How to Manage Ecotourism Businesses 


If you already work in tourism, it can broaden and deepen your knowledge; leading to new opportunities

If you aspire to work in ecotourism; you will better understand the industry, be less likely to make mistakes, and more capable of succeeding in this industry
If you hope to start or buy an ecotour business; you will make better business choices, both in what you start or buy, and how you move forward beyond that.

This course will improve your knowledge and understanding of ecotourism; but beyond that it will raise your awareness of the industry and help you to see opportunities in a different way -a more enlightened way.

Tourism is a major industry in many countries.
Ecotourism has emerged out of growing interest in outdoor activities – from mountaineering and bird watching, to low impact bush walking.  Establishing such an enterprise requires an understanding of a wide range of issues including:
  • destinations
  • safety
  • accommodation
  • transport
  • the tour desk as a first point of contact
  • legal considerations
  • management

This course develops your ability to establish and operate an ecotourism enterprise

Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:


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  1. Nature and Scope of Ecotourism
    • Definition of ecotourism
    • Negative ecotourism
    • Principles of ecotourism
  2. Management Issues
    • Recreation and the environment
    • recreational impacts on the environment
    • ethical and legal concerns
    • code of practice for ecotourism operators
    • incorporating ecotourism principles into activities
    • interpretation
    • visitor guidelines
    • planning for minimal impact
    • quality control
  3. Industry Destinations
    • The ecotourism market
    • what do ecotourists want?
    • trends in international tourism
    • understanding the needs of the consumer
    • consumer expectations
  4. The Tour Desk/Office
    • Office procedures
    • providing information
    • employment prospects in ecotourism
    • bookings
    • business letters
    • telephone manner
  5. Accommodation Facilities
    • Types of accommodation facilities
    • layout of facilities
  6. Catering Facilities
    • Introduction to catering
    • accepted practice for service facilities
    • storing and preserving food
  7. Legal Considerations
    • National Parks
    • land use/planning restrictions
    • code of practice
  8. Safety
    • The safety strategy
    • hazards
    • first aid
  9. Planning an Ecotourism Activity
    • A special project where the student plans out an ecotourism activity including:
    • budget
    • accommodation
    • licenses
    • meals
    • destination

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school’s tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Describe the scope of ecotourism experiences available.
  • Determine management issues related to ecotourism activities/enterprises, giving due consideration to environmental and ethical concerns.
  • Develop in the learner an awareness of ecotourism destinations in existence and possibilities (in the learner’s country).
  • Explain the management and operation of an ecotourism office.
  • Explain the management of ecotourist accommodation facilities including:
    • camp sites
    • cabins
    • caravans
    • resorts
  • Identify catering options for different ecotourism activities.
  • Identify legal and statutory requirements for the establishment and operation of an ecotourism enterprise.
  • Identify/establish safety precautions/requirements/procedures for an ecotourism enterprise.
  • Plan for an ecotourism activity.

What You Will Do

  • Prepare reviews of six different ecotourism destinations
  • Contact travel agencies and information centres to research the scope of ecotourism activities available in your area
  • Contact a range of ecotourism operators to research their concerns for the environment
  • Determine three examples of ecotourism activities that have had undesirable social or environmental impacts
  • Report on the relevance of indigenous culture to ecotourism in your locality
  • Carry out research into desirable ecotourism destinations
  • Identify potential ecotourism activities in your locality
  • Observe the administrative operations of an existing ecotourism venture
  • Establish administrative procedures for your own hypothetical ecotourism enterprise
  • Inspect an ecotourism accommodation facility
  • Research the statutory/legislative requirements for setting up ecotourism accommodation in your locality
  • Determine suitable layout for an ecotourism accommodation facility
  • Visit at least two suppliers of outdoor/recreation camping and cooking equipment
  • Contact your local health department or similar to find out causes of food poisoning and how it can be prevented
  • Make contact with several local ecotourism associations to research membership requirements
  • Research law and regulations in your state that may affect the operation of an ecotourism enterprise
  • Contact at least two insurance brokers for their recommendations on the type of insurance needed for a proposed ecotourism activity
  • Research safety notification requirements in a natural area
  • Interview someone who has been involved in the planning and/or delivery of an ecotourism activity.

Putting the ‘Eco’ back into Ecotourism

Most of what is called “ecotourism” has very little “eco”. A high percentage of the profits from most ecotour operations go to city based companies. This same profit is then spent within the city rather than in the ecotour environment. The rental van or car, food supplies for the lodges in the field, etc., come from that city. In most areas almost none of the profit stays with the people that live in areas rich in biodiversity.

Many eco-tourism claims concerning its benefits are exaggerated, or owe more to labelling and marketing than genuine sustainability. Many of these projects are carried out without local consent and support and they often threaten these local cultures, economies, and natural resources. Some critics regard eco-tourism as an `eco-facade’: a tactic concealing the mainstream tourism industry’s consumptive and exploitative practices by `greening’ it. This is not so in all cases but there are many we can find. For example, a wilderness lodge in a nature area may market on its location as an ecotourism destination when it does nothing else that is sustainable or ‘eco’ based and all profits go to the company owner. People often think many of the island resorts are ecotourist destinations. They may well be where ecotourists go but many can be fooled. These resorts may be doing nothing to hand back to the local community or to reduce its impact on the natural environment.

There is a developing trend to encourage ecotour companies to put some of the profit back into the areas they profit from. A lot of this money seems to go towards research, particularly of single species and is not seen as an efficient tool for conservation by most conservation groups and organisations. These groups are hoping to put more emphasis on preserving habitat first; wildlife can not exist without a habitat.

To ensure that the “eco” does stay in ecotourism it is important for Ecotour Managers to encourage the following:

  • Aim to do the most towards biodiversity preservation i.e. be part of community based conservation groups.
  • Tourists have to be educated to choose to travel with companies that do the most for real biodiversity preservation.
  • Many more community-based ecotourism businesses need to be developed.
  • Community-based ecotourism businesses need to be developed with guides as professional as the best bird watching and nature tour guides currently working if they hope to capture part of this lucrative market.
Ecotourism is at an exciting phase, currently most of what is called ecotourism is simply nature-based tourism, and most of the profits go to the cities. There is a great deal of potential in the development of sustainable ecotourism. Ecotourism is considered the fastest growing market in the tourism industry, according to the World Tourism Organization with an annual growth rate of 5% worldwide and representing 6% of the world gross domestic product. There are efforts being made to increase the number of professional community-based ecotourism businesses. The future of ecotourism will lead not only to biodiversity preservation, but also to cultural preservation. Humans and biodiversity are intricately linked; each needs the other for survival.

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