Mongabay.com is considered a leading source of information on tropical forests by some of the world's top ecologists and conservationists. TROPICAL RAINFORESTS: Saving What Remains
Gorilla tourism
Gorilla tourism brings in hundreds of millions of dollars a year in Rwanda, Uganda, and DR Congo. Click image for more gorilla photos. (Photo by R. Butler)

ECOTOURISM

By Rhett Butler   |  Last updated July 22, 2012

Ecotourism a leading way for developing countries to generate revenue by preserving their rainforests. Eco-tourists pay to see a country's natural beauty, not the destruction caused by short-run exploitation. Money spent directly in the local economy helps put a monetary value on forest preservation. Local people, along with the government, can see the importance of keeping the forest intact. And many tourists are willing to pay directly for preservation in the forms of park entrance fees and donations.

Ecotourism can provide local people with economic assistance by offering employment opportunities as wildlife guides, park rangers, and service workers in hotels, restaurants, and lodges. With eco-tourism, income is earned from preserving the ecosystem, and forest clearing is discouraged because it is detrimental to income. Similarly, ecotourism can reduce the need for poaching and hunting of forest animals for income. For example, in West Africa, former poachers are hired as park rangers since they have intimate knowledge of local animal wildlife. Ecotourism also provides opportunities for education that might not otherwise be available, both directly in the form of training and indirectly through conservation funds contributed to local schools.

Ecotourism can also boost demand for local handicrafts.

Some hints for successful ecotourism in Madagascar
How to travel ethically
How to be an ethical traveler
Visiting the rainforest - a practical guide
Eco vacationers engage in cutting-edge environmental research

But while ecotourism is promising, tourism can have serious downsides. The risk is that as an ecotourism operation becomes successful, it may transition to mass-market nature-oriented tourism, which can be very damaging to the environment as well as local social conditions if not developed responsibly. A surge in tourist interest can drive hotel construction in sensitive areas; exacerbate conflict between operators, the local government, and communities; contribute to resource depletion (e.g. harvesting hardwoods for tourist handicrafts); and overwhelm a forest areas with a flood of visitors. Examples abound. Some parks in Costa Rica now have too many tourists, while poor oversight of orangutan tourism in parts of Indonesia has led to increased mortality among wild apes (orangutans can be infected by human diseases, which are transmitting when tourists offer food to the primates). Meanwhile an influx in relatively well-heeled foreigners can highlight wealth disparity and contribute to problems like prostitution.

Thus to ensure sustainability, ecotourism requires careful evaluation and planning. Short-term tourism development can doom forests as easily as unsustainable logging. Too many people, inadequate facilities, and poor park management can spell the end for the "eco" in ecotourism. Eco-tourism, when carried out in a sustainable fashion, can be beneficial to local people, the economy, and the environment. It should not be restricted to legally protected areas, but should also be promoted in natural areas that lack protection. The presence of tourists, when properly managed, protects the area from over-exploitive activities.

Suggested reading
  • Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins
  • Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart
  • Consilience : The Unity of Knowledge by Edward O. Wilson
  • Biomimicry : Innovation Inspired by Nature by Janine M. Benyus
  • The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits by C. K. Prahalad
  • Medicine Quest by Mark J. Plotkin
  • The Ecology of Commerce by Paul Hawken




  • Review questions:

    • How can ecotourism help the environment?

    Other versions of this page

    spanish | french | portuguese | chinese | japanese



    Continued / Next:

    Large scale forest products




    Other pages in this section:

    Solutions Introduction
    Sustainable Forest Products
    Large-scale Forest Products
    Medicinal Drugs
    Logging
    Logging (con't)
    Oil
    Conservation Priorities
    Reserve Size & Valuation
    Organization
    Intergovernmental Institutions
    Communication, Education
    Indigenous people
    - - - -
    References (1)
    References (2)
    References (3)
    References (4)
    References (5)
    Eco-tourism
    Foods & Genetic Diversity
    Medicinal Drugs & Pesticides
    Logging (con't)
    Cattle
    Increasing Productivity
    Types of Reserves
    Funding
    Developing nations
    NGOs
    International Organizations
    Conclusion

