What Is Ecotourism and Why Does It Matter?

With the current shape of the environment, it is not at all surprising that there are projects everywhere geared toward protecting our Earth and making it more sustainable for future generations. One such project is ecotourism. Tourism is the largest industry in the world and the environmental aspects of this industry have changed substantially over the past few years. Natural tourism or ecotourism is a quickly growing industry in itself.

It is important to understand what ecotourism is and what it entails. Generally speaking, ecotourism is simply traveling to natural areas to enjoy nature in its finest and doing so with environmental protection in mind. Many natural areas promote conservation and have a very low impact with regards to visitors. Ecotourism promotes a more sustainable travel aspect with regards to these natural areas. It is distinguished by its focus on the education, responsibility by travelers and the conservation of these areas.

Natural areas that are part of ecotourism projects focus on lower impact by visitors and in providing sustainability for local communities. Support is granted for the conservation efforts made by these areas and education is provided to better inform travelers of the area in question and the effects that ecotourism and environmental responsibility can have on a global scale.

The International Ecotourism Society is set up to better provide support for areas that are focused on this industry and to offer education and assistance to consumers who want to be a bit more responsible when they visit natural areas. This organization assists natural areas that are located all over the world and Visit California is one of those sub-organizations involved in protecting natural resources. Visit California partners with California’s tourism and travel industry to help keep the state considered as a major tourist destination while ensuring that natural areas remain protected. Tourism in California in 2010 topped more than $95 billion and supported nearly 1 million jobs. Billions of dollars in local and state tax revenues are gained from tourism within the state as well. Visit California, a not for profit organization, is designed to support this heavily growing industry but do so with an environmentally safe focus.

Increasing tourism to natural areas that remain sensitive to visitor impact is not without its issues. Those areas have to be properly prepared and much planning is involved in the process. Not planning and managing the process carefully could result in a threat to the integrity of the ecosystem in that area. Increasing visitor impact can eventually lead to degradation of the environmental system in that area if planning and management are not strictly enforced.

Ecotourism provides revenue that helps to protect natural areas such as national parks and major tourist destinations. This is revenue that may not be available from any other source. Communities that are within these natural areas can see benefits from ecotourism as well because it can provide additional revenue where there are few options available otherwise. In addition, ecotourism helps to better educate travelers and ensure that they fully understand the impact of their travel and what they can do to better protect their environment as well as the environment that they are visiting.

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