According to the International Ecotourism Society, Ecotourism can be defined as, “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people.”
Most ecotourism experiences are aimed at helping people to foster an appreciation of the environment, the conservation of wildlife, plants and resources, and respect and understanding of native peoples.
The field is socially important because it provides a way for people to travel responsibly, and to learn about and respect the environment of these natural places. Ideally, Ecotourism professionals organize and execute an experience for travelers that demonstrates local environmental sustainability and cultural sensitivity.
According to Ecotourism.org, ecotourism adheres to the following:
- Minimize impact.
- Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
- Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
- Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
- Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people.
- Raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climate.
At the university level, ecotourism programs are usually found in environmental science and recreation management departments. Students learn about different aspects of tourism, such as hospitality and business, as well as scientific areas, such as conservation, natural resources, environmental history. And in more advanced programs, students will focus on nature-based education, such as environmental issues and ecological business. It is also helpful, and sometimes required, to be fluent in a foreign language. Also, check out online career training options that may be available.
Ecotourism related courses (Environmentalprograms.net):
- Group Dynamics for Ecotourism
- Green Event Planning
- Risk Management and Legal Liability
- Natural Resource Assessment and Planning
- Intercultural Communications
- Wilderness & Remote First Aid
- Environmental Education
- Outdoor Skills and Low-Impact Techniques
- Tourism Marketing
- Natural Resource Policy and Administration
- Forests, Conservation and People
- Cultural Anthropology
- International Forestry
Learn more about tour guide jobs in JobMonkey’s Land Tours section.
Major Ecotourism University Programs
- Clemson University, Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management
- Colorado State University, Department of Natural Resource Recreation and Tourism
- Humboldt State University, Institute for Ecological Tourism
- Kansas State University, Department of Horticulture, Forestry and Recreation Resources
- Texas A & M University, Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences
- North Carolina State University, Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism
- University of Florida, School of Forest Resources & Conservation
As the threat to our planet looms over each society, its inhabitants are becoming more interested in the natural world around them and in ways to conserve and protect the environment. Ecotourism is growing at three times the rate of the tourism sector itself, and demanding more knowledgeable workers committed to sustainability (TIES).
Jobs in Ecotourism can be high-risk and adventurous, but also limited by season or temporary. Green travel employees generally work for private companies, government and public institutions, and nonprofits.
Salaries vary form field to field, but it helps to have a degree and some experience.
Group Leaders and Tour Guides
Group leaders and travel guides are responsible for guiding tours through the ecosystems of various destinations while pointing out the benefits of green travel and a green lifestyle. Leaders and guides come from a wide range of backgrounds. Many will have experience in the tourism industry, while some will be scientist looking for positions in education. A great benefit to being an ecotourism guide is the opportunity to see the world.
Individuals with a background in ecotourism can also become educators in the field. They can find educational positions in national and state parks, wilderness retreats, and as consultants in the ecotourism field. Besides the educational system, ecotuourism professionals can travel the world as lecturers, helping the local people in ecologically sensitive areas to set up their own ecotourism programs. These programs help to conserve natural resources, and can be an incentive for local people to protect their natural environment, rather than exploit it.
- The International Ecotourism Society (TIES)
- Green Hotels Association
- Lindblad Expeditions
- Environmental Programs
- Intrepid Travel
- Peregrine Adventures