Nearly all definitions of ecotourism include the focus on the natural environment. This focus is flexible and ranges from say, a biome such as
a rain forest and all that it includes to a product that focuses on a single species. Many ecotourism companies focus on certain elements in
nature, commonly referred to as ‘fauna/flora/liths’.
fauna includes any animal species that provides a target, such as whales, lions, birds and even insects. Flora includes plant species, while
liths are natural formations, such as mountains and other geographic features of interest.
All of these elements should be placed in the broader environmental context and in the human/cultural context providing the visitor with the
most realistic and in-depth experience.
Ecotourism has an emphasis on education / interpretation as one of its essential elements.
Effective interpretation is not just about providing facts and figures, but it reveals the complex relationships found in nature. It also
encourages appropriate behavior, which serves to minimize human impact on the environment, ensuring the sustainability of the element
Interpretations can be either off-site or on-site. Offsite interpretation includes guidebooks, information and images on website, brochures or
even word of mouth. This is important as it influences the visitor’s decision to visit the attraction. It also establishes future behaviors and
formulates expectations and images in the visitor’s mind which can have a dramatic effect upon the actual experience. On site interpretation
includes visitor facilities and self-guided and guided tours.
It is important to involve the local community and garner their support and interest by making it ecotourism activities beneficial to them.
This is most likely to lead to the protection of the natural attractions.
Another major aim of ecotourism is to put money back into the local community. Operators are therefore encouraged to spend money
associated with the running of the tour locally. This also includes personal expenditure on goods and services. The local economy is
stimulated by this spending and economic growth is a flow-on effect, creating employment and economic security for the local rural
populations. Income is also generated through the fees associated with permits and licences; this ensures that more money is spent on public
land management and conservation. Job opportunities in this field would increase with a greater demand for park rangers, kiosk operators,
park assistants and so on.
Another positive result of putting money back into the community is community support. For example, rural communities, often with a
sometimes-high proportion of unemployment and low incomes, are much more inclined to support ecotourism in their area if they, too, can
benefit from it.
Sustainability calls for minimizing impact on natural environment and/or enhancing the ones that were degraded in some aspect. This can
be achieved by providing visitors the opportunity to give back to nature. They are encouraged to participate in restoration activities or
provide donations to such work. This approach promotes the notion of the environment being everyone’s responsibility.
In conclusion, it is important that every ecotourism company operates according to “environmental best practices.”