Links to resources about theory and practice of ecotourism, definitions and what ecotourism means to operators, developers, stakeholders and travellers.

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What is Ecotourism?

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What is Ecotourism?

Many times, when people ask "what is ecotourism?  What does it mean?", the reply more often than not consists of what the respondent believes it isn't.   The collection of resources below is intended as an introduction for stakeholders, tour operators, outdoor guides and travellers, project developers, students and the general travel industry, to the various opinions in the field.

The majority of links below go to external sites. Use your right mouse button to open a new window to these sites, or use your back button to return here. NB Amazon titles will open a new window. NB: Amazon titles will open in a new window.

  • 10 ways to tell if your eco-lodge is really eco! By Justin Francis, responsibletravel.com. " 'Eco' and 'eco-lodges' have become buzzwords used by both terrific organisations dedicated to conservation and benefitting local people, and those seeking to exploit its marketing potential for economic gain with little or no regard for destinations.  Without getting into the intracies of composting toilets how can the tourist decide between the genuine and the not so genuine? 10 ways to tell if your eco-lodge is really an eco-lodge (rather than just 'greenwashing').
  • Codes of Conduct, Practice & Operational Guidelines Links, with descriptions, to operator and travellers guidelines for ecotourism, sustainable tourism, outdoor and nature based tourism activities.
  • Ecotourism Accreditation & Certification Programs Links, with descriptions, to various ecotourism and sustainable tourism accreditation and certification programs available in various localities around the world.
  • Ecotourism Association of Australia Code of Practice for Operators Originally developed in the mid '90s, it's been superseded by NEAP, and other geographically localised programs, but for tourism operators wanting a brief bullet style introduction to the concept, it's a good place to start.  You may find that you're already well on the way!
  • Ecotourism Association of Australia (EAA) Guidelines for Ecotourists Published in the mid 1990s, intending "ecotourists" can still benefit from keeping these guidelines in mind when travelling.
  • Educating the Travelling Community and the Investor Presented by Noah Shepard at the 9th PATA Adventure Travel and Ecotourism Conference, Malaysia, 1997.  The potentials and perils of ecotourism in a nutshell, and still one of the most relevant operator targeted introductory articles on ecotourism available online.
  • Inside Indonesia New listing "aims to provide a deeper image of Indonesia than that painted by mainstream media. It focuses on human rights, environmental, social and political issues, but is not limited to those issues. It is not an academic journal, but a publication which produces high standard, interesting, jargon free material about Indonesia by Indonesians or by others who have travelled, lived and/or done research in the country.  Inside Indonesia is a non-profit endeavour, and apart from a small amount of technical support, is run on an entirely voluntary basis. None of our editors, writers or photographers are paid." These three articles, two from 1997 and one from 2008, are an insight into the ongoing struggle for local communities to benefit from "ecotourism".
    • Ecotourism: can it save the orangutans?  updated listing Inside Indonesia. #51 July- September 1997.  "RACHEL DREWRY investigates ecotourism as a conservation tool. 'We were in the rainforest for fifteen hours and spent eleven of those waist-deep in a swamp looking at orangutans'. Trekking through the swamps and rainforests of Kalimantan may not be everyone's idea of a fun and relaxing holiday, but to an increasing number of ecotourists there is no better way to spend a couple of weeks."
    • Togians: ecotourism is not the answer New listing Inside Indonesia. #51 July- September 1997 "While others hope environmentally sensitive tourism will help the Togian Islands, KATE NAPTHALI wants to beef up traditional industries instead. The Togian economy is based on trade in fish and copra. Transport is the major barrier. Farmers and fishing households accept prices well below mainland market rates from produce traders who travel through the region. Tourism is a growth industry in the Togian Islands, and this is the major interest for most government agencies and for non-government organisations (NGOs). However most villagers cannot afford to participate in this industry because they possess neither the capital nor the skills required."
