Photograph of a jungle Lodge in Ecuador Rainforest

Jungle Lodge in Ecuador Rainforest

Ecotourism is a type of sustainable development. The aim of ecotourism is to reduce the impact that tourism has on naturally beautiful environments.

Any tourist destination can be harmed by increased levels of tourism. If areas are damaged or destroyed, they might not be available to future generations.

Ecotourism is environmentally sound so that natural environments and wildlife are protected; natural resources are protected in a sustainable way and that tourism is socially appropriate.

The ecotourism approach

  • Ensuring that tourism does not exploit the natural environment or local communities.
  • Consultation with local communities on planned developments.
  • Making sure that infrastructure improvements benefit local people and not just tourists.

Ecotourism now has the backing of the United Nations, which made 2002 the International Year of Ecotourism.

Guidelines for ecotourists

Ecotourism sets out guidelines for how tourists should behave when visiting fragile environments:

  • Protect the environment - keep to footpaths, don't leave litter or start fires.
  • Don't interfere with wildlife - don't scare or feed the animals.
  • Protect resources - don't take too many showers or use air conditioning.
  • Support local communities - stay in locally owned accommodation and buy produce from local people.
  • Eat local food and drink - avoid products that have been imported from MEDCs.
  • Respect local customs and traditions - some communities are offended when tourists wear inappropriate clothes in religious places, strip off on the beach or behave in a rowdy manner. Locals appreciate tourists who try to learn the language and show an interest in their culture

Ecotourism is increasingly popular and many people appreciate remote locations, small numbers of tourists and less sophisticated facilities.

If a resort becomes overdeveloped then they will choose alternative destinations.