essential to address these challenges and concerns to maintain the long-term sustainability of ecotourism. Let us now take a look at some of the main challenges ecotourism should aim to tackle:

Overtourism and its Impact

Tourism industry stakeholders must address the consequences of overtourism, such as overcrowding and environmental degradation, to sustain the destinations’ long-term viability. Overtourism occurs when an excessive number of tourists and travelers visit a destination, leading to negative impacts on the local community and environment.

It can result in overcrowded streets, strain on infrastructure, increased pollution, and damage to natural ecosystems. The negative consequences of overtourism are not only detrimental to the destination itself but also to the tourists who come seeking an authentic and enjoyable experience. To address this issue, stakeholders must work together to implement sustainable tourism practices that prioritize the well-being of the local community and environment.

Overtourism Results From an Excessive Influx of Tourists, Causing Adverse Effects on the Local Community and Environment

This includes limiting visitor numbers, promoting responsible tourism behavior, and investing in infrastructure and resources to support sustainable tourism growth. By taking proactive measures to combat overtourism, destinations can ensure their long-term viability and protect their unique cultural and natural heritage for future generations to enjoy.

Interestingly, overtourism can even have a positive impact on destinations. Feel free to read my post “ The Price of Popularity ” in which I describe both the negative and the positive impact that overtourism has on destinations.

Balancing Conservation and Tourism Development

Achieving a delicate balance between conservation efforts and the development of tourism infrastructure poses numerous challenges and concerns for the stakeholders involved. On one hand, conservation efforts strive to protect and preserve the natural environment and cultural heritage of a destination. On the other hand, tourism development aims to create economic opportunities and improve the livelihoods of local communities.

The challenge lies in finding a way to promote sustainable tourism practices that minimize negative impacts on the environment while maximizing the positive social and economic benefits for all stakeholders. This requires careful planning, collaboration, and a commitment to responsible tourism practices.

Governments, tourism organizations, local communities, and travelers themselves must work together to strike a balance that ensures the long-term preservation of natural and cultural resources, while still allowing for the development of tourism infrastructure that supports local economies and promotes cultural exchange.

Ensuring Responsible Visitor Behavior

Responsible Visitor Behavior Is Essential for Preserving and Sustaining Destinations Globally

When travelers disregard sustainable practices, it can lead to irreversible damage to the environment and local communities. Everyone needs to understand the impact of their actions and make conscious choices to minimize the negative effects. This can include practicing responsible waste management, supporting local businesses, and participating in cultural activities with respect and sensitivity.

Education and awareness are key in promoting responsible visitor behavior, as they not only benefit the destinations but also enhance the overall travel experience for everyone involved.

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Ecotourism is a significant approach to travel that promotes sustainable practices and conservation of natural environments. By adhering to the principles of ecotourism, such as minimizing negative impacts, supporting local communities, and raising awareness about environmental issues, this form of tourism contributes to the preservation of biodiversity and cultural heritage.

Although challenges and concerns exist, the benefits of ecotourism are undeniable, making it an essential tool for fostering responsible travel and protecting our planet for future generations.

Now how about you? Are you ready and willing to do your part and make a difference while traveling? If so, why not use the search widgets or click on the ad banners on this website to  book your accommodations ,  flights ,  rental cars , and  more ? Your completed booking will earn a commission, with 50% of the profits going towards charity events like the  2021 Christmas gift drive for kids and teens in a children’s home in Montenegro .

So not only will you be enjoying a wonderful vacation, but you’ll also be contributing to a better world. Book your trip through our site and join us in making a positive impact today!

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A Complete Guide To Understanding Ecotourism

Terms like ecotourism, green tourism, and sustainable tourism have been popping up in discussions easily, and unfortunately, they are being used interchangeably. Here, we will take a look at what is ecotourism and what are the principles of ecotourism.


Over the years, ecotourism has been gaining a lot of importance, especially considering that more and more travellers are looking to be more responsible and follow environment-friendly practices. However, many are still not clear about exactly what is ecotourism or the principles of ecotourism. There is a misconception that ecotourism, green tourism, and sustainable tourism are the same thing, and while they all promote responsible tourism, they all mean different things and have different scopes.

In this article, while trying to give a deeper understanding of what is ecotourism, we will give you information about ecotourism like the meaning of ecotourism, ecotourism tourism definition, and the principles of ecotourism. By the end of this article, we hope you will have a clearer understanding of the term and its evolution.

Also read: What is the difference between eco tourism, green tourism and sustainable tourism?

What Is Ecotourism?

Eco-tourism or ecological tourism has been defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education” by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES, 2015). To answer the question “What is ecotourism?” in a simpler way, it is a form of tourism that is about going out into the natural world and is more about what you do in a place than where you stay. It is more than just travelling around the whole world and sightseeing.

It is the kind of tourism where fragile and/or pristine natural environments are visited in a way that the impact of the visit is minimised. The environment and local communities should benefit in such a way that the latter is motivated to keep the local environment pristine.

Another way to explain what is ecotourism is to say that it involves travel to places where flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the main attractions. It supports conservation efforts through the education of tourists, giving them an insight into the human impact on the environment, and helping them gain a better appreciation of natural habitats. It may also benefit the environment through direct investment in conservation efforts.

Also read: 10 simple ways to become a responsible traveller

History Of Ecotourism

Understanding Ecotourism

Although the term ecotourism has been gaining popularity in recent years, it is not a new concept. However, there is no clarity as to the origins of the term as there are several different claims as to when it came into use.

Some claim that the term ecotourism was popularised by Hector Ceballos-Lascurian, who also claimed to have coined the term in the year 1983. This is when he was in the dual role of founding president of PRONATURA (an influential Mexican conservationist NGO) and Director General of Standards and Technology of SEDUE (the Mexican Ministry of Urban Development and Ecology). To him, ecotourism meant travelling to undisturbed areas to enjoy the natural beauty and culture. Later, in 1984, he founded ECOTOURS, Mexico’s first ecotourism agency. Ceballos-Lascurian even served as an Ecotourism Advisor to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the United Nations World Tourism Organisation for many years.

Some others claim that the term was coined in 1965 by Claus-Dieter (Nick) Hetzer, who was an academic and adventurer from the Forum International, Berkeley, USA. He is also believed to have run the first eco-tours in Yucatán in the early 1970s.

[What is an eco-tour?: Tours that involve visits to scenic or remote natural areas and are designed to minimise negative impacts on the environment and local inhabitants.]

There is another claim that eco tourism originated even earlier, in 1901 in fact, with the Sierra Club’s Outing program. These were annual expeditions that took hikers into the Sierra Nevada’s backcountry, showing them its natural wonders so that they could actively work for the preservation of the forests.

Over the past decades, there have been many icons of ecotourism and now, this form of tourism has been gaining a lot of importance. Ecotourism is considered to be one of the fastest-growing tourism sectors in the industry (about 5 percent annually) and there are no signs of it slowing down, even though more traditional forms of tourism have seen a stagnation.

Principles Of Ecotourism

Now that we have seen what is ecotourism and taken a look at its history, we will go over the principles that guide the ecotourism industry. Ecotourism is essentially about bringing together communities, conservation, and sustainable travel.

Many tour packages are being classified as “eco-tours” even though they do not emphasise conservation, education, or social and cultural participation, and low impact on the places visited. Therefore, to help you understand which tours are actually eco-tours, here are the principles of ecotourism:

1. Building Environmental And Cultural Awareness And Respect

group of tourists listening to a male tour guide speaking in a rural area in Kerala, India, what is ecotourism

The major focus of ecotourism is to sensitise people towards environmental issues, improve awareness, and encourage people to be conscious of the effect on the places they visit. Following this principle, a few tour operators create educational programs on conservation for local schools. Interpretive guides, naturalists, and guest lecturers are also offered by other operators to help visitors get a deeper understanding of their experiences. Some operators also offer immersive interactions with local cultures (that are becoming more common) that emphasise proper interactions instead of a usual performer-audience relationship.

2. Minimize Physical, Social, Behavioural, And Psychological Impacts By Operating Low-Impact Eco Tours

Family on a backpacking trip, what is ecotourism

The ecotourism industry’s focus is sustainability, and minimising the negative impact that conventional tourism leaves on the environment. Over time, however, the concept has evolved to include making a positive impact, rather than merely having a neutral impact on the environment and the locals. Maintaining small groups and avoiding under-managed or over-visited destinations is a good way to minimise the impact of the group on the areas visited.

3. Provide Direct Financial Benefits For Conservation

Biggest Cats, Bengal Tiger in Sundarbans tiger reserves in india, what is ecotourism

One of the main objectives of ecotourism is to help local conservation efforts by inviting financial benefits. Visiting national parks is one way for tourists to contribute towards the conservation of nature and wildlife. When ecotourism gains more importance and practitioners, more revenue generation opportunities are created that are environmentally better alternatives to urbanisation, deforestation, unsustainable agriculture, and poaching.

Also read: How to be a more responsible wildlife tourist

4. Generate Financial Benefits For Locals And Private Industry

Women collecting tea leaves in Southern India, Kerala

Another important principle of ecotourism is the generation of financial benefits for local communities. Through direct or indirect means, locals must get the financial benefits of eco-tourism. This could be through tours, admission fees, donations, and taxes on travel and accommodation. Community tours are a good way to generate financial benefits for local communities.

5. Deliver Memorable Interpretative Experiences For The Visitors

Group of tourists helping tea pickers harvest fresh tea leaves from a tea plantation in Kerala, India

Although ecotourism is geared towards reducing a negative impact on the environment and the local communities and generating a positive impact on the same, it doesn’t mean that the tours have to be all about work. Any tour (conventional or not) should be designed in such a way that visitors should enjoy their trip. If the eco-tours are tough and/or too boring, there is a fair chance that many may start losing interest in more responsible tour packages, thereby having a negative impact on the communities that depend on these tours.

6. Recognise The Rights And Spiritual Beliefs Of The Indigenous People And Work With Them

Rajasthani women posing for a photo, what is ecotourism

Tourists who are part of eco-tours are encouraged to respect the rights and spiritual beliefs of the locals/indigenous population of the destinations instead of just getting in their faces and taking their photos without their permission. Like any other individual, the local communities value their privacy and it would always be better to first interact and have meaningful conversations with them and, only once permission is received, take a picture of them.

Beware Of Greenwashing!

While you are in safe waters when you practice ecotourism, sustainable tourism, or responsible (all of which are eco-friendly), you must always be careful of tour operators and tourism companies that only pretend to be eco-friendly in order to attract more business, a practice widely known as greenwashing. A good way to make sure that the company or tour operator to whom you are giving your business is legitimately eco-friendly, you will have to do a bit of digging and gathering of all the facts. Once you are convinced that the company is legitimate, go ahead and book your eco-tour and contribute to a better and happier world.

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Explainer: What Is Ecotourism?

Explainer: What Is Ecotourism?

The world has slowly become more connected over time. People take an interest in other cultures and want to experience them themselves. Traveling is an exciting part of life because it broadens your horizons and provides excellent educational opportunities, but how can you do so sustainably? To celebrate World Tourism Day 2023 under the theme “Tourism and green investment”, we dive deep into the world of ecotourism and explore new and innovative solutions to promote the movement of people around the world. 

What Is Ecotourism?

Ecotourism involves traveling sustainably. When you vacation, domestically or abroad, you stay conscious of the environment as much as possible. Ecotourists try to limit their carbon footprint and support local ecosystems by contributing positively. For example, they could eat at a local restaurant or refrain from using plastic on their trip. Ecotourism has become critical as people try to expand their worldview while staying environmentally conscious. 

Why Should You Practice Ecotourism?

Tourism is vital for many communities worldwide. Vacationers spend their money to help small businesses thrive and to stimulate local economies. However, tourism can negatively impact the environment. A 2022 study found that tourism is responsible for nearly 8% of the world’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, most of which came from food and waste management. 

The pandemic hit the tourism industry with a steep 74% decline in international travel. Many countries had lockdowns in place to prevent COVID-19 transmission from foreign places. While this contributed to a significant drop in carbon emissions in 2020, tourist-dependent nations suffered huge economic losses.

Three years after the first case was detected in Wuhan, China, the pandemic is finally winding down and international travel is resuming, with air traffic set to reach 2019 levels soon. Last year saw a 153% increase in air travel compared to 2021 and about 62% pre-pandemic levels. In 2023, air traffic is expected to continue rising as most countries lift restrictions.

The bounce-back of tourism means the same will happen in terms of emissions. In 2022, GHG emissions increased by 7% in the first quarter compared to 2020. 

It is critical to practice ecotourism as global warming becomes more apparent. You’ll benefit from learning and becoming a better friend to the environment. Implementing ecotourism comes with many benefits:

  • Educate yourself: The most significant benefit of ecotourism is educating yourself on environmental issues. If you find ways to be environmentally conscious on your trip, you are more likely to repeat those behaviors at home. Reading literature and research from scientists puts into perspective how the planet needs your help to survive.
  • Protect resources: Sustainable travel means using natural and renewable resources to improve the planet’s health. You’re protecting the environment around you from the negative impacts of travel. If you believe in leaving something better than when you found it, ecotourism is the way to go.
  • Help economies: Practicing ecotourism means other vacationers behind you also get to enjoy a clean environment . One way is by spending your money at local businesses. These shops are the heart of communities and give the location its remarkable personality. Patronising these companies helps them grow and continue their services for future visitors.

How Can You Be Mindful on Vacation?

It’s challenging to be perfect regarding your carbon footprint when traveling, but there are ways to limit your environmental impact abroad and contribute positively to the area. These five ways show how you can be a mindful ecotourist on your next trip. 

1. Research Ecotourism Locations

Ecotourism starts before you travel. Research as thoroughly as possible to see what destinations are the most conducive to ecotourism and find ways to be an ecotourist at the location. For example, you could look for hotels with biophilic designs. These spaces combine buildings with nature to maintain a connection with the environment. You may see natural materials like hardwood , stones, and trees inside the facility.  

Ecotourism means accounting for your environmental impact, but you should also examine how the area cares about green practices. When planning a trip, search for cities that implement eco-friendly policies to promote ecotourism. For example, Seattle, Washington, uses hydroelectric power for nearly 100% of its energy consumption.

2. Beware of Greenwashing

Talking about environmentally friendly practices is one thing, but implementing them and supporting the planet are the next steps that some businesses do not take. You may know this strategy as greenwashing . Due diligence can tell you which organisations stay true to their word and which only use eco-friendliness as a marketing term. 

It is essential to be able to spot greenwashing when you travel. Research hotels and businesses in the area and review their practices. How do they align with environmentally positive initiatives that they claim? For example, in 2018, Hilton said it would reduce CO2 emissions. However, critics accused the company of greenwashing because it cut down palm and mangrove trees to build its resort in the Maldives. Tearing down palm trees significantly affects carbon levels in the atmosphere. 

One way to research a company like Hilton for greenwashing is to examine its environmental, social and governance (ESG) scores. These metrics track companies’ operations and give an objective measurement to gauge practices. Organisations like Bloomberg developed databases that show exhaustive lists of ESG scores. They monitor thousands of businesses worldwide, so it is easier to see which are telling the truth beyond their ‘green’ campaigns.  

3. Visit a Wildlife Refuge

Part of ecotourism is finding ways to limit your environmental impact, but you can make positive contributions while still having fun. Visit a wildlife refuge when on vacation. These sanctuaries are some of the best places to support wildlife conservation and educate yourself. 

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge

Photo by  Joshua J. Cotten  on  Unsplash

Wildlife refuges provide large, safe, and green spaces for animals to thrive. Many of them risk extinction and can thrive in a sanctuary. The money you spend at the refuges goes toward keeping the facilities standing and funding research to examine these animals. There are wildlife sanctuaries in all 50 states and five territories in the U.S. Internationally, there are numerous opportunities on every continent to support conservation. 

Seeing wildlife is a terrific experience, but remember to be mindful when visiting. For example, do not disturb animals by calling or touching them, and refrain from feeding them, even if they approach you. These creatures have special diets and oftentimes, human food is not suitable for them. If you bring food, clean up your waste afterward. Curious wildlife may get their heads stuck in plastic containers or eat things they are not supposed to.

4. Use Green Transportation Methods

Another way to practice ecotourism is to use green transportation methods. This strategy is something you can do abroad and practice at home. Eco-friendly transit reduces your carbon footprint significantly because it reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and negative environmental impacts.

public transport; green transportation

Photo by  freestocks  on  Unsplash

Depending on your destination, you should search for ways to take public transportation. These options may include buses, trains and metro lines. Public transit is more efficient than passenger vehicles because it emits 45% fewer CO2 emissions than cars on the road. Use bicycles and other low-emissions options if it’s not available. 

5. Learn Local Customs

Ecotourism goes hand-in-hand with mindful traveling. When you vacation, try to be one with the culture and immerse yourself. That’s how you get the most out of your travels. Learn local customs and find out what the residents do. They say when in Rome, do as the Romans do — and that’s a solid start for being an ecotourist.

Eating local food is an excellent way to immerse yourself and be an ecotourist. Ask a guide or resident where the best places to eat are. Small businesses and restaurants are likelier to have a lower carbon footprint than tourist traps. Find establishments that source their food locally. The shortened supply chain delivers delicious items at a lower price than you may see in chains.

Being an Ecotourist Worldwide

Calls for sustainability are growing as humans begin recognising their negative environmental impact. You can find ways to lower your carbon footprint at home, and you should keep the same mindful attitude when traveling abroad. Focus on being an ecotourist and helping the environment wherever you go.

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What is ecotourism and why is it so important?

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We’ve all heard of the term ecotourism, but how many of us know what is really means?

The term ecotourism gets thrown about way too much these days, with people claiming to be ‘ecotourists’, when they don’t really understand the principles of ecotourism. Well, I intend to change this!

Today, I will teach you what you need to know about ecotourism. I will cover what is ecotourism, definitions of ecotourism, why it is important, the history of ecotourism and the principles of ecotourism. I will also provide a brief history of how the concept came about. Towards the end of this article I discuss the advantages and disadvantages of ecotourism (this is the important stuff- don’t close the page before you reach this part!). Finally, we will look at some famous examples of ecotourism around the world.