    • Eco-tourism for whom? New listingInside Indonesia #91: Jan-Mar 2008 "Bunaken National Marine Park is promoted as an ideal mix of tourism and conservation, but not all local people agree." The disenfrachisement downside continues.  A telling insight into what has probably become the main sticking point for ecotourism as the flag bearer for "sustainable development".  How is it sustainable if local people are disenfranchised from their previous livliehoods, and not able to participate because multinationals crowd out the locals?
  • Snail Farming - Mount Cameroon New listing "Promoting sustainable protein sources in communities around Mount Cameroon National Park."  While the creation of sustainable protein sources might seem to be an "odd man out" here; to me, it's appropriate as an example of lateral thinking by project managers who considered the impact on local village people when resources that they previously relied on, get locked up for conservation measures.
  • Tourism Definitions: Conscious, Ecotourism, Responsible, Local ... and the rest: by Ron Mader, "[Are we] asking whether tourism supports itself over the long-term or if tourism contributes overall sustainability?" And Ron has a list of terms that will make your head spin! updated
  • The Challenge of Ecotourism: A Call for Higher Standards updated listing by John Shores. " 'Ecotourism' today unfortunately is used as an all-inclusive term. People are using the term so loosely that nearly all travel qualifies. The goal posts are spread so far that every attempt scores a goal. This adversely affects protected areas and biodiversity in several ways." First published in 1995 you can read John's proposals and decide for yourself how far it's come since then. Are these now recognisable "stages in the greening of the travel system", which destinations, companies and organisations can be seen at what stage?  And has the travelling public had any influence on it? updated listing
  • "There's No Such Thing As Eco-Tourism By Anneli Rufus, AlterNet, August 13, 2006.  Just before the GFC hit and global tourism almost ground to a halt, there are references to travel books, travelogues, modern broadcast media's "reality" shows, and a hint at the soon to come "social media" phenomenom that we know now, just a few scant years later, as Facebook.  It's almost a polemic; cynical, funny and biting in places.  updated listing "Tourism in the post-9/11, post-colonial era remains a minefield of moral issues -- and living as a sin-free travel writer is damn near impossible.  Colonialism isn't dead. Colonialism is alive and well every time you travel from the First World to the Third and come home bearing photographs of sharks and storms and slums, of scorpions fried for snacks, sunflowers bigger than your head, stalled buses whose aisles are slick with spit, and then you tell your friends and co-workers, "Oh man, it was so great, you gotta go." We call it ecotourism and adventure travel. ..."
  • The tour operator's dilemma: Keeping the customer happy while not disturbing the wildlife. Originally presented at the 2002 EAA International Ecotourism Conference in Cairns, Ronda Green asks "... as a tour operator, I really want to know what effect we have on the wildlife. Are our activities gradually affecting the wildlife in ways that will either improve visitor experience or might they ultimately destroy the very things we are trying to show them? Are the animals going to start avoiding the areas we use? Are they going to behave less naturally? Are we likely to cause, however gradually, any changes to their habitat?"
  • The The Sustainable Tourism Gateway from the Global Development Research Center (GDRC) distills the essence of "sustainable" and "eco" tourism, and provides a veritable feast of resources to enjoy.  Students and operators will find the Sustainable Tourism Info Sheets useful. "Sustainable tourism in its purest sense, is an industry which attempts to make a low impact on the environment and local culture, while helping to generate income, employment, and the conservation of local ecosystems. It is responsible tourism which is both ecologically and culturally sensitive."
  • Toolkit on Poverty Reduction through Tourism New listing "The toolkit outlines the background to poverty reduction approaches and how the International Labor Union (ILO) is involved within the context of decent work and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Recent developments in tourism and a vision for an inclusive, pro-poor tourism industry are summarized.  A toolkit on poverty reduction through tourism has been produced. It aims at assisting developing and least developed countries to create a sustainable tourism industry and businesses based on decent employment. It is oriented towards SMEs and local communities in rural areas and includes case studies, training sessions and best practices. The toolkit illustrates the links between the ILO Decent Work Agenda, poverty reduction and the Millennium Development Goals."  Available as a PDF download in English, Español: Français, Bahasa Indonesia, Português, tiéng Viet.‎

See also Sustainable Design & Management, Development and Environment, Ecologically Sustainable Development, Ecotourism Associations and Organisations, Tourism Research and Ecotourism Papers & Articles