Practical Guide: What is Ecotourism?

Apr 7, 2018 | Conservation, Ecotourism

Word Count: 1,005    Reading Time: 5 minutes

Ecotourism: What Is It?

 

Ecotourism is a nature based form of speciality travel defined by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) as:

Responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people.

 

The Quebec Declaration was established In 2002, The International Year of Ecotourism, suggesting five criteria by which to standardize the definition of ecotourism:

nature-based product;
• minimal impact management;
• environmental education;
• contribution to conservation;
• contribution to community.

 

Global Ecotourism Network (GEN) define ecotourism as:

Ecotourism is responsible travel to natural areas that:

conserve the environment,

socially and economically sustains the well-being of the local people, and

creates knowledge and understanding through interpretation and education of all involved (including staff, travelers, and community residents).

 

It is also their view the label ecotourism is often applied to tourism activities that fail to meet the definition and the basic principles behind it.

And that Ecotourism is:

• non-consumptive/non-extractive;
• creates an ecological conscience;
• hold eco-centric values and ethics in relation to nature;
• good for both visitors and visited.

 

Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) define sustainable tourism as:

Sustainable tourism takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.

 

Sustainable tourism should make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity;

 

• respect the sociocultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values, and contribute to intercultural understanding and tolerance;
• ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders that are fairly distributed, including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities, and contributing to poverty alleviation.

Word Count: 1,005    Reading Time: 5 minutes

 


 

Ecotourism: What Is It?

 

Ecotourism is a nature based form of speciality travel defined by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) as:

Responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people.

 

The Quebec Declaration was established In 2002, The International Year of Ecotourism, suggesting five criteria by which to standardize the definition of ecotourism:

nature-based product;
• minimal impact management;
• environmental education;
• contribution to conservation;
• contribution to community.

 

Global Ecotourism Network (GEN) define ecotourism as:

Ecotourism is responsible travel to natural areas that:

conserve the environment,

socially and economically sustains the well-being of the local people, and

creates knowledge and understanding through interpretation and education of all involved (including staff, travelers, and community residents).

 

It is also their view the label ecotourism is often applied to tourism activities that fail to meet the definition and the basic principles behind it.

And that Ecotourism is:

• non-consumptive/non-extractive;
• creates an ecological conscience;
• hold eco-centric values and ethics in relation to nature;
• good for both visitors and visited.

 

Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) define sustainable tourism as:

Sustainable tourism takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.

 

Sustainable tourism should make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity;

 

• respect the sociocultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values, and contribute to intercultural understanding and tolerance;
• ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders that are fairly distributed, including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities, and contributing to poverty alleviation.

 

Common Terms Confused with Ecotourism

 

Furthermore, TIES define other terms that are often confused with ecotourism, in the Ecotourism Fact Sheet of 2007:

 

Adventure tourism: A form of nature-based tourism that incorporates an element of risk, higher levels of physical exertion, and the need for specialized skill.

Geotourism: Tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place-its environment, heritage, aesthetics, and culture and the well-being of its residents.

Mass tourism: Large-scale tourism, typically associated with ‘sea, sand, sun’ resorts and characteristics such as transnational ownership, minimal direct economic benefit to destination communities, seasonality and package tours.

Nature-based tourism: Any form of tourism that relies primarily on the natural environment for its attractions or settings.

Pro-poor tourism: Tourism that results in increased net benefit for the poor people.

Responsible tourism: Tourism that maximizes the benefits to local communities, minimizes negative social or environmental impacts, and helps local people conserve fragile cultures and habitats or species.

Sustainable tourism: Tourism that meets the needs of present tourist and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunities for the future.

 

Other Ecotourism Definitions

 

Following are some more ecotourism definitions for you to consider:

Nature-based tourism that involves education and interpretation of the natural environment and is managed to be ecologically sustainable.

Commonwealth Department of Tourism, Australia, 1992.

 

A sustainable form of natural resource based tourism that focuses primarily on experiencing and learning about nature, and which is ethically managed to be low impact, non-consumptive, and locally oriented (control, benefits and scale).

It typically occurs in natural areas, and should contribute to the conservation and preservation of such areas.

Ecotourism: An introduction, David A. Fennell, 1999.

 

Ecotourism can contribute to both conservation and development and involves,

as a minimum, positive synergistic relationships between tourism, biodiversity

and local people, facilitated by appropriate management.

Ecotourism: Towards congruence between theory and practice, Ross & Wall, 1999.

 

What Do You think?

 

Clearly the GSTC definition of sustainable tourism is the most all encompassing definition, but is not a definition of ecotourism as such, and is rather cumbersome.

GEN definitions are very workable and to the point, and we like Fennell’s definition.

The plethora of definitions and perspectives raise pertinent questions in our view:

  • Is ecotourism actually ecologically sustainable?
  • Is ecotourism a conservation oriented movement, a philosophy, or a product with excellent marketing and branding strategies?
  • Is ecologically sustainable tourism realistic or achievable?
  • How can ecologically AND economically sustainable tourism exist or operate where foreign ownership prevails?
  • Who or what is the actual driving force behind ecotourism development and who actually benefits?
  • Can ecotourism be truly ethical?

 

Additional Standards We Propose

 

It is our view that ecotourism is possible and that it can be ecologically sustainable.

Obviously parts of the industry are guilty of green washing in many respects and that true ecotourism, that is, completely ecologically and economically sustainable at the local level, is not the norm.

In conclusion we strongly advise the following standards must be adopted world wide:

 

 

> Absolute conservation of natural, cultural, historical, archaeological and ethnographic resources and features. Anything less than absolute preservation is not sustainable and is simply ‘lip service’.

> Equitable business models that protect and enhance the lives of the regional and local stakeholders at all levels and without exception.

> Business and operational models of which the primary aim is complete sustainability of the natural interpretive resources in perpetuity, as opposed to ‘sustainable tourism business development’. This must be inclusive of continued assessment permitted to demonstrate that the activity should be discontinued if applicable, irrespective of private capital interests.

> Strict international restrictions on foreign ownership ratios of any regions’ ‘interpretive assets’ combined with capping of foreign investment share in operational profits, should they exist.

> Monetary fund with standard conditions for access by all peoples of all regions for the development of truly sustainable experiences incorporating interpretive resources, such that the need for foreign investment is eliminated.

> Complete resource consumption versus waste and pollution neutrality or better, without exception.

> Removing corporate barriers and restrictions to world wide distribution of new generation, clean, renewable and free energy sources to facilitate and underpin all previous points.

 

Resources

Global Sustainable Tourism Council

The International Ecotourism Society

The Global Ecotourism Network

The Quebec Declaration

Ecotourism: An introduction, David A. Fennell, 1999

Ecotourism: Towards congruence between theory and practice, Ross & Wall, 1999

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