Ecotourism 101: How is ecotourism different from other types of tourism?

Ecotourism is different from other types of tourism simply because its distinct clarifications have been incorrectly applied.  Ecotourism, which is a type of travel that focuses on the discovery of a wildlife habitat in a manner that maximizes local goals and reduces damage to the environment, has been mixed with other types of tourism. 

Ecotourism Different from Sustainable Tourism 

Does not deplete resources and allows for a smaller number of tourists to experience nature so as not to disturb the animal’s normal mating, feeding, or migratory patterns. An example is a rafting trip on a free-flowing river. The difference with ecotourism is that there may be no focus on the preservation of the natural habitat or economic benefit to the host destination.

Ecotourism Different from Adventure Tourism

Spotlights physical outdoor activities. Examples include snorkeling, diving, or surfing a coastal area. The difference with ecotourism is that while these companies may want to preserve the environment where the activities are taking place, they may not necessarily be operating in a sustainable manner or providing educational opportunities.

Ecotourism Different from Cultural Tourism

Centers on the discovery of the heritage of the host destination. An example would be a local artisan showing you how to weave a tapestry and learning from her about the traditional dress. The difference with ecotourism is that there is no focus on nature or wildlife.

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Ecotourism Different from Responsible Tourism

Attempts to minimize the environmental degradation of the host destination. An example is a wilderness camping trip using Leave No Trace ethics. The difference with ecotourism is that there may be no economic benefit to the host destination.

Ecotourism Different from Nature Tourism

Focuses on enjoying wildlife in their natural habitat. Examples include jungle lodgings in the Amazon or cruise ships that view penguins in Antarctica. The difference with ecotourism is that these trips may not have an educational component to them, may not be environmentally sustainable or responsible, and may not economically benefit the host destination.

Ecotourism Different from Green Tourism

Applies to any activity or facility that operates in an environmentally friendly way. Examples include a rainforest lodge with composting toilets and solar-powered lighting.  The difference with ecotourism is that these lodges may be centrally controlled by a large corporation and therefore not necessarily benefit the host destination nor focus on conservation education or the preservation of wildlife.

Final Thoughts

When we talk about ecotourism, we’re talking about actions that have a meaningful impact on the community or region to which you’re traveling. Lowering your carbon footprint or reducing the waste you generate while traveling by choosing reusable items like a refillable water bottle, all contribute to lowering your overall impact.  But truly sustainable travel is about supporting people and infrastructure long after you’ve departed: supporting a region socially, economically and environmentally (SEE).

By seeking ecotourism travel experiences, you will also find unique opportunities to connect more deeply with the people and places you visit, experiencing the culture, people, wildlife and diverse experiences each destination has to offer in a more authentic way.

What does ecotourism mean to you? 

8 Responses
  1. Avatar
    susan nguyen

    There are many ways to divide tourism into different categories based on criteria. How many types of travel do you have?

  2. Avatar

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  3. Avatar

    Great website you have here but I was wanting to know if
    you knew of any forums that cover the same topics discussed in this article?
    I’d really like to be a part of group where I can get feed-back from
    other experienced individuals that share the same interest.
    If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Kudos!

    1. Avatar
      Irene Lane

      You could check out the following online forums for additional feedback:, on Twitter using the #RTTC and #EuroEco, on Facebook join the Irresponsible Tourism and Responsible Tourism Networking pages, and on LinkedIn join the Responsible Travel and Tourism group. Hope that helps!

    1. Avatar
      Irene Lane

      Hi there! You can subscribe to the Greenloons Eco Blog by going to the top right of the page under the search box, providing your email address, and clicking ‘Subscribe’.

  4. Avatar

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