What is ecotourism?
According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), ‘‘ecotourism’’ is broadly defined as activities in which tourists observe and appreciate nature that minimize impacts on the natural and cultural environment and support the maintenance of natural areas and host communities. Species in their natural settings hold significant aesthetic and economic values, and wildlife viewing is one of the most profitable and popular forms of ecotourism worldwide.
What are the benefits?
The benefits of ecotourism are diverse and can be important locally to the community and for the national economy. Jobs are created (e.g. wildlife guides, boat captains, chefs, cleaners etc.) and the standard of living is often enhanced as facilities are improved for guests such as roads and reliable power. Importantly, ecotourism not only educates visitors about environmental responsibility, it can also help raise awareness about political and social issues in developing countries. Finally, ecotourism is a buzz word and it pushes people to adopt environmentally responsible practices, such as recycling, use of renewable energy sources, water-conservation schemes and safe waste disposal.
How does it affect marine life?
Ecotourism helps to create a better appreciation of the world’s natural resources, such as landscapes, wildlife and coral reefs. Experience of these in turn stimulates a desire to improve protection and establish national or marine parks and wildlife preserves. A fantastic example of successful ecotourism was the creation of the Bahamian shark sanctuary in 2011. This sanctuary, heavily encouraged by the shark diving community, means it is illegal to target or kill a shark in Bahamian waters.