Are you ready to learn more about ecotourism? Keep scrolling and by the end of this article you will know everything you need to about ecotourism…

The difference between sustainable tourism and ecotourism

What is ecotourism a simple explanation, ecotourism definitions, why is ecotourism important, history of ecotourism, provide long term benefits, promote responsibility, minimise negative impacts, demonstrate strong leadership and management, offer site-sensitive accommodation, provide first-hand experiences, demonstrate sustainable tourism practices, integrate tourism into planning, support the local economy, work with stakeholders, staff training, responsible marketing, undertake research, ecotourism activities, environmental advantages, economic advantages, social advantages, environmental disadvantages, economic disadvantages, social disadvantages, ecotourism in costa rica, ecotourism in kenya, ecotourism in the gambia, ecotourism in norway, ecotourism in belize, further reading.

Before we begin to discuss the concept of ecotourism, I would clear up a common misnomer about the difference between sustainable tourism and ecotourism. Sustainable tourism and ecotourism are NOT THE SAME. They are two different concepts with different underlying principles.

An ecotourism project doesn’t, by definition, have to be sustainable . And sustainable tourism doesn’t have to involve the environment (remember- there are THREE pillars to sustainable tourism. Didn’t know this? Then you should definitely take a look at my article on sustainable tourism ).

Here is the major difference:

  • Ecotourism is focussed predominantly around the notion of environment.
  • Sustainable tourism is focussed on the practical longevity of tourism.

In actual fact, ecotourism is often (although sadly not always-more about this later) an example of sustainable tourism. It comes under the umbrella of sustainable tourism. It is just one example of sustainable tourism.

OK, so is that clear now? Sustainable tourism and ecotourism are NOT THE SAME.

Right, I’m glad that we have that one cleared up. Now lets get on with the article…. so what exactly is ecotourism?

You stumbled across this article because you want to know more about ecotourism, right? So lets start with a simple explanation…

To put it simply, ecotourism is responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.

There are generally three dimensions to any ecotourism project:

  • It is based around nature
  • An environmental education is provided
  • It is sustainably managed

Of course, there are many discrepancies over exactly what ecotourism should look like and how it should be managed. Each project is unique and operates in its own way.

However, as a general rule of thumb, we can assume that if a project is designated as an ecotourism venture, it will involve nature, provide education about said nature and operate sustainably.

As with most types of tourism , there are many definitions that have been developed within both the academic community and by various stakeholders of tourism to identify the concept of ecotourism.

The first formal definition of ecotourism was developed by Ceballos-Lascuráin in 1987. He defined ecotourism as; ‘ travelling to relatively undisturbed or uncontaminated natural areas with the specific objective of studying, admiring, and enjoying the scenery and its wild plants and animals, as well as any existing cultural manifestations (both past and present) found in these areas’.

Since this time, the concept has evolved somewhat, and in 1993 Wight suggested that ecotourism was a sub-sector of sustainable tourism, identifying it as an ‘ ethical overlay’ of tradition nature-based tourism.

Tickell (1994) simply summarised ecotourism as ‘travel to enjoy the world’s amazing diversity of natural life and human culture without causing damage to either’.

And the International Ecotourism Society states that ‘ around the world, ecotourism has been hailed as a panacea: a way to fund conservation and scientific research, protect fragile and pristine ecosystems, benefit rural communities, promote development in poor countries, enhance ecological and cultural sensitivity, instil environmental awareness and a social conscience in the travel industry, satisfy and educate the discriminating tourist, and, some claim, build world peace.’


As I explain at length in my article on the environmental impacts of tourism , it is important that we protect the environment. Ecotourism is a great way to do this.

We are destroying our planet. It’s happening and it’s happening fast. The population is expanding globally at a rapid rate. And with this we have more waste, more energy consumption and more crowding .

Tourism is inherently one of the most environmentally destructive activities on the planet. Taking just one transatlantic flight omits more pollution into the air per passenger than the average daily commute to work (in the UK) for a year.

Did this surprise you? Head on over to the WWF website to calculate your carbon footprint .

And do you know what the most ironic thing is? Tourism RELIES on the very environment that it damages! Go figure, huh?!

Ecotourism is important because it promotes awareness. It educates people about biodiversity, nature and wildlife. It helps to conserve and protect species and wildlife.

Ecotourism plays an important role in the recent history of tourism . The exact origins of the concept of ecotourism are not entirely clear. But what we do know for sure is that its really started to gain some gravitas in the 60’s and 70s.

In 1965, Hetzer was one of the first to address the concept of ecotourism, by identifying four pillars of responsible tourism. The four pillars, also referred to as principles are:

  • minimising environmental impacts
  • respecting the host culture
  • maximising the benefits to the local community
  • Maximising tourist satisfaction

It was the first ‘pillar’ that gained the most attention, highlighting the notion of ecological (aka eco) tourism.


Some argue that the term itself was coined by a Mexican environmentalist named Héctor Ceballos-Lascuráin. Lascurain used the word ecotourism to describe his travels to natural, unspoilt areas, where tourists could appreciate and enjoy the natural beauty and culture. This is an example of the ‘pure’ ecotourism noted in the diagram above.

Lascurain later became the founding president of the Mexican Association for the Conservation of Nature. In the 1980s he was the most influential Mexican in the environmental conservation sector. In 1984 he founded the first Mexican ecotourism travel agency , which he named Ecotours.

The word ‘ecotour’ was formally recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1973 and the term ecotourism followed in1982. Despite the term being absent from the dictionary until the 80s, academics continued to address the issue prior to this. Early references to ecotourism were found in Millar’s work in 1978. Millar examined national park planning for ecodevelopment in Latin America.

It was in the 1980s that the understanding of the term ecotourism began to become widespread. This was the result of an increased awareness of environmental impacts of tourism , alongside a growing dissatisfaction for mass tourism . By the mid 1980s, many countries had identified ecotourism as a way of achieving environmental conservation and economic production. At this time many ecotourism projects were in the planning and development stage .


In the early 90s Epler Wood founded The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) . The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) is a nonprofit organisation dedicated to promoting ecotourism. They help organisations, communities and individuals promote and practice the principles of ecotourism. The organisation currently has members in more than 190 countries and territories, with a range of tourism stakeholders involved including: academics, consultants, conservation professionals and organisations, governments, architects, tour operators, lodge owners and managers, general development experts, and ecotourists.

In 2002, the World Ecotourism Summit further addressed the concept of ecotourism. The outcome of the summit was that 8 postulates were developed, these stipulated that ecotourism should:

  • have a natural area focus that ensures visitors have the opportunity to personally and directly experience nature
  • provide interpretation or educational services that give visitors the opportunity to experience nature in ways that lead to greater understanding, appreciation and enjoyment
  • represent best practice in ecological sustainability practices
  •  contribute to conservation of natural areas and cultural heritage
  • provide ongoing contributions to the local community
  • respect and be sensitive to the culture/s existing in the area
  • consistently meet consumer expectations
  • be marketed and promoted honestly and accurately so that realistic expectations are formed

Since this time, awareness and popularity of ecotourism has continued to grow. It is estimated that ecotourism represents approximately 15% of all tourist expenditure. The sector continues to grow at around 5% each year. Despite the recent COVID-19 pandemic bringing travel and tourism almost to a complete halt, there continues to be a strong desire and interest for eco-based holidays.

The principles of ecotourism


Ecotourism is identifiable because of its underlying principles. These are the aspects that make up the concept, that define what ecotourism is, how is occurs and what it means. Below, I have briefly outlined what the principles of ecotourism are.

brown wooden bridge beside green leafy trees

Ecotourism should be designed to provide benefits to the local environment and the local community. This includes aspects such as regeneration, employment, improved social services, research, protection of flora and fauna, growth of species and the protection of wildlife.

These benefits should be long lasting, demonstrating that the ecotourism project is sustainable.

tree trunks piled up on grass on autumn cloudy day

Education is a core principle of ecotourism.

Ecotourism should educate the tourists who visit about the local area and the wildlife that resides within it. It should also educate other tourism stakeholders including the host community, Government, NGOs and the industry as a whole.

Ecotourism provides opportunity for research and development and for both locals and tourists to really gain an understanding of the biological diversity on offer.

person holding clear plastic bottle

Ecotourism should promote ethical and moral responsibility amongst all of those involved.

Tourists, local and other stakeholders should be aware the impacts of their actions and act responsibility.

orangutan eating fruit near funny baby primate hanging on liana

The negative impacts of tourism should be minimised at all times.

This includes environmental aspects such as littering, erosion , displacement of animals, trampling and pollution.

It also includes social impacts such as globalisation, cultural erosion , enhancing disparities etc.

alley autumn autumn colours autumn leaves

Ecotourism should demonstrate a strong management approach. This includes management of the physical area as well as the people within it.

Strong management should prevent over-visitation and overtourism , and to promote responsible behaviour amongst tourists. This could include the implementation of various interventions, such as limiting visitors numbers as a given time, blocking off certain areas or providing educational materials.

rural houses on mountain slope

There are many different types of accommodation offered in ecotourism destinations, not just eco lodges.

In order to adhere to the principles of ecotourism, any accommodation that is associated with the concept of ecotourism should be site-sensitive. This means that it is not wasteful of local resources or destructive to the environment. It should also provide ample opportunity for learning about the environment and for sensitive cultural exchange with local communities.

person swimming under water taking photo of turtle

Ecotourism typically facilitates first-hand experiences with nature. This comes in different shapes and forms, from staying in an ecolodge in the jungle, to birdwatching, to working in turtle conservation in Costa Rica.

First-hand experiences help people to learn easier. And education is another core principle of ecotourism. It also fosters a culture of appreciation.

beautiful beauty blue bright

As I outlined at the beginning of this post, ecotourism is a form of sustainable tourism (most of the time). Therefore, eco tourism should demonstrate a commitment to the three pillars of sustainable tourism: the environment, society and the economy.

In doing so, the ecotourism project should minimise any negative impacts and maximise any positive impacts to the environment, society and the economy.

woman sharing her presentation with her colleagues

Tourism planning is important and ecotourism should demonstrate a strong planning process that involves all tourism stakeholders .

Tourism development should be integrated into national and local strategic planning frameworks. These frameworks should undertake environmental impact assessments, as wells other sustainability assessments as part of the planning process.

woman holding tomatoes

Economic leakage in tourism should be avoided. Activities should take economic impacts to account, whilst continuing to ensure environmental conservation.

Economic benefits should be aimed towards the local economy and communities.

multi cultural people

In order for ecotourism to be sustainable it requires commitment by all stakeholders. This includes members of the local community, staff, tourists and different levels of Government.

man in black suit standing near black wooden table

Adequate staff training will help to teach employees about sustainable tourism practices. Staff can be taught how to integrate sustainable practices into their work lives.

pink teal yellow multi color please leave nothing but your feet road signage

Responsible ecotourism businesses and destinations should ensure that marketing material is informative and education. It should demonstrate a sincere respect for the natural, social and cultural environments of destination areas.

woman in yellow jacket holding red book

Research is a powerful tool. Ecotourism destinations should facilitate ongoing research. This will enable to best management strategies to be adopted in the destination and elsewhere.

There are many different types of ecotourism and different ecotourism activities.

A tourist can choose to go on an ecotourism holiday, whereby most aspects of their trip revolve around the concept of ecotourism. Or they can incorporate some elements of ecotourism into their holiday. For example, I stayed in an ecolodge in The Gambia as part of a larger trip visiting the country, the ecotourism element accounted for about 20% of my visit.

Below is a list of ecotourism activities. This list is not exhaustive.

  • staying in an ecolodge
  • birdwatching
  • bike riding
  • jungle trekking
  • mountain climbing
  • volunteering
  • wildlife spotting
  • sightseeing
  • educational tours
  • photography
  • horse riding

Advantages of ecotourism

man and woman lying on hammock

Ecotourism can be a fantastic way to bring money into the local economy whilst also satisfying societal needs and conserving the natural environment. Of course, for this to be successful there needs to be strong management, but it is entirely possible.

Of course, the major positive impact of ecotourism is the way that it can help to protect the environment. This can happen in many ways, from raising money that can be spent on environmental research, to encouraging tourists to volunteer to help with breeding programmes of animals that are near extinction.

Ecotourism helps to keep destinations and areas natural and unspoilt. It promotes regrowth of flora and fauna. It encourages diversification of wildlife.

Ecotourism also has many economic advantages.

It creates employment for local people. It brings in foreign currency (if international tourists are targeted). It raises money through taxation, which can then be reinvested in important areas such as education and healthcare.

Ecotourism can also have positive impacts on the local community. Facilities and infrastructure (such as new roads or shops) that are developed for tourism can often be utilised by the local people too. And the money raised through tourism can help to enhance their lives. For example, the money might be used to build a new doctors surgery or social club.

One of the core principles of ecotourism is education. Therefore ecotourism can help to raise awareness of important issues. Issues that may previously gone under the radar can now be exposed on the global stage. This can help their cause and further the preservation and conservation work that is already ongoing.

Disadvantages of ecotourism

man carrying black backpack standing beside trees Ecotourism

Ecotourism is not perfect and there are also disadvantages that should be noted. Good planning and sustainable management should aim to reduce these negative impacts.

Ecotourism often occurs in areas that have fragile ecosystems. These areas sometimes struggle to accommodate the tourists and their associated ecotourism activities. Think Antarctica or the Maldives . Known as ‘last chance tourism’, tourists are often encouraged to visit these areas before it is ‘too late’.

Many tourists choose to visit a particular destination because it is mating, breeding or hunting season. This is because these are the best times to get a good look at the wildlife. The problem is, however, that the presence of tourists may impact the behaviour of the animals- they may choose to mate less frequently, thus reducing population sizes, for example.

Whilst ecotourism is by definition a small and intimate venture, is often exceeds capacity limits for a given location. In other words, it presents itself as overtourism , whereby there are more tourists than the destination can comfortable cope with. This then has adverse impacts on the local area- the environment and society.

Even if the tourist activities at the ecotourism destination have a small environmental impact, there may have been significant impact caused during the tourist’s journey to get there. For example, an ecotourist visiting the Ecuadorian Amazon from the UK will have to take a 15 hour flight to get there! The amount of carbon produced in this single flight would be more than the average person produces in an entire year.

Ecotourism isn’t usually cheap. And there is no denying that it has huge economic benefits. However, much of the money spent goes to foreign-owned tour operators , travel agents and airlines. This economic leakage reduces the positive impacts to the local area.

The market for ecotourism is specialised and in order to market their product, many ecotourism ventures partner with larger tour operators, most of whom are based in the Global North. This means that much of the money spent by tourists does not end up in the local area where the tourism takes place, but instead is directed back to major economies such as the USA and the UK. The most money is retained by individual travellers, who do not book via an intermediary.

As I explain ion my article about Butler’s Tourism Area Lifecycle , social impacts increase with the number of visitors. As ecotourism grows in an area, so do the social impacts.

As ecotourism often takes place in place is locations that are somewhat remote, the local population number is often small. This means that it is not uncommon for tourist numbers to be higher than the number of people who live in the area permanently.

This can cause many social impacts , such as resentment, theft, cultural erosion , globalisation , loss of language and more.

In some instances, the development and growth of ecotourism has resulted in the displacement of local people. Dedicated protected areas and conservation efforts will sometimes mean that local people can no longer continue their traditional line of work. This could include hunting wildlife or selling souvenirs made from local wildlife or plant species.

Whilst the ideals of ecotourism are pure, the local community will not be receptive to the idea if this means taking away their ability to make enough money to feed their families or send their children to school. In cases such as this, effective top-down management is required to ensure that people are provided with alternative employment and training, where necessary. However, the reality is that this often does not happen.

Ecotourism examples

There are plenty of examples of ecotourism throughout the world. Here are my top five:

costa rica baby

Costa Rica has a well developed ecotourism industry. In fact, is claims to be the world leader in ecotourism!

From zip lining and walking along the tree tops on the Arenal Hanging Bridges to mountain top walks in the Monteverde Cloud Forest to giant turtle breeding in Tortuguero, there is plenty to do in Costa Rica for the eco-conscious traveller.

Kilimanjaro toilet

With its wide open plains, abundant wildlife and bucket loads of culture, it is no wonder that Kenya is a popular ecotourism destination.

Kenya has a wide range of ecotourism activities. There are unique cultural activities for tourists to take part in here, such as visiting the Masaii Mara tribe.

There is also plenty to do in terms of wildlife. You can undertake a volunteer tourism programme, climb Mount Kilimanjaro or go on safari, amongst other things. Oh, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is highly rated too.

eco lodges in gambia

As I mentioned earlier, I had my very first ecolodge experience in The Gambia.

We stayed far away from the main tourist resorts in Footsteps Ecolodge . Here we ate ethical sourced food, used a compost toilet and spent our days relaxing on a deserted, unspoilt sandy beach overlooking Senegal. It was pure bliss!

snow nature sky night Ecotourism

Norway prides itself on its sustainable tourism principles.

Offering a variation of tours and holidays in the fjords and mountainous areas, Norway promotes many experiences that promote unspoilt nature and sustainability.

a blue sea turtle

Almost 1/3 of Belize is protected in national parks, nature reserves or sanctuaries.

Belize have done a lot to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability in recent years. They have banned single use plastic cutlery and banned offshore drilling. After years of conservation efforts, the barrier reef has now been removed from the danger list.

It is no wonder that the National Geographic has Belize at the top of their ecotourism list.

Now that I have taught you the basics of ecotourism, I suggest that you do a bit more reading. I have plenty of useful articles on this website and there are also some fantastic books that I recommend. I have listed these below for you.

