According to The International Ecotourism Society, ecotourism is, ‘Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people’ (TIES, 1990).

Ecotourism Australia defines the term as ‘Ecologically sustainable tourism with a primary focus on experiencing natural areas that fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation’.

At Ecotourism Kenya, we know Ecotourism as ‘the involvement of tourists in environmental conservation activities directly linked to addressing human development needs, and promotes equitable sharing of benefits accrued from tourism with local communities while supporting their nature conservation values’.

So what really is Ecotourism?

It is actually all of the above. The underlying words are ‘responsible tourism’ and ‘local cultures’. It brings together conservation, communities and tourism.

Ecotourism is NOT a type of tourism like other types of tourism e.g. Adventure, beach, culture-based, wildlife, sports, scenic, specialized etc.

  • Not a comparison or alternative to mass tourism
  • Not an exclusive way of doing tourism

BUT … a tourism business approach or strategy for achieving the goals of sustainable development. Hence, ecotourism principles are applicable to all types of tourism and tourism products

Models of Ecotourism

  • Conservancies (nature, wildlife, shrines)
  • Tourism enterprises (lodges, camps, treks, etc)
  • Tourism sector-based Corporate Social
  • Responsibility (CSR)
  • Travellers’ philanthropy
  • Tourism supply chain management
  • Tourism investment – Private-Public Partnerships
  • Direct capacity-building community development Programs

Principles governing ecotourism

  1. Encourage travel to natural areas
  2. Minimize impact of tourism activities on natural attractions
  3. Recognize and build awareness about local conservation values and their importance to society
  4. Provide direct benefits and empowerment for local people at destinations without retrogression on environmental, cultural or local living standards.
  5. Respect local people, their customs and culture
  6. Support sustainable development of local economies through direct involvement and participatory decision-making