Explaining What Ecotourism Means

When trying to answer 'What does the term ecotourism mean?' -- there can be numerous definitions and answers given from a whole range of sources, but I personally think it is best to go with a rather official one from the International Ecotourism Society, that is Ecotourism defined as: "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people" (TIES, 1990) [4439]. So when trying to decipher what does ecotourism means -- the following article will break down the definition above provided into four separate sections firstly 'responsible travel', secondly 'natural areas',  thirdly 'conserves the environment' and finally 'improves the well-being of local people'.

1. What is 'Responsible Travel'?

Responsibletravel.com claims that "responsible travel maximizes the benefits, and minimizes the negative effects of tourism" [4440]. The idea is that when you are going away to a remote natural place, while you are there you have to try and benefit the local area as much as possible (e.g. buying local produce, hire local people, use local transport, volunteer, help out in community projects, plant trees etc.), whilst minimizing the negative sides (e.g. flying produces huge amounts of carbon, which is a contributor of global warming through the greenhouse effect -- so it is advised that responsible travel would be 'take fewer but longer holidays' etc.

2. What are 'Natural Areas'?

A natural area is simply defined as "an area of land or water with predominantly native vegetation or natural geological features that is allowed to respond to the forces of nature with minimal human influence" [4441]. Examples of natural areas relating to ecotourism can be found literally all over the world, from ecotourism in Antarctica to Ecotourism in Kenya, completely different climates but both can still be defined as a 'natural area'.

3. How Can we 'Conserve the Environment' with Ecotourism?

There are various ways in which the environment and wildlife can actually be conserved (e.g. afforestation, hiring caretakers, laws etc.), but what ecotourism actually is doing -- is providing a greater incentive for local people and governments to not only protect their inherent natural areas but also promote and encourage them , as they are a source of sustainable economical income. 

4. How Ecotourism can 'Improve the Well-being of Local People'?

Although the intentions behind ecotourism are ethically good, it is still in the industry of tourism which is commercial, hence with a influx of tourists will come an increase demand on local industries such as hotels, infrastructure, tour guides etc. Hence, improving employment levels of locals as well as the benefiting the welfare of the economy.

Summary of What is Ecotourism

Although, the above article is a rather 'tongue in cheek' attempt at giving a brief overview of what ecotourism means, it hopefully has given you a more informed outlook as to what ecotourism is about. If you have any additional remarks, comments and answers on what does ecotourism mean, then I encourage you to share them in the comments box below.