The Travel and Tourism Industry:
A Global Economic and Environmental Force
Travel and tourism is today the world’s largest industry and is also among the fastest growing economic sectors. The travel and tourism industry accounts for 10.2% of the world’s total economic output ($3.53 trillion), 194.6 million jobs (1 out of 13 jobs on the planet) and is expected to grow 4.6% annually during each of the next 10 years.¹ The industry provides immeasurable economic, social and other benefits to travelers and the communities they visit. Despite its many benefits the industry has also adversely affected the environmental and social qualities of many destination areas. As a result of its global scale and unsurpassed economic clout, the industry represents a vast, largely untapped source of solutions to serious environmental and social problems.
Ecotourism: An Emerging Tool for Sustainable Development
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Ecotourism is environmentally responsible and culturally sensitive travel to relatively undisturbed areas. The purpose of ecotourism is to foster an appreciation of nature and culture while promoting conservation, supporting sustainable community development, minimizing tourism’s negative impacts, and providing for the active, beneficial involvement of local communities.
A true ecotourism experience involves well-planned, interactive learning experiences that introduce small groups of travelers to new environments. Ecotourism also commits the travel and tourism industry to sustainable operations models and environmentally sound practices. As such, ecotourism offers a great source for potential solutions to serious environmental and social problems.
The term "ecotourism" originated in the early 1990’s in response to the growing interest among travelers in enriching their travel experiences through direct contact with the natural environment, living history, and local cultures.
Ecotourism enables communities to thrive economically while preserving and restoring the resources on which the travel and tourism industry and local communities depend. In response to the fact that ecotourism and nature-based tourism are today’s fastest growing market segment, many businesses involved in the travel industry have a new incentive to reevaluate their model of operations, and to develop sustainable practices that are desirable for their local communities, beneficial to the economy, and good for the natural world.
Many people working in travel and tourism now know that their customers value the responsible, environmentally sound business practices that define ecotourism. These practices include but are not limited to water and energy conservation, recycling, and experiential environmental education opportunities for tourists.
“Ecotourism is responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well being of local people.”
— The International Ecotourism Society, 1991
“Ecotourism is environmentally responsible travel and visitation to relatively undisturbed natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and any accompanying cultural features - both past and present) that promotes conservation, has low negative visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local populations.”
— The World Conservation Union, 1996
PRINCIPLES OF ECOTOURISM
ONLINE ECOTOURISM RESOURCES: IET ECO LINKS
1 World Travel and Tourism Council. "World Travel and tourism: A World of Opportunity. the 2003 Travel and Tourism Economic Research Report."