Useful books-

  • Ecotourism and Sustainable Development: Who Owns Paradise? – the most comprehensive overview of worldwide ecotourism available today, showing how both the concept and the reality have evolved over more than twenty-five years
  • Ecotourism: Transitioning to the 22nd Century – a critical introduction to the analysis of tourism from a sociological and geographical perspective, the title is essential reading for higher-level and graduate students and researchers in tourism, sociology and geography.
  • How to be a highly Sustainable Tourist: A Guidebook for the Conscientious Traveller – a great guide with tips on how to travel sustainably
  • The Intrepid Traveler: The ultimate guide to responsible, ecological, and personal-growth travel and tourism – Leading travel expert Adam Rogers draws upon 40 years of experience exploring more than 130 countries in every region on Earth to share the smartest ways to travel in this tip-filled guide
  • Outdoor Recreation: Environmental Impacts and Management – an academic text discussing the sustainability of outdoor pursuits
  • Sustainable and Responsible Tourism: Trends, Practices and Cases – Sustainable tourism case studies from around the world
  • Responsible Tourism: Using tourism for sustainable development – a textbook addressing the concept of sustainability in terms in development

Useful articles on this website-

  • Sustainable tourism explained: What, why and where
  • Economic impacts of tourism
  • Environmental impacts of tourism
  • Social impacts of tourism
  • Authenticity in tourism
  • Economic leakage in tourism

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What is ecotourism? A guide on how to travel sustainably.

Immerse yourself in nature — with respect for the environment and the culture that supports it.

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If you love nature, you may have tried to plan a vacation where you get to be immersed in it. Maybe you’ve explored a coral reef or visited an elephant sanctuary, or you dream of doing so one day. These activities can fall under the umbrella of ecotourism — a kind of nature-based travel that aims to protect and empower the environment, animals, and local communities — when planning vacations.

Tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, accounting for 22 million new jobs last year , with a large part of that growth stemming from a post-lockdown itch for travel . As people return to packing as much stuff as humanly possible into a carry-on, ecotourism, too, will likely skyrocket to a market value of $299 billion by 2026 . In the last 10 years, travelers have become more environmentally conscious and socially responsible , looking for travel experiences that reflect their morals.

Still, the question for many well-meaning tourists remains: Is ethical ecotourism even possible?

There are a few things that complicate ecotourism’s narrative, like the carbon emissions produced by flights , or the challenges of ensuring that a significant degree of profits actually do go to local communities, protecting wildlife, and cultural heritage. Nature-based travel, too, can risk losing the plot, from sanctuaries that operate like petting zoos to the development of tropical coasts into even the most nature-forward resorts.

“It really boils down to an attitude, and an ethic about how we approach the natural world,” says David Fennell , a geography and tourism studies professor at Brock University in Ontario, Canada, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Ecotourism . “Just by virtue of going to a national park doesn’t mean you’re an ecotourist, you have to have that attitude. And you have to tap into that ethic about what is important [to] not just yourself as a tourist, but about conservation and animal welfare.”

As a tourist, choosing where to go is an important decision, one that can help or hurt the environment and communities where you are visiting. There are some situations that are too good to be truly as effective as they claim, and accreditations, though helpful, may not tell the whole story. Understandably, trying to figure out what’s best for the environment, for communities, and for yourself can be overwhelming. It may be that ecotourism is a state of mind rather than a destination. Here are some ways to think about your next adventure to ensure your ethics align.

What actually is ecotourism?

An alternative to mass tourism — or when thousands of people visit a destination day in and day out ( think the resort-ification of Ibiza , in which people partied so hard that legislation was passed in 2022 to change the destination’s wasteful image) — ecotourism is meant to get you off the beaten trail and into a mindset of reciprocity with the site you are visiting.

As with many sustainability-oriented services, ecotourism got its start in the ’70s. It officially became a dictionary entry in 1982 , where it is defined as supporting conservation efforts, especially in often threatened natural environments. Since then though, the definition and intent have evolved to include bolstering local communities.

In the literature on ecotourism, travel can be distinguished into “hard paths” and “soft paths,” based on how many aspects of your trip follow the ethical north star of ecotourism and how demanding the trip will be of you. For example, if your trip features a strong environmental commitment and will be physically active, you’re likely on the hard path of ecotourism. If your trip is aimed at physical comfort with only a moderate nod to environmental commitment, you may be on a soft path. But taking it as an ethos means you can be an ecotourist anywhere, especially locally.

You might be wondering if a hike on a busy trail or swimming with manatees is ecotourism. Although both of those examples are nature-based tourism as they interface with the natural world, they’re not necessarily ecotourism, since both of these activities can put these destinations at risk if done in excess. Hiking a spot to death or droves of tourists putting Florida’s manatees at risk put pressure on the ecology of those places. In the 1980s, mass tourism began to wreck some of the world’s most sensitive ecosystems, such as the Riviera Maya in Mexico, where near-constant development has led to local forests being cleared .

Wildlife tourism runs the gamut from cruel breeding and hunting of lions to we-really-shouldn’t-have-cetaceans-in-captivity dolphin shows to cool , ethical birdwatching. Ecotourism including wildlife can be ethical as long as the animals you are engaging with are not manipulated or not free to disengage in interaction with tourists. “Anytime you have an animal that’s held in a captive environment, that you’re manipulating, the animal is not free to disengage that interaction, based on its own will,” says Fennell.

If you’re interested in going on adventures that are a little more sport-oriented, such as kayaking or diving, then this might be also considered nature-based tourism, since activities like climbing, sailing, camping, and snorkeling are less directly connected to ecological benefits. An example of nature tourism would be surfing lessons off Australia’s Coffs coast : You’re in nature having fun, but vibes are about all you’re contributing to the scene.

Ecotourism also has an educational component: You’re meant to learn about nature, culture, and threats to the area you’re in. Paul Rosolie — founder and Wildlife Director of Junglekeepers , a program that uses donations and tourist money to buy tracts of the Amazon along the Las Piedras River, in the Madre de Dios region of Peru — highlighted how ecotourism has brought people to the front lines of conservation.

“This is the edge of human presence on this planet,” Rosolie said via voice memo deep in the Amazon. “The battle is playing out between the progress of roads and development and the last places where there are untouched ecosystems, Indigenous communities, communities of species yet to be discovered. You get to see incredibly pristine, pure wilderness where a few people have managed to make a living.”

Ecotourism should encourage ethical considerations, like respect for the environment and host communities. For example, ecotourism aims to be biocentric , meaning that the interest of the living beings you are hoping to protect is prioritized over your own drive for pleasure. There is also the risk of too much tourism causing gentrification and raising prices for locals — see what’s currently happening in Mexico City , or consider the (fictional, but still germane) plot of HBO’s The White Lotus . Ecotourism aims to reverse the exploitative relationships between tourists and locals.

Lastly, ecotourism should strive for sustainability. In the case of Junglekeepers , which offers base station visits and ranger-accompanied hikes to tourists, this means extending employment to former loggers in their ranger program. The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, where there are six ecolodges for tourists to book, has anti-poaching teams who work with the Kenya Wildlife Service to stop illegal poaching for ivory, bushmeat, and logging.

The tricky questions around ecotourism

Just because ecotourism might have a broader application these days, it doesn’t necessarily mean all travel qualifies, especially since there are slews of companies and organizations attempting to make a quick buck off a catchy buzzword. Unfortunately, it’s hard to sift the wheat from the chaff. As ecotourism as a concept grows more and more popular, some experiences and excursions may not necessarily meet the intentions lined up above.

Tourism can be rife with greenwashing : vague and unsupported claims, and exaggerations about how much good a given entity is doing, like hotels highlighting their donations to ecological causes, but underpaying their staff . Some excursions put Indigenous peoples in precarious situations , and some force animals to perform or be ridden or petted in a forced and unnatural manner .

Milo Putnam — founder of Laro Ethical Wildlife Travels , a service that helps people plan eco-travel — warns, “Don’t be tricked by misused greenwashing buzzwords like ‘rescue,’ ‘sanctuary,’ or ‘eco-park.’ Companies know that tourists like these terms, which to these companies can mean more profits, even if it isn’t true. These terms are meaningless if not backed by actual ethical practices. Instead, look further to see if they are certified or accredited by a trusted organization.” (More on this below.)

Additionally, Fennell believes the most ethical ecotourists — the traveler and any organizations involved — should keep animals off the menu. Ecotourism’s biocentric approach should lead us to widen our moral consideration of animals and to care not only for charismatic megafauna like lions and elephants, but also for all creatures that make ecosystems function. “The global food system — mainly animal agriculture — is the primary driver of biodiversity loss ,” Putnam added. “Choosing a more plant-based diet has a positive impact on wildlife around the world.”

How to choose where to go

Certifications may give a clue to how well a given destination is achieving ecotourism goals, but they may not always exist.

Putnam has compiled a tip list for planning animal-based adventures and points to the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries as a resource. The federation checks in to ensure that no captive breeding is taking place, that tourists do not have direct contact with wildlife, and that animals have appropriate housing and veterinary care.

There is no universal ecotourism certification, but the Global Sustainable Tourism Council has compiled a list of certifications around the world that emphasize the four “C’s”: conservation, community, culture, and commerce. These certifications are a good place to start and they cover Asia, Europe, Africa, North and South America, and Australia.

The land down under is at the top when it comes to vetting their tourism options. Australia’s ecotourism industry has some of the most sophisticated certifications including nature tourism, ecotourism, and advanced ecotourism . In this certification system, outback safari glamping in Karijini National Park counts as ecotourism, because it supports Indigenous peoples as it is owned and operated by the Gumala Aboriginal Corporation , which represents the interests of the Banjima, Yinhawangka, and Nyiyaparli peoples in Western Australia.

Everyone I spoke to underscored the importance of selecting an ethical destination for travel because the money you spend as a tourist can have a positive impact rather than an ambiguous impact or even detrimental effect on the places you’re visiting. As Rosolie puts it, “Finding the right place to go as a traveler is a very powerful decision to people who are devoting their whole lives to protecting a place.”

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Ecotourism 101: What is Ecotourism? The Good, The Bad, and Sustainable Ecotourism

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I may earn income from affiliate links or partnerships in this post. I spend time to curate tours or products that align with my values. Thanks for supporting my work, at no additional cost to you.

Last updated on November 21st, 2023 at 02:37 pm

A re you curious about what ecotourism is, if it’s really as beneficial as it sounds, and how to ensure you’re engaging in sustainable ecotourism? Ecotourism is when we travel to vulnerable natural places to increase our understanding of the surrounding natural and cultural landscape while delivering equitable socio-economic benefits throughout the surrounding region. When conducted properly and aligned with these values, ecotourism can work toward preserving a region’s environmental conservation and cultural preservation while simultaneously improving the quality of life for those impacted by tourism. However, when models of ecotourism are put in place that don’t carefully consider the impacts of tourism and work to counter them, ecotourism can have adverse effects, such as contributing to the loss of biodiversity in a region and ultimately adding to the stresses that put these vulnerable regions at risk. 

Whether ecotourism can be a force for good or damaging in some of the world’s most sensitive environments is up to us, the travelers! It is up to us to be informed about how our behaviors and choices can impact natural places. That all starts with education surrounding the topic. Let’s dive into the nuances of ecotourism, the benefits and the negatives, what “good” ecotourism looks like in practice, and, most importantly, why sustainable ecotourism matters. By understanding how to identify sustainable ecotourism, you’ll become a more informed traveler doing your part to save travel and the protected natural areas we choose to visit.

Ecotourism 101. Understanding what is ecotourism. Is ecotourism good or bad. Why we need sustainable ecotourism.

This post was carefully curated based on personal experience, an MSc in biodiversity with a thesis covering biodiversity and tourism, and research based on government documents, case studies, and international conservation entities. Get to know me better to learn more about my expertise on this subject matter. 

Looking for more 101 guides to becoming a more responsible traveler? Start here!

  • Agritourism 101
  • Responsible Travel at UNESCO sites
  • Economic Tourism Leakage 101
  • Sustainable Travel Tips

What We’re Covering

What is Ecotourism

5 Requirements of Sustainable Ecotourism

Benefits and Negative Impacts

Real-life Examples

Tips to Plan an Ecotour

Discuss, Share, Engage

  • Ecotourism happens in vulnerable communities and protected natural areas.
  • Sustainable ecotourism engages the 3 pillars of sustainability: environmental , economic, and social benefits.
  • Unsustainable ecotourism neglects 1-2 of the pillars resulting in negative implications for nature or locals.
  • Nature-based tourism is often confused with ecotourism – learn how to spot the difference.
  • Before engaging in ecotourism, ask yourself or the company you book how they benefit ALL three pillars.
  • Often the best solution is to work directly with local tour groups or organizations.
  • Ecotourism does not always mean ethical tourism.
  • There is no perfect model of ecotourism. It is up to you to ensure you have a positive impact on vulnerable natural destinations.

Dingle Peninsula Wild Atlantic Way Ireland

What is Ecotourism?

One of the most common buzzwords in the sustainable travel industry is ‘ecotourism.’ Many travelers rely on this word being synonymous with environmentally friendly, ethical tourism. Others might be asking if ecotourism is as good as it says it is.  When ecotourism is executed sustainably – based on research and understanding of the impacts on the natural environment and with guidance from the local communities, then yes, it can be synonymous with ethical tourism. This type of “good” ecotourism is if you create a powerful positive force for environmental conservation and local community well-being.

On the other hand, unsustainable ecotourism, a model of tourism that happens with the best intentions but fails to involve the community or maintain checks and balances regarding the environmental impact of tourism, can be detrimental to both the natural and local communities.

Ecotourism is often conducted in protected natural areas surrounded by vulnerable communities such as nature reserves, national parks, wilderness areas, heritage sites, or natural monuments. In these incredibly culturally and ecologically sensitive communities, true ecotourism can do a lot of good, while failed models of ecotourism or tourism operating under the guise of ecotourism can have catastrophic impacts.  In these protected areas, ecotourism must contribute to environmental conservation and the alleviation of poverty or risk destroying the places we love as travelers. 

Sustainable Ecotourism

Sustainable ecotourism, or really just ecotourism as it was intended to be, is responsible travel to protected or vulnerable natural areas focusing on environmental conservation/education while sustaining local communities’ economic and social well-being. For ecotourism to be sustainable for generations to come, it must include all three pillars, or the triple bottom line, of sustainability, as seen in the infographic. It isn’t quite enough to have all three of these pillars included; they need to be somewhat balanced, ensuring that tourism develops in a way that doesn’t take too much of an environmental toll while infusing a lot of economic benefits into the economy.

Ideally, the economic development from ecotourism is equitable and able to sustain long-term job development and growth in the region while equally contributing to wildlife conversation and preserving cultural identity. It is normal to have one piece of the Venn Diagram to be slightly larger as true equilibrium is difficult and impossible, but each should grow at a rate that doesn’t create too much imbalance. When things get out of balance, or one circle takes priority over another, no matter the intentions, we begin to have unsustainable ecotourism.

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Unsustainable Ecotourism

Unsustainable ecotourism may embody or prioritize only one or two pillars of sustainable ecotourism. This can happen for a variety of reasons.

  • Tour operators and travel companies may conduct ecotours as a marketing ploy to get the attention of travelers looking for more environmentally friendly travel options. These operators may conduct businesses without fully understanding their impact on the natural environment or equitably distribute tourism’s benefits within their community. 
  • Adventure companies or individual travelers may enjoy nature-based adventures while disregarding local communities.
  • Others may seek to capitalize on the economic gain of nature-based tourism while exploiting nature.
  • Culturally sensitive communities may alter their customs or traditional crafts to appeal to tourists, thus increasing their economic gain while degrading their culture.
  • Perhaps a national park becomes so popular that the number of people visiting begins to have irreversible impacts on natural vegetation or wildlife.
  • Other companies may lack adequate support and resources from their governments, communities, or foreign tour companies to meet well-intended goals.

These are all examples of unsustainable ecotourism, ultimately resulting in the problematic exploitation of natural resources or local communities. 

Alaskan Otter Seward Major Marine Tours

Nature-based tourism vs. ecotourism?

Many people use nature-based and ecotourism interchangeably, but they are not the same. Nature-based tourism is traveling to a natural landscape to enjoy nature. Ecotourism is visiting a place with the goal of contributing to conservation while benefitting the community for a positive impact. I consider the multi-day hikes in the European Alps nature-based, as I am just out for a hike to enjoy nature. If I were to hire a local guide in Peru to take me on a culturally infused hike to learn about nature and culture – then we start to cross into ecotourism.


The penguin tour I did in New Zealand is a great example of a sustainable eco-tour . We learned about the local conservation efforts of a penguin colony on the brink of extinction (environmental), supported a local farm and conservation group (economic), and had a high-quality social engagement learning about New Zealand’s connection to the environment (Social).

Mass Tourism vs Ecotourism? What is better?

When I first started on my journey toward embracing sustainable tourism, I automatically assumed that mass tourism = bad. Ecotourism = good. This is something I see across the board among travelers. However, many tourism academics disagree on this binary and highlight the nuances and importance of well-managed tourism development, whether eco or mass.

Their arguments hinge on the fact that mass tourism ultimately contains people in places that generally already have the infrastructure to support large groups of people. Imagine if we took the thousands of people staying at an all-inclusive Disney resort – a place with adequate infrastructure to handle these numbers and dropped them all at a small Peruvian rainforest eco-lodge. The small ecolodges set up for sustainable ecotourism and minimal crowds would be overwhelmed, and the environmental and cultural damage would be dramatic. There are also examples of how ecotourism can bring tourists into places previously undisturbed by tourists historically, and it is important to first understand and plan for potential impacts.

This isn’t to put mass or ecotourism into their boxes, but it highlights that there are examples of well-managed mass tourism in areas with infrastructure that are worth supporting. Just as there are examples of poorly managed ecotourism disturbing nature for the first time, it all comes down to how tourism is managed.

What do you think about this argument? Share in the comments!

Five Requirements of Sustainable Ecotourism

What else separates sustainable and unsustainable ecotourism? It’s not enough for ecotourism to vaguely target the three pillars of sustainability at free will. Carefully thought-out itineraries should be constructed before engaging in ecotourism. While there is situational and regional flexibility in how sustainable ecotourism plays out in real life, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed five minimum requirements, hitting all three pillars, that tourists and tour operators should address before engaging in ecotourism. We can use these guidelines to create a custom itinerary when visiting vulnerable natural communities or booking a tour operator.

1. Tourism should benefit environmental conservation

Tourism activities, development, and tour operators should safeguard the environment, conserve natural resources, protect ecosystems, and benefit biodiversity. Several key players need to work together to ensure this. Governments and land managers should ensure that proper scientific impact assessments are done prior to tourism development. Rules and regulations should be established so tour companies, guides, and tourists follow. Involving the community in conservation-based tourism is key.

