1. Introduction to Ecotourism
2. The benefits and positive sides to ecotourism
3. The drawbacks and negative sides to ecotourism
4. Case Study: Costa Rica
Negative example of Ecotourism: Antarctica

Ecotourism: “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people” (TIES, 1990) (1)

Introduction to Ecotourism

Ecotourism encourages sustainable travel to natural eco destinations and conservation of the environment, which in turn may improve the well being of the local people. The International Ecotourism Society is one of the main groups to encourage the uptake of ecotourism. Places of choice for ecotourists include Estonia, Japan, Africa and Spain, as well as Costa Rica, Brazil and even the U.K., (2) Due to the current drive to be more sustainable and eco friendly to help save the environment, ecotourism has seen a huge increase, becoming one of the fastest growing sub sections of tourism. However, there are not only benefits of ecotourism, and there are even some organizations which are exploiting and abusing the concept, leading some to suggest that the drawbacks perhaps outweigh the benefits in some cases.(3)
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The benefits and positive sides to ecotourism

Ecotourism can have massive impacts on the environment and economy as it is helping to conserve what little natural environment we have left. Many people are now choosing to be ecotourists, and one idea for this is that it creates more excitement fo the tourist as it bridges the gap between different forms of recreation, adventure and tourism. (Fennel 1999)
  • Provides employment for local people and also provides services.
  • Helps protect plants and animals from traditional tourism.
  • Creates a more sustainable environment for future generations.
  • Participating in an ecotrip, may encourage an individual to consider and reduce their own ecological footprint.
  • Ecolodges may be used to test low impact technologies to the point where they may be commercially viable for the retial residential market.
  • Some money may be contributed by organisations to the areas of conservation. (Buckley 2004)
  • Money will go back into the community
  • LEDC's often sell their primary goods to survive such as minerals, trees and wildlife. Ecotourism provides them with a decent alternative source of income.

The drawbacks and negative sides to ecotourism

Although the benefits may appear to be somewhat rewarding to not only the conservation areas, but also the organisations, there are some drawbacks which may hinder the sustainability of this type of tourism.
  • Locals are moved out of homes to make room for tourist parks and resorts.
  • Keeping endangered species in captivity to attract tourists.
  • A lot on environmental damage due to the transportation to get to the remote ecotourism areas give off greenhouse gases.
  • Although some organisations do contribute to the areas of conservation, very few actually do and even when they do contribute, it is a minimal amount, which often hardly covers the cost of the running of the area. (Buckley 2004)

Case Study: Costa Rica

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Figure2 Santa Elena, Monteverde
(Source: Figure2: (Source:

Some places have successfully managed to link ecotourism in with sustainable tourism (an industry committed to making a low impact on the environment and local culture, while helping to generate income and employment for local people) such as Costa Rica. By offering tourists activities and accomodation adapted to the existing environment e.g. hiking, staying in tree huts, participating in farming/harvesting and learning about the area and environment by visiting national parks and lakes, Costa Rica are generating money and bettering their economy, yet sustaining the environment. As well as keeping a sustainable way of life for the residents, ecotourism can provide opportuities for local people e.g. hotel jobs, tour guides, teaching indigenous skills and building
  • Volcán Tenorio National Park, a biodiversity hot spot in Northern Costa Rica, this patch of rainforest was set for deforestation and redistribution in 1985. But the plans were opposed by 23 local families, who formed the Asociación Bijagueña de Productores Agricolas (ABIPA) so to manage and protect the land, and diversify local income streams. In the neighbouring village of Bijagua, taxi drivers and stalls selling meat and vegetables benefited, too.
  • Many costs of ecotourism in Costa Rica such as; visitor overcapacity, greenwashing, reliance on international doners, economic leaks and exploitation of local work force.

Negative impacts of Ecotourism: Antarctica

  • Antarctica is a continent at the earth's South Pole and is covered with 98% ice.
  • Tourism is here in the form of cruise ships and the number of tourists each year is increasing e.g. there were 7413 in 1996 and in
2007 it had increased to 46000.
  • In April 2009 new limits were put on tourism- only 50 ships with fewer than 500 passengers were allowed to land there.
  • Although there were restrictions, tourism was still damaging to the envrionment; plants were trampled, animals were disturbed, there was increasing worry of spillage of fuel from ships (especially because of the MS Explorer sinking in 2007)
  • Also as the numbers grew to the area, it may cause problems about trying to restrict its carrying capacity.
external image antarctica.jpgFigure 3: Antarctica (Source:

Created by: Melissa Benham, Charlotte Leach, Grace McCarrick, Kelly Player and Lois Quigley.

Buckley, R. (2004) Environmental Impacts of Ecotourism.
Fennel, D A. (1999) Ecotourism: An Introduction