The International Ecotourism Society says ecotourism is “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” Its goal is to unite conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. Those who implement and participate in ecotourism should adhere to the following principles:
- Minimize impact.
- Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
- Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
- Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
- Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people.
- Raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climate.
In other words, ecotourism is more about participating in local culture than passing through it in an air conditioned bus. It should help protect the natural and cultural heritage of the earth; empower local communities by providing employment opportunities and promoting sustainable development; and promote greater appreciation for nature, local society, and culture.
Ecotourism has also come to signify significant outdoor activities such as hiking, surfing, mountain biking, kayaking, snorkeling, mountain climbing and sailing. Just going somewhere to sit on a beach definitely does not qualify.