For us travelers, environmental education is a key component of this. As you visit vulnerable areas, you should try to learn about local biodiversity and environmental concerns. Doing some research ahead of time allows you to align your behaviors in a way that doesn’t degrade the environment, and you can also hold tourism companies accountable for their actions if you are more informed.

Red Flags 

  • Mass crowds, overdevelopment, and overtourism. Overdevelopment of the region surrounding a protected area to accommodate mass tourism may negatively impact nature. Many species are not confined to the protected natural zone, and over-development can damage migration and breeding patterns, increase water and air pollution, and increase erosion. Protected areas often have a limited capacity before ecosystem degradation may occur.
  • Large tour buses or cruise ships drop large groups of people off in a protected region for a short amount of time.
  • If a protected region is capitalizing on economic profit and bringing in as many guests as possible without sticking to a sustainable plan.
  • Clear-cutting and ecosystem fragmentation to build large resorts
  • Tour companies that allow you to touch, feed, or interact with wildlife

Actionable Steps

  • Look for places with non-invasive infrastructure that keep you a safe distance from animals. Look for well-planned trails, viewing platforms/sky bridges, nature centers for education, etc.
  • Find alternatives to nature’s hot spots, seeking out small-scale educational nature-based tourism.
  • Visit places that minimize capacity with permits and quotas.
  • Be willing to pay fees and fines that support sustainable infrastructure.
  • Learn and follow all regional, local, and tribal etiquette before entering a protected area. 
  • Support eco-lodges, regenerative hotels, and other low-impact options.
  • Book small group tours or go alone and hire personal local guides to take you into nature on a designated trail.

Ruined building on a flood plain in India's National Parks

Read a guest post by an ecologist from India about the do’s and don’ts for visiting national parks in India . This post highlights proper behavior to ensure that you, your local guide, the ecosystem, and the animals you see are safeguarded and protected. – A great example of sustainable ecotourism.

2. Safeguard the cultural and natural heritage of the region

Oftentimes, without even knowing it, we, as travelers, support the decline of a region’s cultural heritage. With the presence of tourism, locals may feel the pressure to please us with certain trinkets or displays that don’t align with their culture to put on a show. There are a few cruise shows in Alaska that are not traditional and are upsetting to certain elders as they have permanently altered traditions to appeal to Western tourists.

There are mindful ways we can learn about and support traditions by appreciating authentic experiences; for example, The Alaska Native Heritage Center is operated by Native stakeholders, and the art, song, dance, and cultural shows are true to the tribe’s heritage.

Unsustainable tourism booms at UNESCO sites such as Hoi An are notorious for contributing to tourism tourism-fiction. This means that culture becomes a commodity rather than part of the heritage. Some have described tourism’s impacts on Hoi An as leaving the city a husk of its former self and operating more like Disneyland than a place of important culture.

  • Locals selling mass-produced or cheap trinkets, such as sunglasses, outside protected zones. Many of these people may have given up traditional crafts or lifestyles to get short-term benefits from tourism in the area because they have been exploited and excluded for economic benefits.
  • International tour companies that host cultural shows in which traditional songs, dances, or clothing have been changed to appeal to foreigners.  
  • Commodification of culture
  • Invest in quality certified crafts work from master artisans – look for certifications.
  • Seek out authentic cultural experiences from homestays or by learning from local guides.
  • Visit Indigenous or locally-owned culture centers for an authentic educational song, dance, and cultural experience.  


3. Respect Indigenous Peoples and local communities rights

If there is one thing that can grind my gears, it’s when tourists have more rights than locals. When Glacier Bay National Park first opened to tourism many Indigenous groups were no longer allowed to use the land for subsistence hunting and gathering . Meanwhile, massive cruise ships pulled in and dumped their greywater. Efforts are being made to restore subsistence rights, and Indigenous tribes can now harvest certain things, but as it still stands, most cruise companies have more rights in that Bay than many Alaskans. While the Indigenous peoples of Alaska are left suffering the consequences of cruise impacts on their ancestral land, they are also excluded from tourism’s benefits, with multinational cruise companies making the most money.

But, it is not enough to consider Indigenous peoples and the surrounding communities impacted by tourism; they must be a key partner in tourism. Their consent and well-being regarding tourism in protected areas should come first. They should have a direct say in developing tourism while receiving equitable benefits.

  • Areas that give tourists more rights than local or Indigenous Peoples. i.e., when people climbed Uluru on eco-excursions despite the wishes of Australia’s Aboriginal People.
  • Tours that bring you into protected natural areas without providing ways to learn about local or Indigenous culture directly from the marginalized people. 

Actionable Steps 

  • If Indigenous groups have been displaced from an area, take it upon yourself to enter the protected area as a guest respecting the traditional owners.
  • Hire local guides or meet locals to engage in cultural exchange.
  • Learn about tribal history, present, culture, and wishes.
  • Perform a land acknowledgment.
  • If an area is sacred to an Indigenous group and they ask you not to enter, reconsider your plans and find a viable alternative. 

female brown bear in a grassy field

4. Create viable, long-term economic operations in the region

The presence of a booming tourism industry looks great on paper in any region. But, if you dig deep, you’ll start to notice that maybe a lot of that money leaves the local destination and ends up in the pockets of large multinational companies. Or maybe locals don’t have access to year-round jobs that provide them with enough healthcare and healthy food because of boom-bust seasonal cycles. Ensuring local access to stable employment is important to reduce global poverty. Tourism jobs can’t only be seasonal jobs that exploit foreign workers. Locals should be interested in tourism jobs to reach management positions and receive benefits.

Many cite the economic benefits of tourism as the sole reason to develop tourism, but research shows that many locals aren’t interested in tourism jobs because of the lack of sustainable and beneficial long-term employment. When I was a tour guide in Alaska, I worked long hours during the summer months without long-term security, health care, or retirement benefits.

  • Tourism leakage . Leakage happens when large international tour corporations or foreign-owned all-inclusive resorts profit off ecotourism while locals are forced deeper into poverty. Locals should be primarily profiting off tourism as they suffer any negative impacts. 
  • Lack of local guides. Lack of locals in management or hospitality positions.
  • Mass-over-tourism booms happening during a short seasonal window, resulting in an employment depression during the off-season.
  • Foreign workers are imported for cheap labor exploitation or to make tourists comfortable.
  • Support locally owned tour companies providing residents with stable year-round jobs, training, and income-earning opportunities. 
  • Support local businesses and buy local products when traveling through vulnerable communities.
  • Visit places during the shoulder or off-season to support a healthy year-round economy.
  • Avoid booking with international tour companies and all-inclusive resorts unless they engage in the trip-bottom line. 

Valley of Fire Outdoor activities Las Vegas

5. Create meaningful and high-quality visitor experiences

If you’re stepping out of a tour bus for that Instagram photo opportunity without learning about your destination, you are not having a meaningful or high-quality experience. Slow down and enjoy the lesser-known sights, and learn about the local food, nature, and people. These tourism experiences should be led by locals with a deep affinity for a region, allowing you to connect them to the place on an intimate level. Canada has a rigorous tour guide certification called interpretative guides. The guides aim to foster a deep and meaningful connections between the local people, places, and tourists. Tourists are more likely to care for their destination if they have a connection and understanding regarding why its protection is important.

  • Tour busses that drop people off in a protected area to look around and snap a few photos and leave without offering educational information or ways to learn about the landscape.
  • Violating local rules to gain access to a protected area for an Instagram photo.
  • Engage in ecotourism that hinges on environmental education and cultural connection.
  • Stay in a region longer than a bus stop or half a day.
  • Book locally-owned accommodation, engaging in regenerative practices that educate you meaningfully.
  • Please do it for more than the gram.

glacier calving into a lake

The Pros and Cons of Ecotourism

There is no perfect model of truly sustainable ecotourism. Even the most sustainable ecotourism models will have some negative implications, but the ultimate goal is to create a long-term sustainable plan that maximizes benefits and minimizes negative impacts .  As you can see the potential benefits are almost equal to any potential negative impacts. The key is understanding how your presence can have a positive or negative impact, and strive to check as many positives as possible. Ensure you are engaging in ecotourism that ticks positives in environmental, social, AND economic, otherwise, it is likely the negatives outweigh the positives of sustainable ecotourism. 

Does the Good Outweigh the Bad?

brown bear viewing anchorage

I went on an eco-tour to see brown bears in the wild in Alaska . We learned about brown bears from a distance and the Lake Clark National Park ecosystem (environmental) with a local company (economic) on a quality tour (social). However, they could have included more information about the region’s Indigenous culture (social). So, I did some of my own research, doing a land acknowledgment  and discovering the park’s true name is Qizhjeh Vena , meaning a place where people gather in the Dena’ina language. Despite a few shortcomings, I decided this ecotour had more positive than negative impacts especially since Indigenous Alaskans have access to the park. But this shows that not everything will be perfect. You can weigh your options and take personal actions outside of the tour to balance it out, such as independent research, donations, land acknowledgments, and buying high-quality souvenirs.

Ecotourism in Practice

We’ve covered a lot so far, but let’s review a few real examples of sustainable and unsustainable ecotourism in practice so you can better identify them.

Sustainable – Mountain Gorilla Trekking Ecotourism

Mountain gorilla treks in Uganda and DR Congo are great sustainable ecotourism models supported by local government, residents, and conservation groups. Uganda even has a conservation economy that prioritizes conservation as an economic value. Mountain gorillas are endangered in a vulnerable natural habitat surrounded by high-density rural farmers. A sustainable ecotourism model in the region protects both gorillas and includes the livelihood of residents.

Environmental: The presence of tourists deter poachers and encourage local governments to implement protection of the gorillas. Gorilla populations are increasing as a result of sustainable ecotourism. 

Economic: Locals are offered stable employment opportunities as guides, trackers, and anti-poaching guards. Many of them are ex-poachers, which reduces the poaching threat even more.  Over five years, US$428,000 was directly invested in Rwandan communities, helping locals build schools, enact locally-driven environmental projects, and aid food security.

Social : Cultural exchange between local guides and tourists enhances cultural and environmental education. Local guides can showcase years of local expertise and take pride in their culture and nature. Gorilla ecotourism has played a fundamental role in keeping the peace in Rwanda in a post-genocide landscape. 

mountain gorilla eating a leaf

Interested in learning more about ethical mountain gorilla treks? Kesi from Kesi to Fro created an awesome guest post detailing her first-hand experience seeing mountain gorillas in the wild. You can join her on a group trip to Uganda to work with local tour operators to support conservation, boost the local economy, and engage in cultural exchange. Learn more about sustainable gorilla trekking!

Unsustainable – Machu Picchu Ecotreks

Ecotourism in Machu Picchu has exploded over the last decade. Tourism in the region has grown unchecked, with international and local tour companies capitalizing on the economic benefit of a booming industry. However, tourism grew unsustainable, focusing primarily on the economy rather than the environment or social aspects. This is a prime example of when ecotourism turns into mass overtourism. 

eco tour advantages

Photo by Alan Hurt Jr. Unsplash

Environment: Mass development in the region surrounding Machu Picchu threatens South America’s last remaining pocket of the Andean cloud forest. Increased waste from humans adds to air and water pollution. Heavy foot traffic damages the fragile Paramo grasslands. Noise pollution contributed to the disappearance of the Andean condors from the region. Migrating and breeding patterns of threatened animals have changed.

Economic: Most workers and guides are left without work or stable year-round income during the off-season. Tourism leakage, where locals do not benefit as much as they should from tourism in the region, is problematic. 

Social: Portions of the city are sliding downhill, causing damage to a cultural and historical icon. Visitors have defaced, broken, and damaged parts of the city. An increase in cheaply made trinkets has caused a decline in local artisanal craftwork. Overall, the region has suffered a loss of cultural authenticity. The visitor experience has suffered greatly, too, with packed trails and long waits.  

*This does not mean that all Machu Picchu treks are bad. You can still visit, but be respectful as you visit, support local tour operators, respect permits, buy quality souvenirs, pay additional fees, and follow all instructions from your guide to minimize your impact. You should also consider other ways to learn about the region’s history or find an alternative hike.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Susanna • Sustainble Travel (@curiositysaves.travel)

Tips for Planning a Sustainable Ecotour

By now you should have a pretty good idea of what constitutes sustainable ecotourism and be able to identify if your next nature-based adventure checks some of these boxes, but here are my top tips to help you get started. 

Read Their About Page

You can tell a lot about a tour operator by looking at their “about” page. I always say the more details, the better. Tour companies, hotels, and excursions near vulnerable nature and communities should freely offer up a lot of detailed information about how they are hitting that triple bottom line. If any of the three pillars of sustainable ecotourism is missing from their mission statement or is not easily accessible online, that is your first major red flag. Browse the website to see how they support the environment, local economic development, and cultural conservation. 

Look for Greenwashing

There is the possibility that companies will engage in greenwashing, presenting information on their website that makes for a convincing sustainable ecotourism model. Some signs companies are greenwashing are when they offer vague information, make general statements about committing to sustainability without examples, or put customer satisfaction and fun at the center of their advertising rather than social impact. 

Cliffs of moher Ireland

When in Doubt, Ask

I always recommend sending an email asking how they give back to the community, where your money goes, what local conservation efforts are, how they engage with local culture if they employ locals, etc.  The tour company should be able to respond with detailed statements of how they consider and benefit local communities, economic vitality, and conservation of the natural environment.

Check Their Business Model

Is sustainability part of their core mission, or is it an afterthought? Research shows that companies built around a sustainable business model prioritizing social, economic, and environmental benefits to the local community are more likely to be ethical in the long term. Companies that create a sustainable statement as an afterthought or in response to harmful behavior they are caught for are more likely to engage in damaging behavior. A great example of this is Carnival Cruises. Carnival has literal pages outlining their commitment to the environment, but this was created because a court ordered them and not necessarily because they wanted to do it from the goodness of their heart. Look for companies that were founded to create a positive impact. This information is often included in an origin story or about section.

Alaska Bald Eagle

Find the Owner

Who owns the company? Is it locally owned? Google the name of the owner. For example, many cruise lines and resorts appear to be small boutique companies, but they are owned by large international conglomerates. If in doubt, Google “Who owns X eco-resort.”

Look for certifications, read reviews, and the internet stalk them. Look for environmental warnings report cards, read comments on their social media, and dig up any information you can find.

Self Planning? Carefully Craft Your Itinerary

If you are self-planning carefully, identify each hotel and excursion operator to see how they engage in the triple-bottom line. Research environmental concerns in the area. For example – did you know you should clean your shoes in Hawai’i before entering protected natural areas?  Learn about Indigenous and local culture and history. Be aware of local etiquette for engaging in nature.

Ecotourism 101. Understanding what is ecotourism. Is ecotourism good or bad. Why we need sustainable ecotourism.

  • Create a checklist and save it on your computer to help you identify sustainable ecotourism. Having this handy will help you identify sustainable ecotourism excursions that you can feel good supporting.
  • What are some of your favorite sustainable eco-tour companies or excursions you’ve supported? Let us know in the comments so we can all learn about great companies around the world working toward helping local communities and protecting our environment.

Make sure you share this post so all your fellow travelers can discover the benefits of sustainable ecotourism and be able to identify the difference between sustainable and unsustainable ecotourism – so we can all do our part to save travel!

eco tour advantages

About the Author: Susanna Kelly-Shankar

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Eco-tourism may eventually turn into over-tourism. AFAIK Bhutan is the leader in eco-tourism and they have achieved so through active community participation and effective government regulation.

Thanks for writing the post.

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Hi Pawan, Yes, ecotourism can quickly turn into over-tourism and it is the responsibility of the traveler to do their research and engage in sustainable ecotourism. That’s lovely you’re engaging the community! I wish you the best and hope I am able to visit Bhutan in the future!

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This is so detailed! So much to think about and consider how we can do better during our travels. There’s always room to do better!!

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I love how much ecotourism is starting to get attention. I think, especially for travelers, we love the earth and communities around the earth so much that it’s so important to learn how to connect responsibly and take care of it/each other

It really is important to learn about sustainable ecotourism and how to engage to be mindful of the environment. Thanks for reading.

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This is alot of great information.

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Thank you for such a thought provoking post. I learned a lot. You’ve given me much to think about. Thank you for all that you’ve invested in this post.

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Thanks for sharing this insightful post on ecotourism. The way you broke down and explained everything was better than anything else I’ve read on the topic.

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I love this! It’s so important to differentiate between nature-based tourism and eco tourism, and I feel like even I have been guilty of confusing thee two in the past. Definitely saving this and sharing!

It’s super confusing – and not always the fault of the traveler with greenwashing or companies that simply don’t know any better or lack resources to be sustainable. So, hopefully, this guide to ecotourism helps differentiate between nature-based tourism, sustainable and unsustainable ecotourism. Thanks for reading.

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This is such a smart post. It’s well written and very compelling. It’s the kind of information I would gladly assign my environmental ed. students. Great job!

Oh let me know if you end up sharing it with some of your students. It is a great topic to learn about regarding the intersection of the environment and tourism.

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For island destinations, the problem is often even more a concern. Islands belonging to countries with a mainland usually have tourism that’s developed from the mainland, with resorts being technically local but are really effectively like foreign owners since there’s often a distinct cultural difference between the two. After all, if the tourism collapses because the nature is gone, the resort investor just liquidates and goes back to the mainland, where they have their real homes. But the islanders are often tempted by the promises of employment by such resort developments, that sometimes they don’t query too hard which of the resorts are legit committed to them and which are insincere. It’s really bullying and it pisses me off.

That’s a great addition talking about islands with the mainland – that even though they are local there can still be problems. I know this likely happens in the Hawaiian islands. I agree with the bullying tactics. Sometimes the lure of money is so tempting for these places that they are pigeonholed into supporting sustainable tourism. In Alaska, one small Indigenous town simply asked a major cruise line to limit capacity during their drop-offs and within 2 days the cruise line said they would no longer dock there and take all their money. It was an all-or-nothing situation for people simply asking for larger cruise companies to engage in some sustainable behaviors. Thanks for sharing!

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That’s a good hard look at an issue we are all struggling with. I’m going to keep all this in mind when booking my next trip.

