What is ecotourism?

Ecotourism keeps the health of the planet in mind when travelling.

Ecotourism keeps the health of the planet in mind when travelling.

Students exploring the wonderful world of travel may have encountered the term 'ecotourism' without really knowing what it means. With more and more ecotourism resorts and tours popping up around Australia and the globe, however, it's important for future industry leaders get to grips with this growing trend.

Ecotourism is, in essence, a responsible travel solution that conserves the environment and focuses on the wellbeing of local people. In general, ecotourism takes places in with a high concentration of natural wonders or unique environmental characteristics. It seeks to provide economic incentives for conserving and enhancing the environment tourists travel to, along with protecting the heritage of these areas.

If tourism to sensitive natural areas increases without appropriate planning and management, this can threaten ecosystems and cultures in the area, with environmental damage likely if visitors do not take the appropriate measures. Local communities and indigenous cultures in particular can also be negatively impacted by sudden bursts of foreign visitors, who can upset their traditions and beliefs.

With these types of journeys there's an increased emphasis placed on providing fantastic personal experiences as well as promoting environmental awareness. Those who participate in ecotourism generally minimise their impact on their holiday destinations and provide direct financial benefits for conservation. The practice of ecotourism can also help to spread awareness and education around local issues to travellers from all over the world, as well as providing support  for preserving nature to those living in the areas where the practice takes place.

Ecotourism, if managed properly can provide lucrative revenue opportunities for local communities, as well as funding future conservation efforts. When travelling to remote areas, tourists can provide viable economic development to local communities that may have few other opportunities to generate income.