Ecotourism: definition and characteristics

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You hear more and more frequently about ecotourism, or ecological tourism, since it is one of the sectors that has grown the most in recent years within the tourism sector as a whole. Despite this, this does not mean that everyone knows how to correctly define what since, on many occasions, the idea of ecological tourism is confused with tourism that, in one way or another, bears some kind of relationship with the surroundings. natural, but without specifying more in the type of relationship that the tourist develops with that place he visits.

This often leads to an erroneous or, at least, incomplete idea of what ecotourism is and of all its environmental and social implications. If you want to know more about this way of traveling that is characterized by being respectful with the environments in which it is practiced, keep reading Ecologist Verde, in which we tell you all about the ecotourism: definition and characteristics.

What is ecotourism and what is not

According to definition of ecotourism given by the International Ecotourism Society (TIES), can be defined as "a responsible trip to natural areas that conserve the environment and improve the well-being of the local population." In this way, talking about ecotourism is talking about a responsible tourism with the environment and local society who lives in said environment. That is to say, that, unlike what one might think at first, ecotourism is not any form of tourism that is related to nature, but, in addition to being related to it, said relationship must always be established from respect and from an ethical perspective.

In this way, if we take a trip to the mountains as an example, we could be talking about ecological tourism since it is a natural environment. But, what will really define whether our trip is an example of ecotourism or not, will be the relationship that we establish with the mountain, and not just the chosen place.

In this way, if we do a route on foot and our trip does not have a negative impact on the mountain (we do not deposit garbage in the environment, we do not damage the flora and fauna of the environment, we do not collaborate with businesses that exploit the natural heritage in an unsustainable way or to the local population, etc.), it may be considered an example of ecological tourism.

While, if on the contrary, that same trip is made in an unsustainable way, for example making use of facilities such as ski resorts (whose impact is terribly harmful on the mountain environment), despite being a type of tourism related to a natural environment and that can generate wealth for the local population, we cannot really be talking about ecotourism, since the relationship that exists between the tourist and the environment implies the degradation of the same for the realization of their tourist activity.

The Seven Principles of Genuine Ecotourism

The International Ecotourism Society has defined the most authentic ecotourism as one that complies with certain principles. These are the seven principles of ecotourism:

  1. Minimize negative impacts, both for the environment and for the community.
  2. Build respect and awareness, both environmental and cultural.
  3. Develop positive experiences, which are positive for both tourists and the local population.
  4. Produce financial benefits that are direct for the conservation of the place.
  5. Guarantee the obtaining of financial resources and favor participation in community decisions.
  6. Promote sensitivity to the climate, both political and environmental and social, of the places that are visited.
  7. Support both universal human rights and local labor laws and regulations.

These seven principles are a starting point to understand the depth of what ecotourism entails and what its objectives are, both in the short and long term.

What does current tourism imply in consumer society?

Today, within the consumer society in which we live, there is a great variety of ways of "doing tourism" and, as with many of the daily activities typical of this type of society, its impact on the environment. atmosphere is disastrous. This type of "consumer tourismā€¯Implies the degradation of natural environments and the exploitation of local human resources in order to obtain the maximum benefit without taking into account the impact it generates.

This way of understanding tourism constitutes a very serious mistake, both from an ethical and even an economic perspective. From an ethical perspective, it is unjustifiable environmental degradation and the abuses of the local population. From an economic perspective, this type of tourism entails the destruction of heritage that allows tourist activity to exist and that sustains it, so it will end up assuming its own destruction as a sector that generates wealth.

In this way, consumer tourism is presented as the tourist version of the "use and throw away" model prevalent in much of the activities of today's society, which constitutes the most negative example of any way of relating to the environment.

Conversely, The ecotourism It is a model of tourism in which carrying out its own activity does not imply the destruction of the environment and the tourist attraction that allows it to be carried out. Which also has consequences, both ethical and economic. From an ethical perspective, it is a tourism model that allows a responsible relationship with nature and with local communities. And from an economic perspective, it guarantees that the tourist activity in question constitutes a lasting activity over time, which implies that it will be able to generate wealth indefinitely and without an expiration date and guarantees a sustainable economic future for local communities.

Examples of how to do ecotourism

Some of the ecotourism examples more representative can be found in the management of some natural parks and marine reserves that have adapted their business model, prioritizing the conservation of the environment versus the benefits of consumer tourism. This is carried out through specific policies, some of the most common are the following:

Limit the number of visitors and access with a private vehicle

It is a fundamental measure to reduce the impact of mass tourism. Tickets must be purchased in advance, which allows better management of tourist flows, which never exceed the number of visitors that those responsible for the area cannot control. Likewise, access by road is limited, making the tourist have to access the protected environment in special transport destined for that purpose and avoiding the entry of private transport.

Activities without destructive impact

Naturally, the mere presence of tourists has an impact on the environment. However, those activities whose impact is neither destructive nor irreparable are prioritized. For example, visiting a natural park is allowed during the day, but camping at night is prohibited.

Creation of a sustainable infrastructure

The best way to manage a tourist environment in a sustainable way involves an infrastructure that sustainably manages tourists. In this sense, gestures as simple as having bins in the parking areas facilitate the work.

Job creation and revitalization of the local economy

The creation of local employment is favored, since it requires the presence of workers on a continuous basis. For example, forest rangers, veterinarians, visitor service personnel, local crafts, etc.


In the same way that a tangible infrastructure is created so that tourists can visit the environment in a responsible way, they are also made aware of the importance of the environment in which they are, as well as the importance of their collaboration so that they can continue to be conserved. Under the same conditions.

If you want to read more articles similar to Ecotourism: definition and characteristicsWe recommend that you enter our Tourism category.

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