Links to resources, articles, papers and presentations for travellers, operators, stakeholders, developers, students and the travel industry.

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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.   Over the last decade this has grown to include "sustainable tourism", "nature based tourism", "responsible tourism", "geo tourism", "wildlife tourism", "slow tourism" and "green tourism".

No wonder the average traveller is confused!

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 and examples 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, " '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  • Ecotourism Association of Australia Code of Practice for Operators Originally developed in the mid '90s, it's been superseded by NEAP, and other geographically localised programs, but for tourism operators wanting a brief bullet style introduction to the concept, it's a good place to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. Especially good advice on marketing hype.
  • Inside Indonesia "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?  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 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? Inside 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?
    • Click here to read more Inside INdonesia articles with "ecotourism" themes. New listing
  • Snail Farming - Mount Cameroon "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.
  • stones: UNSUSTAINABLE TOURISM  New listing "Good news! Today's travelers are increasingly seeking ways of visiting places and people in a manner that supports choosing responsible travel and ecotourism.That said, visitors rarely self-define themselves as 'I am an ecotourist. Where should I go?' Neither do they proclaim 'I want to support sustainable tourism. What are my options?' or 'Where I can go to a responsible tourism restaurant?' Most eco-minded travelers let their actions speak louder than words and often expect that 'green' or 'responsible' options be self-evident." A thoughful and thought provoking article about the past.present and future of "ecotourism" from Ron Mader, a pioneer in the field.
  • Sustainable Tourism Online (STO) New listing " a comprehensive online information resource delivering substantial research, data and tools within three main sustainability themes - Destinations and Communities, Business Operations, and Parks & Culture. We also offer relevant information and knowledge on broader sustainability tourism topics."  A comprehensive resource for operators and stakeholders at all levels.  Visit it now and download everything you can before it's privatised and put behind a paywall!
  • 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?
  • "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 as Facebook.  It's almost a polemic; cynical, funny and biting in places.  "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. ..."
  • Wildlife conservation and wildlife tourism New listing"Sustainable wildlife tourism has the potential to introduce many hundreds of thousands of people to the wonders of this planet's wildlife, but there is always a risk of disturbing or even destroying the very animals we seek."
  • 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 "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, Espanol: Francais, Bahasa Indonesia, Portugues, tieng Viet.
  • What is ecotourism? (The State of Queensland Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing)New category "Ecotourism is a major part of the Queensland Government's plan to grow the tourism industry - one of the state's four economic pillars. ... Ecotourism encompasses a broad spectrum of environmentally responsible activities that increase visitor appreciation, develop a better understanding of the natural and cultural heritage, and are carefully managed to be ecologically, economically and socially sustainable."  An excellent page with details about Queenland ecotourism development, basic practice, eco-certifiction standards, and links to stratagies and resources.

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