Today many different types and definitions of ecotourism exist, however The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) give the following definition which has been widely accepted:
"responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people."
This means that travelers must think and act responsibly in all aspects of their holiday experience in order to minimise their impacts on the environment and local community.
In addition, ecotour companies must hold principles and practices that seek to either preserve conserve the environment and wildlife whilst protecting and empowering the local people.
The following principles should be followed by everyone who implements and participates in ecotourism activities:
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
Support international human rights and labor agreements
You may have come across some of the following terms that closely related to ecotourism :
This concept is a direct expansion of ecotourism, which encourages visitors to experience agricultural life at first hand. This type of tourism is gathering strong support from small communities as rural people have realised the benefits of sustainable development brought about by similar forms of "green tourism". Visitors have the opportunity to work in the fields alongside real farmers and wade knee-deep in the sea with fishermen hauling in their nets.
Community based Tourism:
The aims are to enable participation from the local community in the development and operations of tourism with their consent and support. Another important feature is that a reasonable share of the revenues are enjoyed by the community. This type of tourism also maintains and respects the local culture, heritage and traditions. Often, community-based tourism actually reinforces and sometimes rescues these. Community-based tourism also implies respect and concern for the natural heritage, particularly where the environment is one of the attractions.
This interlinks with ecotourism however it concentrates more on enjoying and respecting the wildlife and the environment without the educational element present in ecotourism.
This type of tourism is set up in developing countries as a means to improve the local economy for local people. It enhances the linkages between tourism businesses and poor people, so that poverty is reduced and poor people are able to participate more effectively in tourism development. The aims of pro-poor ranges from increasing local employment to involving local people in the decision making process. Any type of company can be involved such as a small lodge or a tour operator. The most important factor is not the type of company or the type of tourism, but that poor people receive an increase in the net benefits from tourism.