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Thanks for this insightful blog post! Love to read something different and outstanding! We really need to talk more about ecotourism!

this was so informative I didn’t realize there were so many aspects to eco tourism. Thanks for sharing

It is a great article about eco-tourism and sustainable tourism, you have explained everything in detail. It only teaches us how we can travel responsibly. Thanks for this valuable information.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, I really appreciate it. I hope you learned something new about sustainable ecotourism. Make sure you share it to pass along the message.

Very insightful article. Thank you so much.

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The International Ecotourism Society

What Is Ecotourism?

Conservation, offering market-linked long-term solutions, ecotourism provides effective economic incentives for conserving and enhancing bio-cultural diversity and helps protect the natural and cultural heritage of our beautiful planet., communities, by increasing local capacity building and employment opportunities, ecotourism is an effective vehicle for empowering local communities around the world to fight against poverty and to achieve sustainable development., interpretation, with an emphasis on enriching personal experiences and environmental awareness through interpretation, ecotourism promotes greater understanding and appreciation for nature, local society, and culture., the definition., ecotourism is now defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education” (ties, 2015). education is meant to be inclusive of both staff and guests., principles of ecotourism, ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. this means that those who implement, participate in and market ecotourism activities should adopt the following ecotourism principles:.

  • Minimize physical, social, behavioral, and psychological impacts.
  • Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
  • Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
  • Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
  • Generate financial benefits for both local people and private industry.
  • Deliver memorable interpretative experiences to visitors that help raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climates.
  • Design, construct and operate low-impact facilities.
  • Recognize the rights and spiritual beliefs of the Indigenous People in your community and work in partnership with them to create empowerment.

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Pros And Cons Of Ecotourism: What You Should Know

eco tour advantages

Who would refuse to spend their vacation in the open air , surrounded by mountain peaks or on the banks of a clear river? Ecotourism is currently one of the most popular solutions for a vacation. Spending a few days or weeks in such an environment without sacrificing any comfort is a dream for many people.  What exactly is ecotourism, and what are its benefits?

A person awakens strength and feels filled with energy as a result of communication with nature . Furthermore, such relaxation allows one to not only recharge one’s batteries but also spend unforgettable days with one’s closest friends and family.

Is Ecotourism Good or Bad?

tent, ecotourism, nature, forest, camping

Ecotourism is a relatively new trend that has emerged in recent years, but it has quickly established itself as an intriguing and appealing type of tourism. Green tourism appeals to people of all ages who want to live a healthy lifestyle and do not mind spending time in nature for health reasons.

Ecotourism is conditionally divided into three categories :

  • Increasing scientific knowledge . When a person studies, conducts research and communicates with nature to gain new knowledge. This category includes field research and research conducted by experts, specialists, and students from higher education institutions.
  • Contributing to recreation and general knowledge about nature . Many doctors advise patients to improve their health by visiting nature for therapeutic purposes . This category is appropriate for ethnographic trips, photo hunting, and studying some natural features;
  • Increasing natural resources . People who visit nature hold events that help save natural resources . For example, travellers plant trees, help to recultivate soils, clean water from waste, etc.

The Goals of Environmental Tourism

ecotourism, nature, environment, hiking, trekking, mountain

Of course, ecotourism arose for a reason. It unites many goals, the most important of which is the preservation of the environment . The following are the primary goals of green tourism:

  • Gaining knowledge about nature ;
  • Interaction with and assistance to nature in resource conservation ;
  • Increasing population literacy through visits to locations that highlight the traditions and characteristics of the local residents ;
  • Keeping the environment clean. Tourists can visit different locations not only for recreation but also to help clean up the environment ;
  • Improvement of ecotourism participants’ ecological culture .

As you can see, ecotourism is important not only for taking care of one’s own health, but also for protecting and caring for the environment in which one is located. It can be, for example, combining active recreation in the mountains with garbage collection from the rivers and surrounding territories.

Ecotourism, of course, benefits the traveller more than it harms them. All forms of recreation, however, have advantages and disadvantages .

What Are Some Pros About Ecotourism?

ecotourism, sustainable tourism, mountains, camping, tents, nature, forest, lake

Spending more time in remote areas of nature is no longer only beneficial , but also fashionable . People are increasingly choosing to relax with their families on the grounds of nature reserves, forest grounds, or mountains rather than travelling to hot countries.

Because of their living conditions, it is often difficult to enjoy wildlife. A large portion of the population works day after day in the office, inhaling the smoke of factories and harmful gases emitted by automobiles before returning home. It is not surprising that many of them prefer privacy with nature after a long day at work .

The advantages of this type of recreation are self-evident. Ecotourism is popular among tourists because it allows them to spend time face-to-face with nature.

It is especially important for residents of large cities who often feel a lack of fresh air.

Let us take a look at the key advantages of ecotourism:

  • Recreation away from the hustle and bustle of city life
  • This type of journey is appropriate for both the elderly and children
  • You will receive a slew of memorable moments , positive emotions, and impressions
  • Each tour is always distinct and one-of-a-kind
  • The opportunity to contribute to the conservation of wildlife’s integrity
  • Knowledge of aboriginal culture and tradition
  • This type of travel not only improves general well-being , but also helps to normalize several systems at once: nervous, cardiovascular, and respiratory
  • Nature and terrain research
  • It is budget-friendly . It is simple to save money here because you do not need to spend money on spa treatments, hotel accommodations, and anything else that is typical of a vacation when staying at a resort
  • This type of tourism improves the economic situation of local societies and contributes significantly to the development of a specific region .
  • Attracting tourists to the ecological zone aids in the development of the region and provides employment for local residents
  •  Promotion of health and wellness

What Are Some Cons Of Ecotourism?

guide, travel guide, tourism, pros and cons ecotourism

There are also some disadvantages to ecotourism:

Absence of comfort and lodging conditions

People who are unprepared for life in the wilderness should avoid attempting ecotourism on the spur of the moment. Nature is beautiful. Nonetheless, spending weeks in the wilderness without hot water, a regular diet, or a good night’s sleep is not for everyone. As a result, your well-planned vacation can quickly turn into long-term torture.

Wild animals in their natural habitat

You should be prepared to interact with the animals if you go on a trip like this. Wild animals are unaccustomed to humans and may retaliate aggressively . So, hiring a guide is the best option in this case. A person who understands animal behaviour and has good navigation skills in the environment in which they live may be able to solve this problem.

Safety issues

Another significant disadvantage is the inaccessibility of all desired travel destinations . Every country has many reserves and parks that are spread out over large areas and are inaccessible to the general public . You must be able to recognize such areas where a tourist approach is safe . Contacting a special agency that will create a route for you and even find partners for the trip for a fee is the best option in this case.

To summarize, ecotourism is primarily a beneficial interaction between humans and nature . People can preserve and enrich natural resources, which is why ecotourism has become such a developed and interesting type of travelling.

Cover image: photo via pixhere


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Benefits of Ecotourism: How Responsible Travel Can Make a Positive Impact

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Benefits of Ecotourism: Ecotourism, also known as sustainable tourism, is a form of tourism that aims to minimize the negative impact on the environment while providing a unique experience for travelers. This type of tourism is becoming increasingly popular as people become more aware of the importance of sustainable living and conservation of the environment. In this article, we will explore the many benefits of ecotourism and why it is a great way to travel.

  • Environmental Benefits

One of the biggest benefits of ecotourism is the positive impact it has on the environment. Ecotourism is designed to minimize the negative impact of tourism on the environment. This means that when you choose to travel in this way, you are helping to protect and preserve the environment. Many ecotourism destinations have strict regulations in place to ensure that the local flora and fauna are not harmed, and natural resources are not overused.

  • Economic Benefits

Ecotourism can also bring significant economic benefits to local communities. Many ecotourism destinations are located in rural areas, where the local economy may be struggling. Ecotourism can provide a sustainable source of income for local communities, providing jobs and boosting the local economy. When you choose to travel in this way, you are supporting the local economy and helping to promote sustainable development.

  • Cultural Benefits

Ecotourism also provides an opportunity to learn about local cultures and traditions. Many ecotourism destinations offer opportunities to interact with local communities and learn about their way of life. This can be a transformative experience, helping to promote understanding and respect for different cultures.

  • Educational Benefits

Ecotourism can be a great way to learn about the environment and the importance of conservation. Many ecotourism destinations offer educational programs that teach visitors about the local ecosystem and the importance of protecting it. This can be a great way to learn about the environment and gain a deeper appreciation for the natural world.

  • Personal Benefits

Ecotourism can also be a great way to improve your physical and mental health. Many ecotourism destinations offer opportunities for physical activity, such as hiking, kayaking, or snorkeling. Being in nature can also be a great way to reduce stress and promote mental wellbeing. When you choose to travel in this way, you are not only helping the environment, but also benefiting yourself.

  • Conservation Benefits

Ecotourism can also help promote conservation efforts. By promoting sustainable tourism, ecotourism can help to protect and preserve natural resources. Many ecotourism destinations use tourism revenue to fund conservation efforts, such as protecting endangered species, preserving ecosystems, and reducing carbon emissions.

  • Sustainable Development Benefits

Ecotourism can also help to promote sustainable development. By providing a sustainable source of income for local communities, ecotourism can help to promote sustainable development and reduce poverty. This can have a positive impact on the environment, as well as on the lives of local communities.

  • Preservation of Cultural Heritage

Ecotourism also provides an opportunity to preserve cultural heritage. Many ecotourism destinations are located in areas with unique cultural heritage and traditions. Ecotourism can help to promote the preservation of these traditions, as well as to support the local communities that rely on them.

  • Responsible Travel

Ecotourism promotes responsible travel. This means that when you travel in this way, you are actively seeking to minimize your negative impact on the environment and local communities. Responsible travel can involve a variety of actions, from using eco-friendly products to supporting local businesses and avoiding activities that harm the environment.

  • Climate Change Mitigation

Ecotourism can also play a role in mitigating climate change. Many ecotourism destinations use renewable energy and implement sustainable practices to reduce their carbon footprint. By supporting these destinations, travelers can help to promote the use of renewable energy and reduce the negative impact of tourism on the environment.

  • Wildlife Conservation

Ecotourism can also help to promote wildlife conservation. Many ecotourism destinations are home to unique and endangered species. By promoting sustainable tourism in these areas, ecotourism can help to protect and preserve these species and their habitats.

  • Long-term Benefits

One of the great things about ecotourism is that it provides long-term benefits for the environment and local communities. When you choose to travel in this way, you are not just making a short-term impact. Your actions can have a lasting effect, helping to protect the environment and support sustainable development for years to come.

  • Positive Feedback Loop

Ecotourism also creates a positive feedback loop. By supporting sustainable tourism, travelers are helping to promote the use of renewable energy, reduce carbon emissions, and protect the environment. This, in turn, creates more opportunities for ecotourism, which can bring economic benefits to local communities and promote the conservation of the environment.

Ecotourism is a great way to travel responsibly and make a positive impact on the environment and local communities. From promoting conservation to supporting sustainable development, ecotourism provides a wide range of benefits for both travelers and local communities. So, if you want to travel in a way that is responsible and sustainable, consider ecotourism as a great option. By choosing to travel in this way, you can help to protect the environment and support sustainable development for years to come.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Benefits of Ecotourism

Q. What is ecotourism?

A – Ecotourism is a form of responsible travel that focuses on minimizing the negative impact on the environment and local communities while promoting conservation and sustainable development.

Q. How is ecotourism different from traditional tourism?

A – Traditional tourism focuses primarily on entertainment and relaxation, while ecotourism is centered around education, conservation, and sustainability.

Q. What are the benefits of ecotourism for the environment?

A – Ecotourism can help to promote conservation and protection of natural resources and ecosystems. It can also support sustainable development practices, which can minimize the negative impact of tourism on the environment.

Q. What are the benefits of ecotourism for local communities?

A – Ecotourism can provide economic benefits to local communities, including job creation and increased revenue from tourism. It can also help to preserve local cultures and traditions.

Q. Can ecotourism be practiced anywhere?

A – Ecotourism can be practiced in many different environments, including forests, oceans, and deserts. However, it is important to choose destinations that are committed to sustainable practices and are not contributing to the destruction of the environment or the exploitation of local communities.

Q. How can travelers ensure they are engaging in responsible ecotourism?

A – Travelers can ensure they are engaging in responsible ecotourism by doing their research and choosing destinations that prioritize sustainable practices and responsible tourism. They can also support local businesses and avoid activities that harm the environment.

Q. What are some popular ecotourism destinations?

A – Popular ecotourism destinations include Costa Rica, the Galapagos Islands, and the Amazon Rainforest. However, there are many destinations around the world that offer opportunities for responsible travel and ecotourism.

Q. Can ecotourism have a positive impact on climate change?

A – Yes, ecotourism can have a positive impact on climate change by promoting the use of renewable energy and sustainable practices. This can help to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the negative impact of tourism on the environment.

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What Is Ecotourism? (The History & Principles of Responsible Travel)

What is Ecotourism? 10 Simple Tips

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. All hosted affiliate links follow our editorial policies .

What is ecotourism? How does it work? Why does it matter? And how can we, as travelers, put the core principles of ecotourism into practice?

In recent years, the growth of interest in responsible travel has outpaced that of traditional sun/sand tourism by an increasingly wide margin.

With some experts estimating that ecotourism now represents 11.4% of all consumer spending, these sorts of questions have become more and more common. 

And, as we continue to see more negative impacts of mass tourism on beloved destinations around the world, the answers to these questions will become increasingly vital.

Part of the confusion surrounding sustainable travel  is the plethora of names being used for it within the industry.

E cotourism, a movement that began to take shape back in the 1980s, is the oldest and most commonly used word for it.

More recent industry buzzwords include sustainable tourism, green tourism, nature tourism, responsible tourism, ethical tourism, mindful travel, conscious travel, pro-poor tourism, and many others. 

Regardless of what you call it, the central concepts that these philosophies share in common are that the travel industry as a whole should adopt more environmentally friendly practices, protect the natural and cultural heritage of a destination, and support local communities.

With the United Nations designating 2017 as the  International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development , this seems like a great time to deepen the conversation about what ecotourism is and why it’s important for the future of travel.

Here we’ll explain the definition of ecotourism, examine its history and evolution, explore its core principles and benefits, and look at 10 ways that each of us as responsible travelers can ensure our adventures ultimately make a positive impact.

READ MORE:  How Mass Tourism is Destroying Destinations

What Is Ecotourism? (The History & Principles of Responsible Travel). Ecotourism was defined by Megan Epler Wood in 1990 as "Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." But what does that look like in action for travelers, and why does it matter? We examine the history and evolution of ecotourism through interviews with Wood (founder of The International Ecotourism Society) and Dr. Martha Honey (founder of the Center for Responsible Travel). We also explore some of the world's hottest ecotourism destinations, and look at how individuals can make their travel adventures more sustainable for the local people and the planet. via @greenglobaltrvl

  • The Definition of Ecotourism
  • A Brief History of Ecotourism
  • Ecotourism in the ’90s & Beyond
  • The Principles of Ecotourism
  • Ecotourism Principles in Action

The Benefits of Ecotourism

  • Other Articles on Ecotourism

What is Ecotourism - The Definition of Ecotourism


According to The Oxford English Dictionary , the word “ecotour” was first recorded in 1973, followed by “ecotourism” in 1982.

There, the word is defined as, “Tourism to areas of ecological interest (typically exotic and often threatened natural environments), especially to support conservation efforts and observe wildlife; spec. access to an endangered environment controlled so as to have the least possible adverse effect.”

Ecotourism was perhaps best defined in 1990 by Megan Epler Wood, the co-founder of The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) and author of six influential books on the subject.

Her latest, Sustainable Tourism on a Finite Planet: Environmental, Business and Policy Solutions ,  was released in 2017.

Now the director of the  International Sustainable Tourism Initiative at Harvard, Epler Wood’s original definition was more simple and to the point. She described ecotourism as, “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.”

In simple words, the meaning of ecotourism is travel that makes a positive impact on both the ECO logy and ECO nomy of a given destination.

One mistake many people make is assuming that ecotourism is all about conserving nature and wildlife by any means necessary. But if a destination or business’ tourism development strategy does not actively provide concrete financial benefits for the indigenous people, it’s not truly ecotourism.

Other NGOs, such as The Center for Responsible Travel  (CREST, whose co-founder Dr. Martha Honey also served as the Executive Director of TIES for four years), have since expanded on Epler Wood’s concept to provide more in-depth definitions of ecotourism.

CREST currently defines ecotourism as, “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, socially and economically sustains the well-being of local people, and creates knowledge and understanding through interpretation and education of all involved (including staff, travelers, and community residents).”

Other responsible travel organizations may have their own take on what ecotourism is, but these three are the most significant definitions.

READ MORE: Megan Epler Wood on the Evolution of Ecotourism

History of Ecotourism


Ecotourism’s earliest origins arguably began with the Sierra Club’s Outing program. Launched in 1901, these annual expeditions took hikers into the Sierra Nevada’s backcountry in order to show members natural wonders, “so that those persons could become active workers for the preservation of the forests.”

The modern movement began to take root in the environmental activism of the 1970s. Some sources suggest that the term ecotourism was originally coined by Mexican architect-turned-environmentalist  Héctor Ceballos-Lascuráin . He used the word to describe traveling to undisturbed areas in order to enjoy their natural beauty and culture.

In 1981 Ceballos-Lascuráin became the founding president of the Mexican Association for the Conservation of Nature, the most influential Mexican NGO in the conservation arena. In 1984 he founded the first Mexican ecotourism agency, ECOTOURS.

His 315-page book on Tourism, Ecotourism, and Protected Areas  was published in 1996 by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). He served for many years as an Ecotourism Advisor to both the IUCN and United Nations World Tourism Organization.

Megan Epler Wood was another one of the ecotourism movement’s earliest adopters. She was a young wildlife biologist hired by World Wildlife Fund founder (and former EPA director) Russell Train right out of grad school in the early ’80s.

Their all-star team at the time also included Russell Mittermeier  (now President of Conservation International) and  Thomas Lovejoy , who’s known as the “godfather of biodiversity.”

