Forests and Ecotourism

Ecotourism probably had its foundations in the ethics of conservation, but its recent surge has certainly been due to its economic benefits as developing countries begin to recognize that nature-based tourism offers a means of earning money with relatively little exploitation or extraction of resources.


Ecotourism creates an impact on natural ecosystems but more importantly, it offers a way to

  • promote conservation in ecologically fragile regions
  • benefit the economies of local communities
  • provide the public with a nature-based education experience
  • introduce visitors to local culture


Ecotourism can play vital role in maintaining healthy forests. Rural communities can maximise the benefits of sustainable ecotourism


28 September, 2011, Rome    The continuing boom in ecotourism has the potential to save endangered forests, depending on how effectively tourism expansion is managed, an international partnership for forest management and conservation said today.

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The Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), comprising 14 international organizations and secretariats, including FAO, called attention to opportunities arising from ecotourism in the forest sector as the world celebrated World Tourism Day on 27 September and continues to celebrate the International Year of Forests.

Tourism has demonstrated resiliency in the face of the global economic downturn.  Globally, the tourism industry generated more than $1 trillion in 2010, according to the World Tourism Organization (WTO). And the share of tourism in developing countries is steadily rising, up from 31% in 1990 to 47% in 2010.

“Sustainable tourism has proven one of the most effective ways of providing economic and employment opportunities for local communities while protecting the world’s natural resources,” said Taleb Rifai, WTO’s Secretary-General.


Ecotourism, characterized by responsible travel to natural areas that promotes conservation of the environment, is one of the fastest growing segments of tourism worldwide, and is growing at a pace of more than 20 percent annually –  two to three times faster than the tourism industry overall. Ecotourism is often known for attracting tourists to fragile environments that are host to endangered species and high biodiversity forest ecosystems.

“For many people, there is an attitude of ‘we had better see it while it is still there to see’ when it comes to visiting threatened forests or endangered wildlife,” said Patrick Durst, a senior forestry official with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), working in Asia.

Ecotourism can provide local communities with the motivation to maintain and protect forests and wildlife.

“Ecotourism has a far greater potential for contributing to income and livelihoods in poor rural communities than what is realized,” noted FAO’s Edgar Kaeslin, a forestry officer working on wildlife and protected area management at FAO. “It is crucial that local people are fully involved in ecotourism activities and receive sufficient benefits from their services.”

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In recent years FAO has provided technical assistance to a number of countries, including Egypt, Hungary, Laos, the Philippines and Tunisia, to develop ecotourism based on sustainable forest use.  With support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Organization recently began implementing an US$18 million programe in collaboration with Pacific islands countries (Fiji, Niue, Samoa and Vanuatu) aimed at developing ecotourism as a major component of sustainable forest management.

Moving from Illegal Logging to Ecotourism

In 2006, the Ulot Watershed Model Forest (Philippines) helped local residents build an ecotourism business focused on river activities using boats previously involved in illegal logging. The Ulot River cruise/TORPEDO boat riding activities are gaining popularity among local and foreign tourists. They also provide a sustainable livelihood for local residents while serving as a venue for raising awareness of environmental issues and forest protection.

Tanzania Echotourism-Sustainability Practices


  • Powered by micro hydro generator – no electricity from grid or from fuel generators.
  • Water heated by solar system only.
  • Indigenous tree planting and reforestation programme underway – to date 400 trees planted and new programme working with schools “A Tree For Me” launcing in 201
  • Recycling of glass bottles into glasses, candle holders, and plastic bottles into candle holders etc.
  • Waste minimized by careful purchasing.  Waste management systems underway.
  • Camp built and maintained by local workforce.
  • Two thirds employees from local village community.
  • Guests encouraged to undertake local cultural tours and local people receive income from these tours eg Village walks, Womens Weavers visits, dugout canoe trips etc.

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