The chief problem associated with ecotourism is the fact that when more people visit a fragile ecosystem, the likelihood of damage to that ecosystem increases. In addition, ecotourism can distort local economies, cause massive local inflation, and cause indigenous people to abandon traditional livelihoods in favor of service industry jobs.
Ecotourism can be a valuable tool in preserving endangered plants and animals. The worldwide attention brought by ecotourism can raise awareness of species on the brink, and visitors can bring in much-needed funds for conservation programs. However, as tourism dollars increase, so does the threat to the environment.
Sheer numbers of visitors can cause issues with resource depletion and pollution. The need to create trails and facilities for visitors may damage habitats and drive animals away from their homes. Unlicensed or poorly trained guides may take visitors into fragile areas without concern for the wildlife, increasing the risk of harm. In some cases, species at the heart of ecotourism attraction can become targets for theft and smuggling, providing black-market pets for wealthy foreigners.
Ecotourism can also have a negative effect on local economies. Companies providing tourist services may offer better jobs than traditional occupations in the community, depriving towns and villages of services they may need. In primitive areas, this can warp the local economy to the extent that communities may not be able to survive without a constant influx of money and resources.