Q:

What is ecotourism?

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Quick Answer

Ecotourism is a form of tourism where people visit areas of ecological significance, usually with a focus on education and sustainable practices. Attractions may include rare or endangered wildlife, rare plants or unique natural features. Ecotourism can be a valuable industry for countries with these resources and can serve as a way to raise sorely needed funds for conservation and preservation.

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Full Answer

In many ways, ecotourism can be a double-edged environmental sword. On the one hand, it can raise awareness of fragile ecosystems and endangered wildlife, and the money brought in by ecotourism can prove valuable for local communities and indigenous people. On the other hand, ecotourism typically involves long-distance air travel and an associated increase in air pollution, and large numbers of visitors can put a strain on the local environment and services. Without careful management, an increase in tourists visiting a fragile ecosystem can permanently damage or even destroy it, and even under ideal circumstances, ecotourism can be a delicate balancing act.

In the worst cases, ecotourism can exploit, displace or even destroy local populations and damage the natural environment. Countries that are more interested in the financial benefits of ecotourism than sustainability may take over areas of interest to foreign tourists, building a service industry designed to cater to them and destabilizing the local economy. Regulations designed to preserve areas for tourists may block indigenous people from their traditional means of supporting themselves by hunting, logging or other means of exploiting natural resources, driving them out of sensitive areas.

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