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What Is An Ecotourism Resort?


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Fanni Glynn



Ecotourism resorts are not just ordinary vacation destinations. They are havens for nature lovers, conscious travelers, and those seeking unique and sustainable experiences. In recent years, ecotourism has gained popularity as people become more aware of the impact of their travel choices on the environment and local communities.


An ecotourism resort goes beyond simply offering accommodation in a natural setting. It focuses on providing immersive experiences that allow guests to connect with nature, learn about local cultures, and actively contribute to the conservation of the surrounding environment. These resorts are designed to minimize negative environmental impacts and maximize the benefits for both travelers and the host community.


With the rise in global awareness and concern for sustainable travel, more travelers are seeking experiences that align with their values and have a reduced ecological footprint. This has led to the growth of ecotourism resorts around the world, offering a wide range of options for environmentally conscious travelers.


In this article, we will delve into the concept of ecotourism resorts, exploring their features, sustainable practices, benefits, and challenges. We will also highlight examples of successful ecotourism resorts that have made a positive impact in their respective destinations.


So, if you are interested in experiencing the beauty of nature while leaving a positive impact on the environment and local communities, let’s dive into the world of ecotourism resorts and discover how they can be a truly enriching and sustainable choice for your next vacation.


Definition of an Ecotourism Resort

An ecotourism resort can be defined as a type of accommodation that is specifically designed to immerse guests in nature, promote sustainable practices, and contribute to the conservation of natural and cultural resources. These resorts prioritize environmental responsibility, community engagement, and education, providing guests with the opportunity to experience and appreciate the beauty of the natural world while minimizing their impact on it.


Unlike traditional resorts, ecotourism resorts strive to harmonize with their natural surroundings, integrating sustainable design principles and minimizing resource consumption. They are often located in pristine natural areas such as rainforests, coastal regions, or wildlife reserves, offering guests a unique and immersive experience in remote and untouched environments.


What sets ecotourism resorts apart is their commitment to practicing responsible tourism. This means that they prioritize the well-being of the environment, local communities, and cultural heritage. They work closely with local stakeholders, including indigenous communities and conservation organizations, to ensure that their operations align with sustainable principles and provide tangible benefits to the host destination.


Additionally, ecotourism resorts typically offer educational programs and activities that allow guests to learn about the local ecosystems, wildlife, and cultural traditions. These experiences not only foster a deeper appreciation for the natural world but also help to raise awareness about conservation issues and sustainable practices.


It is important to note that not all resorts labeled as “eco” or “ecotourism” truly embody sustainable practices. Greenwashing, where businesses falsely claim to be environmentally friendly, is a common practice in the tourism industry. Therefore, when choosing an ecotourism resort, it is essential to research and verify their commitment to sustainability through certifications, partnerships with conservation organizations, and positive guest reviews.


In summary, an ecotourism resort is a unique type of accommodation that emphasizes sustainable practices, environmental conservation, and community engagement. By choosing to stay at an ecotourism resort, guests can connect with nature, learn about local cultures, and contribute to the preservation of our planet for future generations.


Features and Characteristics of an Ecotourism Resort

Ecotourism resorts are distinguished by certain features and characteristics that set them apart from traditional vacation destinations. These unique attributes contribute to their overall goal of providing sustainable and immersive experiences for guests. Let’s explore some of the key features and characteristics of an ecotourism resort:

  1. Natural Setting: Ecotourism resorts are typically located in pristine natural environments, such as rainforests, mountains, or coastal areas. Guests can enjoy breathtaking views, tranquil surroundings, and opportunities to observe and appreciate local flora and fauna.
  2. Sustainable Design: Ecotourism resorts prioritize environmentally friendly design and construction practices. They are built using locally sourced materials and incorporate renewable energy systems, efficient water management, and waste reduction techniques.
  3. Conservation Focus: These resorts actively contribute to the conservation of the surrounding ecosystems and natural resources. They may support local conservation projects, engage in reforestation efforts, and implement measures to protect sensitive habitats and wildlife.
  4. Community Engagement: Ecotourism resorts strive to engage with and support local communities. They may collaborate with indigenous groups, provide employment opportunities, and facilitate cultural exchange programs to preserve and promote local traditions and heritage.
  5. Educational Opportunities: A major aspect of ecotourism resorts is the emphasis on education. They offer various activities and guided tours that allow guests to learn about the local environment, wildlife, and cultural practices. This helps raise awareness about conservation and sustainability issues.
  6. Sustainable Practices: Ecotourism resorts adopt sustainable practices in their day-to-day operations. They implement waste management systems, promote the use of eco-friendly products, practice responsible water usage, and encourage guests to participate in sustainable activities.
  7. Local Sourcing and Cuisine: These resorts often prioritize local sourcing of ingredients for their cuisine, supporting local farmers and reducing the carbon footprint associated with food transportation. Guests can enjoy delicious meals featuring locally grown produce and traditional flavors.
  8. Opportunities for Outdoor Activities: Ecotourism resorts provide a range of outdoor activities that allow guests to connect with nature, such as hiking, wildlife safaris, birdwatching, kayaking, and snorkeling. These activities are designed to minimize impacts on the environment and promote appreciation for the natural world.