“In the 1980s the idea of sustainable development was new,” Epler Wood recalls. “There was a big conversation about finding ways to benefit local people who wanted to conserve natural areas. A few years later my husband and I lived in Colombia on a joint Fulbright scholarship. [We realized that] people visiting the rainforest were bringing a majority of the benefits those locals were seeing.

READ MORE: Top Ecotourism Destinations According to Experts

History of Ecotourism: Megan Epler Wood


After she returned home in 1988, Epler Wood went on to produce The Environmental Tourist  for PBS. She started pitching conservation NGOs a documentary on ecotourism that would be “the very first global investigation of how tourism could contribute to conservation of natural resources and local well-being.”

When that project lost its funding, she tapped into her contacts and started The International Ecotourism Society. The organization’s goal was to contribute to the development of ecotourism as a viable tool for conservation, protection of bio-cultural diversity, and sustainable community development.

Epler Wood left TIES in 2002 to start her own consulting firm. She was replaced by Dr. Martha Honey, the veteran journalist/historian who wrote the seminal book, Ecotourism and Sustainable Development: Who Owns Paradise?   in 1999. She was Executive Director of the organization from 2003 to 2006, and eventually founded the Center for Responsible Travel in Washington, DC.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Honey during a keynote presentation at the TBEX Travel Blogging Conference in Cancun, Mexico in 2014. When I asked about the changes she’s seen in the ecotourism industry over the past 20 years, Dr. Honey insisted that they were positive for the most part.

“It hasn’t lost or changed its core values, which are essentially that tourism should be done in a way that’s beneficial to environmental conservation and local communities and respectful of local cultures…The Slow Food movement, organic agriculture, travel philanthropy, concern about human trafficking and child sexual abuse, fair trade , carbon offsets, and animal welfare are all branches on the original tree.

There have been countless other ecotourism icons over the past 30 years, from Jonathan Tourtellot (NatGeo’s Destination Stewardship Center) and Jeff Greenwald (founder of Ethical Traveler) to eco-design authority Hitesh Meta.

Now ecotourism is considered one of the fastest-growing sectors in the travel industry (about 5% annually), accounting for around 6% of the world’s gross domestic product. Even as the market for traditional tourism grew stagnant, the UNWTO’s global forecast projected rapid growth in the ecotourism industry over the next decade.

READ MORE: Q&A With Dr. Martha Honey on Ecotourism

The Principles of Ecotourism


Ecotourism is essentially all about bringing nature/wildlife conservationists, local communities, and the responsible travel industry together to ensure development focused on long-term sustainability rather than short-term profits.

The goal is to develop tourist accommodations, activities, and attractions that benefit everyone involved– the local flora/fauna, the local people, travel industry stakeholders, and travelers alike.

With this mission in mind, the ecotourism industry has collectively developed a number of core guiding principles over the past few decades. Although international regulation and accreditation have remained elusive, these guidelines provide a general blueprint for responsible tourism development.

Many of these principles align with those of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council , which developed an extensive list of criteria for sustainable destinations, hotels, and tour operators.

1. Build Environmental & Cultural Awareness

Education is a key aspect of ecotourism initiatives, for locals and visitors alike. Most of these efforts are focused on improving awareness, sensitizing people to environmental issues, and encouraging them to be conscious of their impact on the places they visit.

Some tour operators create conservation education programs for local schools. Many offer interpretative guides, naturalists, and guest lecturers to help deepen travelers’ understanding of their experiences.

Immersive interactions with local cultures are also becoming increasingly common. These experiences often emphasize interaction rather than a typical performer-audience relationship with visitors.

2. Design & Operate Low-Impact Eco Tours/Facilities

Remember the old environmental adage, “Take only pictures, leave only footprints”? Today’s ecotourism industry strives to take it one step further.

The focus is all about sustainability, minimizing the negative carbon footprint travel often leaves on the environment. But these days the big picture goal is to create positive, rather than merely neutral impact.

From using alternative energy sources and ensuring all building materials are locally sourced to limiting eco tour group sizes, conscious consideration should be made to ensure low impact at every stage, from development to implementation.

3. Provide Financial Benefits for Conservation

The idea of using the revenue generated by ecotourism to help fund the conservation of nature and wildlife is not a new idea. In fact, it dates back more than 100 years, to the creation of the US National Parks Service .

Referred to by documentarian Ken Burns as “America’s Best Idea,” this concept has since been applied to more than 6,000 national parks in nearly 100 different countries around the world.

When managed properly, ecotourism can help provide a revenue-generating alternative to urbanization, deforestation, unsustainable agriculture, and poaching. And though critics claim ecotourism often fails to deliver on its promise, recent scientific studies continue to illustrate its conservation benefits.

4. Provide Financial Benefits for Local People

Critics have similarly pointed out that some ecotourism initiatives have created more problems for local people than they solve. Poorly managed programs can lead to conflicts over land and resources, unfair profit distribution, and cultural exploitation.

This is what happens when the phenomenon known as greenwashing – the disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image– rears its ugly head.

True ecotourism MUST provide financial benefits to local people, whether through direct (tours, admission fees, and donations) or indirect means (such as taxes on travel or accommodation). It generally works best when there is smaller scale, slower growth, and greater involvement by local communities in all steps of the tourism development process.

5. Support Human Rights

Ecotourism initiatives should always strive to support human rights, economic empowerment, and democratic movements in a given destination.

In addition to increasing awareness about sociopolitical and environmental issues facing a given destination, ecotourism initiatives should support local businesses and the rights of indigenous inhabitants to control their land and assets.

This principle is arguably the most problematic and contentious. Should tour companies or travelers boycott a given destination due to human rights abuses or unfair treatment of its indigenous population? In many cases, such boycotts don’t punish the powers-that-be nearly as harshly as the locals who rely heavily on tourism revenue to survive.

READ MORE: Why Responsible Travel Matters


Becoming a more responsible traveler is the best way to ensure your adventures are positive for the local people and the planet. 

Whe n the core principles of ecotourism are applied, it can stimulate financial growth in developing nations, strengthening the global economy.

Individually, one person taking these baby steps to going green might not seem to make much of an impact. But if we all take simple strides towards being more conscious of our choices, collectively we can m ake a world of difference. Here’s how!

Lightening up your load saves money on baggage fees and increases plane fuel-efficiency.

Pack items that can be washed in the sink and are quick drying so they can be worn multiple times during your trip.

We recommend (but do not receive compensation from) the ExOfficio brand, and wear it everywhere we travel.

Take shorter showers, turn off the faucet while shaving and brushing your teeth, and re-use towels for multiple days.

And NEVER use the hotel laundry, as they typically wash each guest’s clothes separately, even if there are only a few items.

READ MORE:   The Best Travel Clothing For 7 Travel Styles (An Epic Guide)

Examples of Ecotourism -Learning Mayan Pottery In Coba


When you leave your hotel room, turn off the lights, heat/AC and TV.

Consider leaving the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door so that the housekeeping staff won’t clean your room every day.

This will save on harsh chemical cleaning supplies and the electricity of vacuuming and washing bed linens.


Take a BPA-free water bottle you can refill, use just one bar of soap for both sink and shower.

Return brochures and maps once you’re finished using them, and hold on to your trash until you find a place to recycle it.

Seek out indigenous artisans and learn about their craft.

When we were in the Riviera Maya near Coba, we saw tons of assembly line art.

But instead we wound up buying from a man who taught local children and tourists the ancient craft of Mayan pottery and distributed profits equally among families in his village.

READ MORE:   What Is An Eco Lodge? A Guide to Eco-Friendly Accommodations

Types of Ecotourism: Shop small businesses like Jay D's in Dominica


Stick to marked trails to avoid harming native flora, and consider taking a bag to pick up trash along your journey.

Not only is it a great way to help keep the outdoors beautiful, but it also protects wildlife that might eat or get tangled in the garbage.


Take time to immerse yourself in the local music, art and cuisine. Embrace the cultural differences that make it unique.

Get to know the locals and how they view life. You might be surprised at the things you learn when you open your mind to new ideas!


Some cultures have very different traditions from yours.

Women are forbidden to show skin in some Muslim countries. For some, being photographed in like having your soul stolen.

Understand and respect these traditions, or risk offending the people whose culture you’re there to experience.

READ MORE: Embracing the Culture of the Maasai People of Tanzania

Importance of Ecotourism -International Expeditions Tour Company Donates School Supplies in the Peruvian Amazon

Developing nations are badly in need of basic necessities most people take for granted.

Traveling gives you a unique experience that stays with you for the rest of your life.

In return, consider giving something back, such as bringing school supplies on tours in which you know you’ll interact with locals.


Read labels, and ask questions like “What is this item made from?”

All over the planet people sell items made from non-sustainable hardwoods, endangered species, and ancient artifacts.

It may be alright in their country to sell them, but you can still vote with your wallet by refusing to buy them.

READ MORE: The Problem with Animal Selfies

Benefits of Ecotourism- Galapagos Islands


To quote CREST founder Dr. Martha Honey during our Keynote session at TBEX Cancun in 2014, we earnestly believe that ecotourism is “ simply a better way to travel . ” Here’s a look at how this transformational approach to travel benefits conservation, increases cross-cultural understanding, and ultimately turns travelers into environmental advocates:

Benefits to Wildlife

To see how ecotourism benefits nature and wildlife, let’s look at endangered species such as African Elephants . Ivory from Elephant tusks is worth $1500 a pound on the black market, which has led to a dramatic increase in poaching.

But  Elephants are worth 76 times more alive than dead . When you consider the revenue from wildlife photography tours , luxury safari camps, and other ecotourism offerings, a single Elephant is worth $1.3 million over the course of its lifetime!

Other heavily poached species, such as Lions and Rhinos , have shown to be similarly valuable alive. Ecotourism offers a long-term alternative to exploitation, generating sustainable revenue and ensuring better overall health of the ecosystem.

Benefits to the Environment

Nature reserves and national parks help prevent deforestation and pollution, while also protecting the habitat of endemic species.

The revenue that ecotourism provides can help replace profits from exploitative practices such as mining or slash ‘n’ burn agriculture. It can also help ensure the long-term financial viability of the area.

Naturalist guides also help travelers understand the value of a pristine ecosystem, and teach them about the importance of conservation. This ultimately help to create a more mindful and conscious legion of travelers.

Benefits to Local People

When managed properly, ecotourism can offer locals alternative revenue streams. In wildlife-rich countries such as Rwanda , former poachers are often employed as guides or trackers, capitalizing on their knowledge of the animals and their habitat.

In Costa Rica , unemployment has fallen to less than 10% since the country started building its ecotourism infrastructure in the 1970s. The country now enjoys the highest standard of living in Central America .

Involving local communities in tourism management empowers them by ensuring that more revenue is reinvested locally. Ecotourism also offers indigenous peoples an opportunity to remain on ancestral land, conserve it, and preserve traditional culture.

Benefits to Travelers

In the words of United Nations Secretary General Talib Rifai, the Year of Sustainable Tourism provided “a unique opportunity to advance the contribution of the tourism sector to the three pillars of sustainability– economic, social and environmental– while raising awareness of the true dimensions of a sector which is often undervalued.”

Sure, being a responsible traveler takes a greater level of commitment to being conscious and mindful of the impact we have on the destinations we visit. But ecotourism also offers us incredible, transformative experiences, allowing us to develop closer personal relationships to the nature, wildlife, and local people we encounter during our adventures.

Learning about ecotourism during my life-changing experience in South Africa   in 2000 permanently changed my understanding of mankind’s role in our planetary ecosystem. And I firmly believe that, once you’ve had that sort of travel experience, you’ll never want to travel the traditional way again.   –Bret Love; photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett unless otherwise noted

Green Global Travel's Articles on Ecotourism


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7 Harmful Practices Tourists Should Never Support

Why Slow Travel is Better

Why Community Based Tourism is Vital to Responsible Travel

What Is An Eco Lodge? A Guide to Eco-Friendly Accommodations

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10 Steps to Becoming a More Responsible Traveler

Green Travel Tips: The Ultimate Guide to Sustainable Travel

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What Is Ecotourism? (The History & Principles of Responsible Travel). Ecotourism was defined by Megan Epler Wood in 1990 as "Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." But what does that look like in action for travelers, and why does it matter? We examine the history and evolution of ecotourism through interviews with Wood (founder of The International Ecotourism Society) and Dr. Martha Honey (founder of the Center for Responsible Travel). We also explore some of the world's hottest ecotourism destinations, and look at how individuals can make their travel adventures more sustainable for the local people and the planet. via @greenglobaltrvl

About the Author

Green Global Travel is the world's #1 independently owned ecotourism website encouraging others to embrace sustainable travel, wildlife conservation, cultural preservation, and going green tips for more sustainable living.

We've been spotlighted in major media outlets such as the BBC, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, The Guardian, Lonely Planet, National Geographic, Travel Channel, Washington Post and others.

Owned by Bret Love (a veteran journalist/photographer) and Mary Gabbett (business manager/videographer), USA Today named us one of the world's Top 5 Travel Blogging Couples. We were also featured in the 2017 National Geographic book, Ultimate Journeys for Two, for which we contributed a chapter on our adventures in Rwanda. Other awards we've won include Best Feature from both the Caribbean Tourism Organization and the Magazine Association of the Southeast.

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30 Top Pros & Cons Of Ecotourism

“ We’re trying to find a tourism model that allows communities to thrive while business prospers.”

Jochen Zeitz, Businessman

Advantages & Disadvantages of Ecotourism

advantages and disadvantages of ecotourism

Ecotourism has become increasingly popular over the past years.

The term ecotourism refers to vacations that are spent in natural environments without disturbing or damaging natural habitats.

Hence, ecotourism can be regarded as an eco-friendly way to spend your vacation.

Please enable JavaScript

Yet, apart from the many advantages of ecotourism, there are also some downsides to this concept.

In this article, the pros and cons of ecotourism are examined in detail.

Audio Lesson

Advantages of ecotourism, ecotourism can protect the local flora and fauna, ecosystems can be sustained in a natural state, can help to increase the awareness of our environmental problems, people will learn how to improve their ecological footprint, good to educate your kids, ecotourism can give you a good feeling, you can explore untouched nature, can also be quite exciting for locals, ecotourism can preserve ancient knowledge, sustainable resource use, you can explore new cultures, ecotourism can help to improve the overall infrastructure in a region, important income source for locals, additional income can be used for the preservation of nature, ecotourism can help against unemployment in a region.

One benefit of ecotourism is that it aims to protect the local animals and plants.

While other forms of tourism, especially mass tourism, do not care about our environment too much, ecotourism has the goal to protect our natural habitats and to sustain the natural living conditions of numerous animals and plants while giving tourists the opportunity to visit those spectacular natural places at the same time.

Hence, compared to other kinds of vacations, ecotourism has the focus to protect our local flora and fauna , which can be quite important in order to avoid the endangerment or extinction of many animal and plant species all over the world.

Ecotourism not only aims to protect our flora and fauna, it also has the goal to sustain our natural ecosystems as best as possible.

For instance, this often also includes that some parts of nature reserves are not accessible to humans at all so that animals and plants have sufficient space to reproductive and to live in peace.

In turn, our ecosystems can continue to develop in an almost entirely natural manner.

In order to solve our environmental problems, it is also crucial that we raise the awareness of the general public on those important topics.

Many people are still not yet aware of how important it really is that we solve our global problems in the near future in order to ensure the livelihood of many future generations.

Many people are just too busy in their daily life and don’t want to worry about our environmental issues during their leisure time.

Thus, it is crucial that we raise the awareness of people on those important issues somehow and one way to do this is to show them our ecological problems through ecotourism.

By doing so, people will become more aware of our global problems and may also be more willing to make efforts to behave more environmentally-friendly also when they come back home.

Another upside of ecotourism is that people will not only learn about our environmental problems and how to solve them, they will also learn how they can improve their ecological footprint in various parts of their daily life.

Many people simply don’t know how to behave eco-friendly and guides who work in ecotourism will often also have great knowledge in this regard.

In order to solve our environmental problems, it is not only crucial to improve the awareness of adults, it is also quite important that we educate our children about those problems and how we can solve them.

Many children, especially if they grow up in big cities, will have no connection at all to nature.

In fact, if you ask these children where our food comes from, they will often respond: “From the grocery store” 😉.

Hence, you see that it is crucial to also raise the awareness of our kids and to teach them how to live eco-friendly.

By doing so, chances are that your kids will also adopt these eco-friendly characteristics into adulthood, which is crucial in order to ensure the livelihood of millions or even billions of people in the future.

If you engage in ecotourism, chances are that you will also have a much cleaner conscience compared to spending your vacation in a way that is detrimental to our planet.

Many of us subconsciously know that our conventional way of traveling is quite harmful to our environment and that we have to make a change in order to protect our planet.

Thus, through ecotourism, you will also have the feeling that you contributed your part to a better future and therefore, chances are that you will also be able to enjoy your vacation much more.

Another advantage of ecotourism is that you can spend your vacation in rather untouched natural territories.

Quite often, ecotourism is done in remote parts of our planet which not many tourists have ever seen before.

Hence, if you look for something special and you want to explore areas that are almost untouched by humans, ecotourism may be the way to go for you.

On my travels, I also had been to quite remote places of our planet.

In fact, many people in those areas have not seen too many tourists before and were quite excited and interested to talk to me and to find out why I was actually traveling to those places.

Thus, ecotourism can not only benefit tourists, it may also be quite exciting for locals to meet new people from all over the world and to stay connected to them over social media.

Ecotourism is also quite important to preserve ancient knowledge regarding certain traditions or also medical knowledge that would get lost otherwise.

For instance, if people are paid to engage in traditional shamanic rituals or to show tourists ancient cultural techniques, chances are that more of this knowledge will survive and will not get lost in the near future.

Therefore, ecotourism can also help to preserve ancient knowledge that had been handed on for many thousands of years.

Ecotourism also aims to use our natural resources as efficiently as possible.

For instance, on many trips related to ecotourism, organizers of those trips take great care that tourists don’t consume too many natural resources.

This is especially true for fossil resources which may become depleted in the near future.

This will not only make your travels more resource-efficient, it can also raise your awareness of how important it is to save natural resources and chances are that you will also save more natural resources when you come back home.

