Ecotourism encourages visitors to a country to leave a small carbon footprint, to the benefit of local communities and environments. It has become an increasingly popular option for many people.
Jungle hut in Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand
Ecotourism is a type of sustainabledevelopment. 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.
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.
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 fromMEDCs.
- 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.
Case study: ecotourism at Uluru
Uluru / Ayers Rock in Australia
Uluru in Australia is one of the largest rocks (or monoliths) in the world. (Uluru is the aboriginal name for the rock, also named Ayers Rock in 1873). Until recently large numbers of tourists visited the rock and climbed it using a rope-and-pole path drilled into the side of the rock. As a result the rock was becoming eroded.
Tourists climbing Uluru
In 1985 the Australian government handed the land on which Uluru stands back to the Aboriginal inhabitants, the Anangu. The rock has spiritual significance for the Anangu and they do not climb it. The Anangu now ask tourists to respect the rock by not climbing it, and most tourists comply.