By incorporating these features and characteristics, ecotourism resorts create a unique and sustainable experience for their guests. They offer a chance to relax and rejuvenate in harmony with nature while also contributing to the conservation and well-being of the local environment and communities.


Sustainable Practices in Ecotourism Resorts

Ecotourism resorts are at the forefront of promoting sustainable tourism practices. They prioritize minimizing their environmental impact and maximizing the positive contributions to local communities and ecosystems. Here are some common sustainable practices that you can find in ecotourism resorts:

  1. Energy Conservation: Ecotourism resorts prioritize energy conservation by using energy-efficient appliances, LED lighting, and renewable energy sources such as solar panels or wind turbines. They may also encourage guests to conserve energy by offering incentives for using minimal electricity.
  2. Water Conservation: Water is a scarce resource in many destinations, so ecotourism resorts adopt water-saving measures such as low-flow fixtures, rainwater harvesting, and water recycling systems. Guests are informed about responsible water usage and are encouraged to participate in water conservation efforts.
  3. Waste Management: These resorts implement effective waste management systems by reducing, reusing, and recycling waste. They may also compost organic waste and educate guests about proper waste disposal practices. Some resorts even work with local communities to establish recycling initiatives.
  4. Biodiversity Conservation: Ecotourism resorts play an active role in preserving local biodiversity. They may support conservation projects, habitat restoration, and species protection. Some resorts also collaborate with research organizations to monitor and protect endangered species found in the area.
  5. Supporting Local Communities: Ecotourism resorts prioritize community engagement and support. They actively involve local communities in decision-making processes, provide training and employment opportunities, and support local businesses by sourcing products and services from them. This helps to improve local livelihoods and preserves cultural heritage.
  6. Educational Programs: These resorts understand the importance of education in promoting sustainability. They offer educational programs, workshops, and guided tours that teach guests about the local environment, culture, conservation efforts, and sustainable practices. This helps raise awareness and inspire guests to adopt sustainable behaviors in their daily lives.
  7. Local and Sustainable Food: Ecotourism resorts prioritize the use of local and sustainable food options. They source ingredients from nearby farms and fisheries, supporting local producers and reducing carbon emissions associated with long-distance transportation. They may also promote organic and fair-trade products to ensure environmental and social responsibility.
  8. Reduced Carbon Footprint: These resorts strive to minimize their carbon footprint by implementing measures such as carbon offset programs, energy-efficient transportation for guests, and promoting alternative transportation options like cycling or walking within the resort.

By implementing these sustainable practices, ecotourism resorts not only reduce their environmental impact but also create a positive ripple effect in the surrounding communities. They inspire guests to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle and contribute to the overall preservation of the destinations they visit.


Benefits of Ecotourism Resorts

Ecotourism resorts offer a multitude of benefits, both for the travelers who visit them and the destinations they are located in. These benefits extend to the environment, local communities, and even the guests themselves. Let’s explore some of the key advantages of choosing to stay at an ecotourism resort:

  1. Environmental Conservation: Ecotourism resorts actively contribute to the conservation of natural resources and the protection of fragile ecosystems. By promoting sustainable practices, minimizing their carbon footprint, and supporting conservation initiatives, these resorts help preserve biodiversity and maintain the beauty of the surrounding environment.
  2. Economic Growth: Ecotourism resorts provide economic opportunities for local communities. They generate income through accommodations, dining, and guided tours, often offering employment to local residents. This infusion of tourism revenue can help stimulate the local economy and support small businesses.
  3. Cultural Preservation: Ecotourism resorts prioritize cultural preservation by engaging with local communities, supporting traditional practices, and showcasing local heritage. This helps to revitalize and preserve cultural traditions, generating pride among the local population and promoting cross-cultural understanding.
  4. Education and Awareness: Guests at ecotourism resorts have the opportunity to learn about the natural environment, local cultures, and sustainability practices. Through guided tours, educational programs, and interactions with local communities, guests gain a deeper understanding of the importance of conservation and responsible tourism, inspiring them to make more sustainable choices in their own lives.
  5. Health and Wellness: Ecotourism resorts are often located in serene natural settings, providing guests with opportunities to relax, rejuvenate, and connect with nature. Spending time in nature has been proven to have a positive impact on mental and physical health, reducing stress levels and promoting overall well-being.
  6. Authentic Experiences: Ecotourism resorts offer unique and authentic experiences that allow guests to immerse themselves in the natural beauty and local culture of the destination. From wildlife encounters to cultural interactions, guests have the chance to create lasting memories and connect with the essence of the place they are visiting.
  7. Positive Impact on the Local Environment: By practicing sustainable tourism, ecotourism resorts minimize their environmental footprint and actively work towards preserving natural habitats. They implement measures to conserve water, reduce waste, and conserve energy, thereby protecting fragile ecosystems and ensuring they remain intact for future generations.

