Ecotourism is environmentally responsible travel to enjoy and appreciate nature and cultural experiences. Ecotourism should have low impact on the environment and should contribute to the well-being of local people.

Done right, ecotourism can generate opportunities for local people to earn money and support their families. It can support the local economy and encourage people to protect nature instead of destroy it.

One "extreme" example of ecotourism is mountain gorilla tourism in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Tourists pay a hefty fee to see mountain gorillas in the wild. The experience is carefully controlled to reduce the impact on gorillas and their habitat. Tourists are required to maintain a safe distance from gorillas and are only permitted to visit designated groups of gorillas that are "habituated" or accustomed to humans. Gorilla tourism generates millions of dollars for the local economy and conservation efforts.

Another example of ecotourism comes from Madagascar where national park fees are split between the park service and local communities. Tourists are required to hire a guide when they enter a park, which creates jobs for local community members.

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Review questions

  • What is ecotourism?
  • What is an example of ecotourism?
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