Ecotourism means ecological tourism, where ecology has both environmental and social connotations.
The term ‘Ecotourism’ was initially coined in 1987 by Ceballos-Lascurain (Ceballos-Lascurain, 1996) who defined ecotourism as an experience of “travelling to relatively undisturbed areas with the specific objective of studying, admiring, and enjoying the scenery and its wild life”.
Ceballos-Lascurain preferred to confine the scope of ecotourism to the objective of travelling and the area travelled.
Today Ecotourism is distinguished from Mass Tourism or Resort Tourism by having a lower impact on the environment and by requiring less infrastructural development. Ecotourism is now the fastest growing sector in the tourist-based industry. It offers a sound alternative to mass tourism and attracts consumers who wish to enjoy more ethical and nature-based holidays. If ecotourism projects are to be ecologically sound they must recognize that most parts of the world have been modified, managed and in some cases improved by indigenous people for many centuries.
The World Tourism Organisation defined ecotourism as “tourism that involves travelling to relatively undisturbed natural areas with the specified object of studying, admiring and enjoying the scenery and its wild plants and animals as well as any existing cultural aspects (both of the past and the present) found in these areas” (WTO, 1993).
As is obvious from the definition the focus is solely on visiting nature-based areas. In May, 2000, as part of the side events on the 8th session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CDS, 8), a group of Indigenous Peoples Organizations, NGOs and other members of civil society provided a proposal on guidelines for ecotourism.
Born in its current form in the late 1980s, ecotourism came of age in 2002, when the United Nations celebrated the ‘International Year of Ecotourism’. The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people”.