Since ecotourism often takes place at rather remote locations of our planet, it is also a great way to experience new cultures that you will likely have never heard of before.

In fact, it can be quite fascinating to experience those cultures since many indigenous people still live pretty original lifestyles which are quite different from how we live in our rich Western world.

Thus, ecotourism can also give you the opportunity to expand your horizon and to learn a lot about alternative cultural views on the world and also about alternative lifestyles.

The money that can be generated through ecotourism can also be used to improve the overall infrastructure of a region.

This can be especially important for poor regions of our planet where governments and local municipalities often don’t have sufficient funds to finance those important infrastructure projects.

In turn, this can greatly benefit the local population since higher investments in infrastructure can also lead to higher overall education levels, which is crucial to overcome poverty in the long run.

Many people on our planet also rely on tourism as a major income source.

Hence, ecotourism can also be a great way to expand this important income source to more areas of our world so that more people can make a living out of tourism while raising awareness of our environmental problems at the same time.

The preservation of our ecosystems is also not for free and the additional money that can be earned through ecotourism can also be used to preserve natural habitats or for reforestation projects so that the overall quality of our natural habitats can be improved.

Tourism also provides employment opportunities for millions of people all over the world and can help to protect them against unemployment .

Thus, many people will also be able to ensure their livelihood through jobs in the ecotourism industry and we should encourage the expansion of this industry branch in order to give even more people the opportunity to make enough money in order to be able to survive.

eco tour advantages

Disadvantages of Ecotourism

May still disturb local wildlife to a certain extent, ecotourism may lead to littering, wild animals may get used to humans, ecotourism is subject to a significant level of discretion, natural tribes may be forced to leave their home, additional money from ecotourism will often not benefit the general public, some ecotourism activities may become too popular, ecotourism can be quite time-consuming, many people will forget what they learned, people may be turned into attractions, animal souvenirs may be sold, ecological imbalance, pollution related to reaching your remote travel destination, tourists may get exploited, ecotourism may change the traditional values of people over time.

Although ecotourism tries its best to keep the adverse impact on our environment to a minimum, chances are that the local wildlife will still be disturbed to a certain extent.

Imagine you visit areas that had been almost entirely untouched by humans before.

Chances are that local animals will not know how to deal with tourists in an adequate manner and may feel disturbed, which may also affect their reproduction rate.

It is quite sad but even though many people claim to be ecotourists and to take care of our environment, their actions tell something different.

Some people still dispose of their trash in nature, which can lead to excessive littering in the long run.

In turn, natural environments may turn into garbage dumps and the natural character of ecotourism will be completely lost.

Another problem of ecotourism is that wild animals may get used to humans over time.

Even though this might be great for tourists, especially for children since they will be able to get in touch with those animals and can also feed them, it will be rather bad for our environment.

The domestication of animals is an unnatural process and we should try to keep animals wild instead of turning them into pets since this is their original nature.

The term “ecotourism” is also subject to a significant level of discretion.

In many countries, this term is not protected and many travel agencies use this term as bait in order to lure tourists into their activities, even though those activities may have nothing to do with eco-tourism at all.

Consequently, before you book a trip, make sure that the activities that you will take part in will actually be eco-friendly and not only an advertising promise that will not be kept at all.

There had even been cases where natural tribes had to leave their home since the space had been needed to build lodges for tourists in order to accommodate them.

Hence, in such a case, ecotourism is doing much more harm than good and this should never be in line with the principles of true eco-friendly tourism.

In many cases, even though plenty of additional money can be generated through ecotourism, chances are that this money will often not benefit the general public, but only a small financial elite who owns national parks or hotels.

Hence, although locals will be able to make some money from the ecotourism industry, they will often only work as employees instead of really owning an ecotourism business and getting the profits.

Therefore, the general public may not benefit too much from the income from ecotourism activities since a small elite may get almost all of the profits.

Once the nicest places for ecotourism become public, chances are that those places and activities are flooded with tourists from all over the world.

At our current age, it is quite easy to share information over social media and places that had been secret for a long time will now become subject to the awareness of the general public.

Hence, especially in those locations, ecotourism may do more harm than good since too many people in one area will completely destroy the natural experience and chances are that also the local wildlife will be adversely influenced, which also goes against the principles of ecotourism.

Since ecotourism is often done at quite remote locations of our planet in the middle of rather untouched nature, chances are that you will also have to spend plenty of time to get to those locations.

Therefore, if you really want to engage in ecotourism, make sure that you have sufficient time to get to those remote locations and back in order to get the full natural experience.

Another issue of ecotourism is that many people will also forget quite fast about what they learned during their ecotourism trip.

While they might have gotten aware of our environmental problems, they may still not be willing to adjust their behavior in their daily life back home and many people will continue to live a life which is pretty eco-unfriendly.

Thus, if you go on an ecotourism trip, make sure that you implement what you learned back at your home so that you can improve your overall ecological footprint in the long run.

Ecotourism can also be damaging to the local culture. In some cases, indigenous people are even turned into attractions and sometimes, tourists are even encouraged to make fun of those people.

Therefore, if this is the case, ecotourism does much more harm than good and ecotourism should always aim to also treat indigenous people with high levels of respect.

An additional disadvantage of ecotourism is that animal souvenirs of some sort may be sold.

Quite often, the teeth or other parts of animals are sold to tourists.

However, in order to make those souvenirs, many animals have to lose their lives.

Thus, make sure that you refrain from buying those souvenirs in order to protect the local fauna.

Although humans may take great care to respect nature and to minimize their adverse impact on local ecosystems through ecotourism, chances are that this kind of tourism may still lead to some ecological imbalance in the long run.

Especially if people litter in natural environments, chances are that those ecosystems may get out of balance sooner or later.

There is also some level of pollution that cannot be avoided.

For instance, if you want to travel to quite remote parts of our planet, you will often have to use a plane to get there.

All other travel methods would simply be too time-consuming and also too expensive.

Therefore, also ecotourism implies some pollution , even though it aims to keep pollution levels to a minimum.

In some cases, locals may also try to exploit tourists in order to increase their profits.

Many people around the world still struggle to ensure their livelihood and tourists are often regarded as significant income sources.

Locals often think that tourists are quite wealthy and can afford to pay large sums of money for tourist activities.

Hence, those locals will often charge quite high prices for certain activities, which may also damage the image of ecotourism in the long run.

There is the problem that ecotourism will likely change the cultural values of indigenous people in the long run.

Just a few decades ago, those people lived fully in line with natural processes and got all they needed out of nature.

They had been completely independent of other income sources and would take great care of our environment since they knew they needed to work in line with natural processes in order to survive.

However, this is going to change since the influence of tour agencies greatly increases in those regions and indigenous people will soon also live a much more Western lifestyle, which can be quite harmful to our environment in the long run.

eco tour advantages

Top 10 Ecotourism Pros & Cons – Summary List

Does ecotourism make sense.

As we have seen before, there are many advantages and disadvantages of ecotourism.

While ecotourism can definitely make sense to increase the awareness of people on our environmental problems in order to solve them in time, ecotourism can also do more harm than good if it is organized with the intention of profit maximization.

Therefore, governments all over the world should set regulations to make ecotourism really environmentally-friendly in order to ensure positive environmental effects of it in the long run.




eco tour advantages

About the author

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.

As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.

After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.

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The Many Benefits of Eco-Tourism

By: Author Guest Blogger

Posted on Last updated: July 13, 2021

Bulungula, an eco-lodge on the coast of South Africa

Want to escape the traditional tourism trail?

Eco-tourism offers a unique opportunity for anyone planning a holiday to experience a different side of a country to the one usually seen.

While many head for the beach, eco-tourism holidays allow tourists to glimpse beyond traditional holiday destinations, embracing local communities, culture, and unspoiled nature.

Efforts to reduce carbon footprint and ‘go green' have become increasingly popular worldwide, and countries are gradually offering a wider choice of eco-tourism holidays to suit everyone.

More and more countries are introducing aspects of eco-tourism to tourists, bringing benefits to the countries visited and enhancing holiday experiences and memories.

Eco-tourism tends to be on a smaller scale and incorporates locally owned activities.

Popular eco-tourism activities help encourage local interaction and often involve nature, wildlife species, and natural resources.

Nature and culture become the main attractions hand in hand with a unique tourism experience.

Tourist activities through eco-tourism help preserve natural resources and the environment for future generations to enjoy.

This sustainable type of tourism has a low impact on nature, and its carbon footprint is minimal.

It allows tourists to venture into unspoiled scenery and closer to nature, on less-traveled paths, for a new experience without fear of damaging the view and surroundings.

Eco-tourism works in harmony with the environment, with a strong commitment to protecting plants, animals, wildlife species, natural resources, and scenery.

Bulungula, South Africa

To the tourist, this may be a horse ride with friends along unspoiled beaches and secluded waters, touring mountains and lakes, watching a sunset from a less traveled vantage point, or trekking through well-preserved forest or jungle into local communities.

Eco-tourism promotes responsible travel and enables local communities to engage with tourists building up and sustaining their economies.

Local communities often rely on tourism as the main source of income and employment.

In exchange, tourists often get the chance to admire local craftwork and take home original souvenirs from rural villages and communities, conserving the countries heritage.

This direct contact with a host's culture opens up remote places across the globe to tourists charmed by the simplicity and richness of the community visited.

Interaction with local communities can reveal an insight into different rituals and customs, sampling traditional dances, home-grown food, locally prepared drinks, and unique celebrations, often unseen by tourists.

When traveling, always make sure to ask your travel agents about activities such as these, as they will often know.

Cultural preservation is often achieved through eco-tourism and can be a major draw for tourists across the globe.

Many local cultural landmarks and experiences worldwide require regular upkeep and management for future generations to enjoy.

Cultural preservation has an important historical role for most countries and is achieved best through the tourist trail.

Museums, castles, palaces, landmarks, and other cultural experiences help preserve a nation's culture by providing one-off holiday experiences.

If tourists have a combined love for travel and nature and a commitment to environmental protection, bargain holidays allow tourists to embrace culture and tradition alongside natural surroundings.

Eco-tourism holidays involve travelers opting for a true ‘green' experience, incorporating many of these activities into an unforgettable adventure. 

About the Author: This is a guest post from  Travelling Blogger .

eco tour advantages

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Advantages of Ecotourism

by Jenny Green

Published on 23 Aug 2018

A vacation at an ecotourism site can give a warm, fuzzy feeling. Ecotourists learn about the ecosystems, traditions and cultures of their destination without missing out on adventure, excitement and relaxation. For local communities, it's a win-win experience. Ecotourism provides support through employment and other means, but not at the expense of the local environment. Search listings at reputable websites before booking a vacation to avoid unscrupulous companies that don't offer genuine ecotourism opportunities.

" id="ecotourism-and-the-environment " class="title"> Ecotourism and the Environment

Ecotourism helps protect natural habitats and pristine environments. The wealth of poorer countries is often tied up in natural resources like forests, minerals and land that could be used for agriculture. Exploiting these resources often means altering or destroying wildlife habitats and beautiful natural landscapes. Ecotourism allows countries and communities to build their economies without harming the environment, which means that local wildlife can thrive and visitors can enjoy untouched destinations. To check that vacation accommodation is environmentally friendly, check the accommodation's website for policies on waste management, recycling, renewable energy use and energy efficiency.

Economic Benefits of Ecotourism

Local jobs are only one of the economic benefits of ecotourism. As well as providing an income for staff who work at ecotourism sites, ecotourism allows them the opportunity to receive training in skills that can transfer to other areas of employment and even nutrition when they receive meals at work. Surplus income allows workers or their family members to start up small businesses or to pass on the money to other community members by buying local goods and paying for child care and other services. Ecotourism companies can also help give back to the community by offering training in useful skills.

Ecotourism and Travelers

The advantages that ecotourism offer travelers are personal, but their effects are widespread. Through visiting areas of stunning natural beauty, seeing animals in their native habitats and meeting members of local communities, travelers can increase their awareness of the importance of conserving resources and avoiding waste. They're encouraged to live more sustainably at home, and they can also increase their understanding of and sensitivity toward other cultures. Additionally, travelers learn how to help support other communities, not by handing out free gifts like toys and stationery, but by buying local produce and goods. When ecotourists return home, they spread the message to their families, friends and coworkers.

Characteristics of Ecotourism

Unfortunately, abuse of the ecotourism label does exist, but tourists can judge the validity of a destination by looking at several factors. Good ecotourism conserves local cultural and biological diversity, promotes the sustainable use of resources and supports local economies through employment and the use of local services. Other factors to look for include empowerment of the local community by shared participation in management, cultural and environmental awareness and minimal impact of tourist activities on local natural resources. To find genuine ecotourism opportunities, search the directories of reputable organizations such as The International Ecotourism Society and Responsible Travel.

Sustainability Success

Sustainability Success

what ecotourism is - definition and principles

What Ecotourism is, Definition and Principles

Ecotourism is a new way of looking at tourism. It’s about sustainable tourism, which means tourism that has a low impact on the environment. Ecotourism is also about education, conservation, and community development. But, what’s the definition of ecotourism?

By definition, ecotourism is travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.

Now let’s see more in detail what ecotourism is, its principles, and some interesting ecotourism examples around the world!

Table Of Contents

What is Ecotourism?

Ecotourism is a type of tourism that is both environmentally friendly and educational. It focuses on the conservation of natural resources and the protection of the environment while providing locals with sustainable economic opportunities.

This form of tourism is designed to provide an immersive experience that allows visitors to gain an understanding of the local environment and its associated issues.

Ecotourism typically involves activities that are respectful of the environment, such as hiking, biking, and bird watching. It also usually involves staying in eco-friendly accommodations, such as tree houses, cabins, and eco lodges made from renewable materials.

Ecotourism operators also strive to be environmentally conscious and reduce their environmental footprint and use renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, whenever possible.

Ecotourism not only benefits the environment, but it also provides economic opportunities for local communities. By providing jobs and income to people in the area, ecotourism helps to support the local economy.

Finally, there is also a different flavor of ecotourism: geotourism . This is a form of ecological tourism that is focusing more on the geological aspects of the destination.

Why is ecotourism important?

Ecotourism is an important form of tourism because it helps to protect the environment and promote sustainable development .

By encouraging visitors to take part in activities such as eco-friendly travel, environmental education, and conservation efforts, ecotourism helps support local communities and their natural resources.

Ecotourism is a form of green tourism and acts on all the 3 pillars of sustainability (also known as the triple bottom line , 3 Ps , or 3 Es ): environmental, social, and economic.

  • Environmental sustainability aspects: ecotourism encourages people to become more aware of the environment and their impact on it. By promoting eco-friendly practices, such as reducing energy consumption, minimizing waste, and using renewable energy sources, ecotourism helps to reduce the negative effects of tourism on the environment. This can help to create a healthier environment for everyone, both locals and tourists alike.
  • Social sustainability aspects: this type of tourism helps to promote cultural sustainability , a deeper understanding of local traditions, and appreciation, as visitors get to experience the local culture and customs.
  • Economic sustainability aspects: ecotourism helps to create jobs and stimulate local economies. By providing sustainable economic opportunities for local communities, ecotourism helps to create a more equitable and sustainable economic system.

The Principles Of Ecotourism

Here are some of the principles of ecotourism (as outlined by the United Nations Environment Programme ) that ensure the positive effects of tourism are felt both locally and globally.

The primary goal of ecotourism is to minimize the negative environmental and cultural impacts of tourism. To do this, travelers must be educated on the importance of conservation and the need for responsible business practices. Additionally, the money generated from tourism should be directed toward the conservation and management of natural and protected areas.

Zoning and visitor management plans should also be employed to ensure that tourism development does not exceed the social and environmental limits of acceptable change. Furthermore, it’s important to minimize the use of fossil fuels and to construct infrastructure that blends with the natural and cultural environment.

Ecotourism is all about maximizing the economic benefits for the host country, local businesses, and communities while following sustainable business practices . Those should particularly benefit local people living near or around natural and protected areas. By adhering to these principles, ecotourism can be a great way to enjoy the beauty of nature while also making a positive impact on the environment.

This means that ecotourism is not just about visiting a place and taking pictures. It’s about learning the local culture and the natural environment and doing your part to protect both.

10 Ecotourism Examples: The Best Destinations Around the World

There are a variety of ecotourism examples around the world, ranging from remote rainforest lodges to luxury safari camps.

Now, let’s dive deeper into some of the top examples of ecotourism around the world. Each of these places offers a unique and memorable experience, with opportunities for wildlife viewing, bird watching, and learning about the local culture and environment!

1. Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a prime destination for ecotourism, with its lush green rainforests, stunning beaches, and abundant wildlife. The country has made a name for itself as a leader in sustainable tourism, with a strong commitment to conservation and protecting the environment.

Costa Rica is home to many national parks and nature reserves, where visitors can explore and experience the beauty of the country’s biodiversity. From zip-lining through the tree canopy to spotting monkeys and sloths in their natural habitat, there are countless opportunities for ecotourism in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is also home to many eco-lodges, which are designed to be both comfortable and eco-friendly. Eco-lodges are built with sustainable materials, incorporate renewable energy sources, and often offer organic food. They also strive to minimize their impact on the environment and to support local businesses and communities.

2. The Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are renowned for their extraordinary wildlife and stunning scenery. Located in the Pacific Ocean, about 600 miles west of the mainland of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are a perfect example of an ecotourism destination.

The archipelago is made up of 18 main islands, as well as many small islets, and is home to many unique species of plants and animals, some of which are found nowhere else in the world.

The islands are a protected environment, and the Galapagos National Park works to conserve the flora and fauna by limiting the number of visitors and strictly controlling the activities of those who do visit. The park has also implemented a number of initiatives to reduce the impact of tourism, such as the use of sustainable tourism practices and the promotion of responsible tourism.

3. The Amazon Rainforest

The Amazon Rainforest is one of the most incredible places on the planet. Spanning more than five and a half million square kilometers, it is the largest tropical rainforest in the world, home to an astounding array of plants and animals. It is a vital part of the global ecosystem, providing oxygen and helping to regulate the climate.

Ecotourism in the Amazon Rainforest is a great way to explore this incredible region and learn about its biodiversity and the threats it faces.

