What Are the Disadvantages of Ecotourism?

Ecotourism can bring needed funds to conservation efforts around the globe, but it can also put stress on wildlife and local populations, if not handled correctly. The more visitors a fragile ecosystem has each year, the more likely the traffic is to damage habitats and affect the local environment. Ecotourism can also bring outside investment and development to a region at the cost of local jobs and infrastructure.

One major disadvantage to ecotourism is that it often converts the local economy to a tourist economy, stifling the area’s natural economic prospects in favor of servicing wealthy foreigners. This can destroy local industry and agriculture as workers find better wages serving guests and can lead to an economic downward spiral. An outside influx of cash can offset this somewhat, but it makes the local economy entirely dependent on foreign funds, which is a precarious economic situation.

Tourism departments must strike a balance between access to rare wildlife and protection of endangered plants and animals. If tourists cannot see rare habitats and their occupants, there is no reason to visit the area, but too much traffic can have a negative effect. If poorly regulated, local guides may offer visitors the chance to bypass regulated activities, possibly harming the animals at the center of the ecotourism industry.