    - - - -
    Kids version of this section
    - How can we save rainforests?
    - Education
    - Rehabilitation
    - Sustainable development
    - Parks
    - Eco-friendly companies
    - Ecotourism
    - What you can do


    Selection of information sources






    For kids

    Tour: the Amazon

    Rainforest news

    Tour: Indonesia's rainforests

     Home
     What's New
     About
     Rainforests
       Mission
       Introduction
       Characteristics
       Biodiversity
       The Canopy
       Forest Floor
       Forest Waters
       Indigenous People
       Deforestation
       Consequences
       Saving Rainforests
       Amazon
       Borneo
       Congo
       New Guinea
       Sulawesi
       REDD
       Country Profiles
       Statistics
       Works Cited
       For Kids
       For Teachers
       Photos/Images
       Expert Interviews
       Rainforest News
      Forest data
       Global deforestation
       Tropical deforestation
       By country
       Deforestation charts
       Regional forest data
       Deforestation drivers
     XML Feeds
     Pictures
     Books
     Education
     Newsletter
     Contact

    Nature Blog Network



     CONTENTS
    Rainforests
    Tropical Fish
    News
    Madagascar
    Pictures
    Kids' Site
    Languages
    TCS Journal
    About
    Archives
    Topics | RSS
    Newsletter




     Other languages
    Arabic
    Bengali
    Chinese (CN) (expanded)
    Chinese (TW)
    Croatian
    Danish
    Dutch
    Farsi
    French (expanded)
    German (expanded)
    Greek
    Hindi
    Hungarian
    Indonesian
    Italian
    Japanese (expanded)
    Javanese
    Korean
    Malagasy
    Malay
    Marathi
    Norwegian
    Polish
    Portuguese (expanded)
    Russian
    Slovak
    Spanish (expanded)
    Swahili
    Swedish
    Ukrainian



     WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
     Email:


     INTERACT
    Facebook
    Twitter
    Contact
    Help
    Photo store
    Mongabay gear




    Recent news

    Ecotourism pays: study finds lower poverty where nature-based tourism is prevalent
    (02/25/2014) A new study has quantified a point long advocated by advocates of setting aside protected areas: ecotourism pays. The research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), finds that communities neighboring conservation areas in Costa Rica had lower rates of poverty relative to other areas.


    Two kids, one year, from the Amazon to the Arctic: the environmental adventure of a lifetime
    (02/19/2014) The Kraft family—Larry, Lauri, Jamie (age 8), and Jason (age 6)—are on the trip of a lifetime, a round-the-world tour with an environmental focus. Currently in India, the family has already made their way through the Amazon, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Australia, and the Galapagos, among other wild places. Still left on their itinerary: the Arctic. But the trip isn't all fun and games, instead the Kraft's are using the year abroad to learn first hand about global environmental issues and solutions.


    How hunters have become key to saving Bulgaria's capercaillie
    (02/04/2014) Surprising clatter cuts through the silence in the snowy forest shortly before sunrise. The powerful clicking sounds like a dropping Ping-Pong ball before culminating in a loud pop resembling the opening of a champagne bottle. This sound is heard clearly and far. Propped on a thick pine tree branch, with a peacock-fanned tale, relaxed wings and head pointing skyward, a western capercaillie is singing. The song terminates with a low-frequency sound similar to scraping a fork to the bottom of a frying pan. It's exactly during those last few moments of singing that something unusual happens: the male bird goes temporarily deaf. Hence the species' common name in Bulgarian—deaf bird.



    More news on ecotourism


    More rainforest news



    what's new | rainforests home | for kids | help | madagascar | search | about | languages | contact

    Copyright Rhett Butler 1994-2013

    Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated from mongabay.com operations (server, data transfer, travel) are mitigated through an association with Anthrotect,
    an organization working with Afro-indigenous and Embera communities to protect forests in Colombia's Darien region.
    Anthrotect is protecting the habitat of mongabay's mascot: the scale-crested pygmy tyrant.

    "Rainforest" is used interchangeably with "rain forest" on this site. "Jungle" is generally not used.