Visitors can experience the rainforest firsthand, discovering its unique flora and fauna, and learning about the culture of the local communities. Ecotourism activities can include guided hikes, wildlife spotting, and river tours.

The Amazon Rainforest is under threat from deforestation, poaching, and illegal logging. Ecotourism can help to protect and preserve this unique environment by providing an alternative source of income for local communities, while also raising awareness of the importance of conservation.

4. The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, stretching over 2,300 kilometers along Australia’s northeast coast. It is the world’s largest living organism and is home to a wide variety of marine life, including coral, dolphins, sea turtles and over 1,500 species of fish.

The Great Barrier Reef has long been a popular tourist destination, offering visitors the opportunity to explore the vibrant underwater world and experience the unique beauty of the reef.

Ecotourism is a great way to visit and appreciate the Great Barrier Reef. Responsible ecotourism practices can help to protect this delicate ecosystem and ensure that visitors get the most out of their experience.

Tour operators offer eco-friendly tours that focus on education and conservation, such as snorkeling and diving trips, boat tours (like one of those I mentioned in the examples of sustainable tourism ), and guided walks. These tours provide visitors with an understanding of the importance of the reef, while also providing opportunities to appreciate its unique beauty.

5. Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is a unique and beautiful destination in the United States, and it is an ideal place for ecotourism. It is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including bears, wolves, bison, elk, and antelope, and its breathtaking landscapes of geysers, hot springs, and canyons are unparalleled.

For those looking to explore Yellowstone in an eco-friendly way, there are many options available. Visitors can take part in ranger-led activities, such as guided hikes, wildlife viewing, and educational programs.

These activities focus on the park’s natural environment and help to ensure that visitors are respectful of the park’s resources. Additionally, visitors can take part in volunteer programs that help to preserve the park’s wildlife and ecosystems.

Ecotourism in Yellowstone also includes sustainable practices such as reducing waste, using reusable containers, and avoiding single-use plastics.

But Yellowstone is not the only ecotourism destination in the USA, in fact, there are many breathtaking eco lodges in the United States . The country is especially rich in diverse National Parks that offer very desirable options for the green tourist.

6. The Arctic

The Arctic is a unique and fragile environment that is home to a variety of wildlife , landscapes, and cultures. Ecotourism in the Arctic is a great way to experience this region while also helping to protect it.

Ecotourism in the Arctic focuses on the appreciation of the environment and its inhabitants, while minimizing the impact on the environment.

Visitors can explore the Arctic by taking part in activities such as wildlife watching , birding, photography, and kayaking. There are also opportunities to learn about the traditional cultures of the indigenous people living in the region.

Ecotourism in the Arctic helps to protect the environment by making sure that travelers are aware of their impact and how to minimize it. This includes following the rules set by local communities and organizations, respecting wildlife, and avoiding activities that could potentially harm the environment.

7. The Antarctic

The Antarctic is the world’s southernmost continent, located in the Southern Hemisphere and surrounded by the Southern Ocean. It is an incredibly unique and diverse ecosystem, with a wide range of habitats, from the snow and ice of the polar desert to the subantarctic islands and the ocean surrounding them.

The Antarctic is home to an incredibly diverse array of wildlife, including penguins, whales, seals, and seabirds.

Ecotourism is a great way to explore the Antarctic, while also helping to preserve this precious environment. Ecotourism activities in the Antarctic focus on educational, non-invasive activities that minimize environmental impacts. These can include bird watching, whale watching , photography, and even kayaking, as long as the activity is conducted in a sustainable manner.

Ecotourism can also help to support local communities, as many of the eco-tourism activities in the Antarctic are based in local towns or research stations.

8. The Himalayas

The Himalayas are an awe-inspiring mountain range that spans across India, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and Pakistan. This range is home to some of the world’s highest peaks, including the world’s tallest mountain, Mount Everest.

With its lush green valleys, snow-capped mountain peaks and deep gorges, the Himalayas are a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

The Himalayas offer a unique opportunity for ecotourism, as they are home to a wide range of flora and fauna, as well as some of the world’s rarest species. These include the snow leopard, red panda, musk deer, Himalayan tahr , and the Tibetan antelope . These endangered species are protected in the various national parks and conservation areas located in the Himalayas.

9. The Sahara Desert

The Sahara Desert is the world’s largest hot desert and covers an area of over 9 million square kilometers. It’s an incredible landscape that’s full of surprises, with a diverse range of flora and fauna, unique geological features, and a rich cultural history.

Ecotourism in the Sahara Desert is a great way to explore this fascinating region. Visitors can experience the breathtaking beauty of the desert, from its vast sand dunes to its rugged mountains and canyons. There are also opportunities to witness the incredible wildlife that inhabits the region, including camels, gazelles, antelope, and desert foxes.

The Sahara Desert is also home to a number of ancient human settlements, such as the famous Berber tribes of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. Visitors can learn about the unique lifestyles and cultures of these desert dwellers, as well as the history of the region.

10. The Kalahari Desert

The Kalahari Desert is a vast expanse of land located in southern Africa, covering parts of Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. It is one of the world’s largest deserts and is home to a diverse array of wildlife and vegetation.

The Kalahari is an ideal destination for ecotourism, as it offers visitors the chance to experience a unique ecosystem and learn about conservation efforts in the region.

The Kalahari Desert is characterized by its red sand dunes and sparse vegetation, consisting mostly of shrubs and grasses. It is home to a variety of wildlife, including the African wild dog, cheetah, brown hyena, and many species of birds. Visitors can explore the desert by foot, by 4×4 , or by hot air balloon.

Ecotourism Pros And Cons

Before embarking on an ecotourism trip, it is important to consider both the pros and cons carefully.

Ecotourism has many benefits , such as helping to conserve natural resources, providing economic benefits to local communities, and increasing environmental awareness.

However, it also has some drawbacks , such as increased pressure on fragile ecosystems, potential negative impacts on local cultures, and increased costs for travelers.

Let’s look at those more in detail!

The Benefits of Ecotourism

Ecotourism can provide a number of benefits both to the environment and to local communities:

  • Economic Benefits : Ecotourism can bring in additional revenue to a local economy, providing income to tour guides, outfitters, and other businesses that depend on the natural environment.
  • Environmental Benefits : Ecotourism can help protect endangered species and habitats by introducing tourists to them and giving them an incentive to conserve them.
  • Education Benefits : Ecotourism encourages tourists to learn more about the local environment and its importance, providing an opportunity to increase environmental awareness.
  • Social Benefits : Ecotourism can help local communities by providing employment opportunities and supporting local businesses.
  • Cultural Benefits : Ecotourism can help preserve local traditions and cultures by encouraging people to learn about them and experience them first-hand.

The Disadvantages of Ecotourism

Here are the potential disadvantages of ecotourism:

  • Negative Impacts on the Environment : Ecotourism can have a negative impact on the environment if it is not managed properly. This includes the destruction of habitats and disruption of ecosystems.
  • Overcrowding : Ecotourism can lead to overcrowding in certain areas, leading to increased pollution, environmental damage, and disruption to local communities.
  • Negative Impacts on Local Communities : Ecotourism can have a negative impact on local communities if the profits from tourism don’t go back to the local people.
  • Cultural Appropriation : Ecotourism can lead to cultural appropriation if tourists don’t respect local cultures and traditions. This means that members of a culture may adopt or use elements of another culture that has more attractive aspects for touristic purposes.
  • Impact on Wildlife : Ecotourism can have a negative impact on wildlife if it is not managed properly. This includes disturbing wildlife habitats, overhunting, and introducing non-native species.
  • It can often be expensive for tourists, who may not be able to afford the cost of flights, accommodations, and activities. This can lead to a lack of diversity in the types of people who are able to visit and enjoy the area.

Through sustainable tourism practices, ecotourism can help to conserve natural resources, reduce pollution, and protect vulnerable wildlife. Additionally, it can also provide economic opportunities for local communities, helping to create jobs and improve the quality of life in the areas visited.

Ecotourism is a great way to see the world while also helping to preserve it. By supporting eco-friendly initiatives and responsible tourism practices, we can all do our part to protect the planet. So next time you’re planning a trip, consider an eco-tourism destination. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Related Topics

  • Mexico Ecotourism (Discover 10 Hidden Gems!)
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Past, current, and future perspectives on eco-tourism: a bibliometric review between 2001 and 2018

  • Review Article
  • Published: 19 April 2020
  • Volume 27 , pages 23514–23528, ( 2020 )

Cite this article

  • Ziphozakhe Theophilus Shasha 1 ,
  • Yong Geng 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 ,
  • Hua-ping Sun 5 ,
  • Walter Musakwa 6 &

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A Correction to this article was published on 23 February 2022

This article has been updated

With increasing attentions on climate change, solid wastes, over-tourism, and improved environmental awareness worldwide, eco-tourism has been widely promoted worldwide. This requires that governmental agencies at different levels should prepare appropriate policies to facilitate eco-tourism and local communities should take necessary actions to preserve their natural resources, protect their environment, and support sustainable tourism. Academically, literatures on eco-tourism have increased faster with an annual growth rate of 10–30% during the recent years. Under such a circumstance, it is important to conduct a comprehensive review so that research progress on eco-tourism can be summarized and future research directions can be identified. Based on 1771 publications published during 2001–2018, a systematic method combining bibliometric analysis and network analysis is applied in this study to uncover the dynamic trends, academic collaboration, and research hotspots related with eco-tourism. Results show that the total number of relevant publications has gradually increased. Key journals include Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management , Annals of Tourism Research , Conservation Biology , and Biological Conservation . Authors from USA have the most publications and international co-authorships, while the most influential institution is the Chinese Academy of Science. Moreover, research keywords have been identified, including eco-tourism, management, biodiversity, national park, sustainability, and sustainable tourism. Research findings of this study provide valuable insights to further improve eco-tourism research so that this emerging research field can be proactively fostered.

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This study is financially supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (71810107001; 71690241) and the big data project funded by Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU-2019UGBD-03).

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Ziphozakhe Theophilus Shasha & Yong Geng

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Shasha, Z.T., Geng, Y., Sun, Hp. et al. Past, current, and future perspectives on eco-tourism: a bibliometric review between 2001 and 2018. Environ Sci Pollut Res 27 , 23514–23528 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-020-08584-9

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This Florida Eco Tour Offers A Serene Adventure Through Wildlife Havens

Wyatt Johnson

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Related: The World’s Largest Indoor Obstacle Park is in Florida and It’s Insanely Fun

Related: Discover Horseshoe Park, the Fairy Gnome Wonderland in Florida that’s Simply Magical

Related: Discover this Captivating Auto Museum in Florida, Home to Over 2,000 Cars

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eco tour advantages

Materials Chemistry Frontiers

Applications of multifunctional metal–organic frameworks in perovskite photovoltaics: roles, advantages and prospects.

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* Corresponding authors

a Energy & Materials Engineering Center, College of Physics and Materials Science, Tianjin Normal University, Tianjin 300387, P. R. China E-mail: [email protected]

b Key Laboratory of Bioinorganic and Synthetic Chemistry (MoE), Lehn Institute of Functional Materials, School of Chemistry, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510006, P. R. China E-mail: [email protected]

c School of Materials and Environment, Guangxi Key Laboratory of Advanced Structural Materials and Carbon Neutralization, Guangxi Colleges and Universities Key Laboratory of Environmental-friendly Materials and New Technology for Carbon Neutralization, Guangxi Minzu University, Nanning 530105, P. R. China E-mail: [email protected]

Metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) are considered to be highly fascinating materials due to their excellent photoelectric properties, tunable porous nanostructures and desirable chemical absorption characteristics, which play beneficial roles in constructing high-performance and eco-friendly perovskite solar cells (PSCs). Herein, the recent advancements in applying MOFs in perovskite photovoltaics have been reviewed, with a particular focus on emphasizing the multiple roles ( i.e. , serving as the carrier transport layer, interfacial modifier, crystallization regulator, defect passivator and Pb leakage inhibitor) and multifarious advantages of MOFs that enable efficient, durable and eco-friendly PSCs to be achieved. The limitations and challenges associated with currently employed MOFs materials in PSCs are discussed. An insightful perspective regarding the optimal molecular configuration design of advanced MOFs for fabricating highly efficient, sustainable, flexible and wearable MOFs-based perovskite optoelectronic devices is provided.

Graphical abstract: Applications of multifunctional metal–organic frameworks in perovskite photovoltaics: roles, advantages and prospects

  • This article is part of the themed collections: 2023 Materials Chemistry Frontiers Review-type Articles and 2023 Materials Chemistry Frontiers HOT articles

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eco tour advantages

M. Liu, G. Liu, Y. Wang, B. Lei and W. Wu, Mater. Chem. Front. , 2024,  8 , 869 DOI: 10.1039/D3QM01001E

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  • Dynamics 365 Finance
  • IT Professionals

Discover the Advantages of the Universal Tax Rate API for Simplified Tax Calculations in Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management applications 

  • By Kai Liang, Senior Program Manager
  • Sergey Shvedov, Principal Group Manager, Dynamics 365, Globalization
  • Dynamics 365 Project Operations
  • Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management
  • Audience type
  • IT decision maker​

Harness the power of streamlined integration with third-party tax solutions through the universal tax rate API, now generally available in Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance, Supply Chain Management and project management and accounting functionality of Project Operations. This advancement eases the complexities of managing multiple and frequently changed tax rates and rules across diverse tax jurisdictions for businesses worldwide. 

Navigating the Challenges of Tax Calculation 

The tax calculation functionality of Dynamics 365 offers highly flexible and powerful tax determination and calculation capabilities right out of the box. It allows customers to input and manage tax rates and rules to cover complex tax scenarios across Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management applications. In some countries, tax rates and rules are inherently intricate, demanding constant vigilance and updates to comply with constant changes by local tax authorities across multiple jurisdictions. This complexity escalates for businesses operating internationally, necessitating the maintenance of accurate tax rates and rules for each location. Traditionally, this process has had a high potential for errors, requiring extensive manual data management and exposing businesses to risks of non-compliance, penalties, and reputational harm. 

Recognizing these challenges, many businesses opt for third-party tax solutions to automate and simplify their tax calculation processes. However, integrating these solutions with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management applications could be a complex endeavor, burdened by the need for deep understanding of the ERP systems data models and business logic, along with ongoing maintenance to ensure alignment with release updates. 

Empowering Businesses with the Universal Tax Rate API 

In response to these challenges, we are releasing the universal tax rate API as a standardized solution facilitating communication between Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management applications, and third-party tax solution providers. This API offers a consistent, reliable interface for data exchange, eliminating the need for extensive customization and simplifying the integration process. 

Benefits of the Universal Tax Rate API 

The universal tax rate API drives simplification and efficiency for users of Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management applications. By offering integration with third-party tax solutions, this innovative API dispels the complexities traditionally associated with managing tax rates and rules, enabling businesses to focus on growth and scalability. Harnessing the universal tax rate API enhances compliance and operational efficiency, through delivering: 

  • Simplified Integration: Connect with supported third-party tax solution providers, leveraging their expertise without the need for expensive customizations. 
  • Standardized Communication: Utilize a predefined set of APIs for various tax operations, including address validation, tax calculation, and transaction posting, all employing the JSON format for efficient data exchange. 
  • Enhanced Compliance and Efficiency: Keep your tax calculations accurate and up to date, minimizing risks of non-compliance and improving operational efficiency. 
  • Comprehensive Dynamics 365 coverage: Take advantage of the wide coverage of tax transactions within Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management applications, as well as within other Dynamics 365 applications that can be available through the universal tax rate API later. 

Utilizing the Universal Tax Rate API 

The process of employing the API is straightforward. Upon transaction creation or update, the system identifies taxable transactions configured for external tax calculation. It then prepares and sends a data payload to the chosen tax solution provider via the API. The provider calculates the tax and returns the results, which are then validated and recorded in Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management applications for audit and reporting. 

Get started today 

To begin leveraging this powerful feature, select a compatible third-party tax solution provider that aligns with your business needs from the list on Microsoft Learn. Follow the detailed guide provided in the Connect to an external tax solution provider via the Universal Tax Rate API learning path on Microsoft Learn, ensuring a smooth setup and efficient use of the universal tax rate API in your organization. 

Embrace the universal tax rate API to transform your tax calculation process, focusing on compliance, efficiency, and scalability within Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management applications.


  • Universal tax rate API – Finance | Dynamics 365 | Microsoft Learn  
  • TechTalk Recoding  
  • Vertex  

Kai Liang

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    eco tour advantages

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    Ecotourism is an umbrella term that refers to tourism that sustains the environment and improves the welfare of local people. It is a type of responsible tourism which aims to minimise any negative impacts on the environment and cultural heritage. This type of tourism has been growing in popularity over the past few years, as it has many ...

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  20. Advantages of Ecotourism

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    Definition, Examples and Long-Term Impact. Eco-tourism focuses on ecologically sustainable travel in order to conserve the natural environment. We'll look at popular eco-tourism destinations, and how they are impacted. According to The International Ecotourism Society ( TIES ), eco-tourism can be defined as "responsible travel to natural ...

  22. What Ecotourism is, Definition and Principles

    Ecotourism is a form of green tourism and acts on all the 3 pillars of sustainability (also known as the triple bottom line, 3 Ps, or 3 Es ): environmental, social, and economic. Environmental sustainability aspects: ecotourism encourages people to become more aware of the environment and their impact on it. By promoting eco-friendly practices ...

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    Babcock Ranch Eco Tours in Florida invites you on a serene adventure that gently winds through some of the most beautiful wildlife havens the state has to offer. From the comfort of an eco-friendly tour, you'll traverse lush forests, sprawling wetlands, and scenic prairies, all while learning about the delicate ecosystems that make Florida so ...

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    Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are considered to be highly fascinating materials due to their excellent photoelectric properties, tunable porous nanostructures and desirable chemical absorption characteristics, which play beneficial roles in constructing high-performance and eco-friendly perovskite solar ce 2023 Materials Chemistry Frontiers Review-type Articles 2023 Materials Chemistry ...

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    Harness the power of streamlined integration with third-party tax solutions through the universal tax rate API, now generally available in Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance, Supply Chain Management and project management and accounting functionality of Project Operations.