Keywords: ecotourism, hard ecotourism, impacts of tourism, soft ecotourism, sustainable tourism
The evolving concept of ecotourism and its potential impacts
Ecotourism is nature-based, learning-oriented tourism that has the intent of being environmentally, economically and socio-culturally sustainable. The positive impacts of ecotourism include its incentive effect for protecting natural habitats, its provision of funds and volunteer activity to enhance venues, and the stimulation of economic activity in peripheral regions. Negative effects, which tend to be inadvertent, include the introduction of exotic species, wildlife stress induced by observation, vulnerability to social unrest, and intrusion into "backstage" spaces of a destination. Although originally conceived as a small-scale form of Alternative Tourism, an analysis of impacts suggests that in most destinations large-scale or "soft" ecotourism is likely to produce more benefits than small-scale or "hard" ecotourism.