The photo above was taken at the Posada Amazonas Lodge, Peru – a community-owned rainforest lodge.
Ecotourism is the practice of visiting natural habitats while trying to minimise ecological impact. It doesn’t mean luxuries, such as flushing toilets, have to be abandoned.
Ecotourism can benefit the environment in several effective ways: it can provide a sustainable way to source income from biodiversity, enable sustainable use of reserve resources, and promote conservation by reducing threats to biodiversity.
Ecotourism provides work for local inhabitants who would otherwise source income from destructive activity. This creates an incentive for conservation of the area and to establish more parks and reserves. An ecotourism venture also seeks to minimise the harm caused by nature tourists.
The ecotourism definition from the Nature Conservancy is:
“Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.”
Apparent negative impacts from eco tourists, such as degradation of plant life along a trail, need to be compared to the overall benefit of providing money to the park for employment of more rangers, which might be more important to the overall conservation of the area.
When ecotourism takes place in less formal areas that aren’t classified as national parks etc. ecotourism can help biodiversity by promoting establishment of a protected area and providing incentive to put formal protection in place.
Ecotourism is one of the main ways we can protect the rainforests. It enables local people to source income from the rainforest without chopping it down for timber or to make way for farmland, a practice the tropics are not well suited to. Rainforests used for ecotourism have become many times more profitable per hectare compared to clearing land for pastures and fields.
Ecotourism is utilised by developing countries to bring in foreign revenue by preserving the rainforests. Tourists pay entrance fees to the park either directly or indirectly, which supports reserve maintenance.
People visiting the area bring money for local people directly by buying produce and handicrafts, and by the lodges and tourism industries employing locals as managers, guides, cooks, and cleaners etc. This has the knock on effect that rainforests are what bring the tourists, and therefore the money, paving the way for formation and upkeep of more reserves, protecting more of the world’s biodiversity.