Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract Ecotourism is expected, by the tourism industry and academics, to grow rapidly over the next 20 years. Much has been written about ecotourism, often with missionary zeal, but there is little consensus about its definition. It is argued here that conservationists and protected area managers should adopt a definition of ecotourism which contributes to the maintenance of biodiversity and an appropriate definition is suggested. Ecotourism is not merely an alternative to mass tourism, nor is it the only alternative. The literature on nature tourism and the environmental impacts of the industry dates back to the late 1970s. Tourism is now the world's largest industry and it has an increasing impact on protected areas. Our understanding of these mechanisms, their ecological impacts and our capacity to manage tourism in protected areas lags behind the growth of tourism to protected areas. A rapid growth in nature tourism and tourism to protected areas has coincided with a shift in protected area management strategies towards integrated development. Tourism is one means available to protected area managers seeking to increase the economic value of a protected area and to offer sustainable opportunities for economic development to local people. This paper argues that potentially conflicting commercial, protected area and development interests all contribute to the emergence of ecotourism and have been doing so for many years. Ecotourism needs to be tightly defined if it is to benefit conservation. Protected area managers should consider how they can take control of nature tourism to the parks they manage and convert it into ecotourism for the benefit of conservation and the livelihoods of local people.
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