Choosing to stay at an ecotourism resort not only allows travelers to have a memorable and meaningful experience, but it also enables them to play a part in conserving the environment and supporting local communities. By supporting these sustainable establishments, travelers can contribute to a more responsible and sustainable tourism industry.


Challenges and Criticisms of Ecotourism Resorts

While ecotourism resorts strive to promote sustainable practices and positive impacts, they are not without their challenges and criticisms. It is important to acknowledge these issues and work towards addressing them to ensure the long-term success and effectiveness of ecotourism. Let’s explore some of the challenges and criticisms associated with ecotourism resorts:

  1. Greenwashing: One of the major challenges in the ecotourism industry is greenwashing, where businesses falsely claim to be eco-friendly without actually implementing sustainable practices. This misleading marketing can make it challenging for travelers to differentiate between genuinely sustainable resorts and those that are simply capitalizing on the green trend.
  2. Overcrowding and Environmental Impact: The popularity of ecotourism resorts can lead to issues of overcrowding, particularly in fragile ecosystems. Increased foot traffic, waste generation, and habitat degradation can occur if proper visitor management and impact assessment measures are not in place.
  3. Conflicting Interests: Balancing the interests of conservation, local communities, and tourism development can be challenging. There may be differences in opinions and priorities among various stakeholders, which can hinder sustainable development efforts and lead to tensions.
  4. Dependency on Tourism: In some cases, ecotourism resorts can create a dependency on tourism as the main source of income for local communities. This overreliance on tourism can lead to vulnerability during times of economic downturn or natural disasters, illustrating the need for diversification of livelihoods in these areas.
  5. Accessibility and Affordability: The remote location and sustainable practices of some ecotourism resorts can make them less accessible and more expensive for certain travelers. This can limit inclusivity and prevent a wider range of individuals from experiencing the benefits of sustainable tourism.
  6. Cultural Appropriation: There is a risk of cultural appropriation when tourist demand leads to a commodification of local cultures and traditions. It is important for ecotourism resorts to work closely with local communities, respecting their cultural practices and ensuring that tourism does not erode or exploit their heritage.
  7. Monitoring and Regulation: Effective monitoring and regulation of ecotourism resorts are necessary to ensure compliance with sustainable practices and prevent negative impacts. Insufficient oversight and weak enforcement of regulations can undermine the authenticity and integrity of ecotourism practices.

Addressing these challenges requires a collaborative approach and ongoing commitment from both the industry and travelers. By promoting transparency, supporting responsible tourism certifications, and engaging in dialogue with local communities, ecotourism resorts can work towards mitigating these challenges and ensuring a more sustainable future for the industry.


Examples of Successful Ecotourism Resorts

Many ecotourism resorts around the world have successfully implemented sustainable practices and made positive contributions to their local environments and communities. Let’s explore a few notable examples of successful ecotourism resorts:

  1. Grootbos Private Nature Reserve – South Africa: Located in the Western Cape of South Africa, Grootbos is an award-winning ecotourism destination that combines luxury accommodations with conservation efforts. The resort is committed to protecting the unique biodiversity of the region and uplifting the surrounding communities through various initiatives, such as education programs, sustainable farming projects, and eco-tourism training for local youth.
  2. Lapa Rios Ecolodge – Costa Rica: Nestled within a private nature reserve on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, Lapa Rios Ecolodge provides guests with an immersive rainforest experience. The resort focuses on environmental stewardship, supporting local communities, and promoting sustainable tourism practices. They utilize solar energy, practice waste reusing and recycling, and actively engage in reforestation and wildlife conservation efforts.
  3. Spirit Bear Lodge – Canada: The Spirit Bear Lodge is a unique ecotourism resort located in the beautiful Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia. Dedicated to wildlife conservation, the lodge offers guests the opportunity to witness rare and endangered species, including the spirit or “Kermode” bear. The resort partners with local First Nations communities, actively involving Indigenous guides and promoting cultural preservation.
  4. Bawah Reserve – Indonesia: Situated in the Anambas Archipelago of Indonesia, Bawah Reserve is an eco-luxury resort surrounded by crystal-clear waters, lush forests, and vibrant coral reefs. The resort focuses on sustainable practices such as water conservation, waste management, and enhancing local livelihoods. Bawah Reserve also supports marine conservation efforts, including coral reef restoration and protection of endangered marine species.
  5. Caiman Ecological Refuge – Brazil: Located in the Pantanal wetlands of Brazil, Caiman Ecological Refuge has become a model for wildlife conservation and sustainable tourism. The resort actively participates in scientific research, biodiversity monitoring, and environmental education programs. They are dedicated to protecting the endangered jaguars of the region and involve guests in their conservation efforts.

These examples highlight the diversity of ecotourism resorts and the variety of ways they contribute to sustainable development. Through their commitment to conservation, community engagement, and responsible tourism practices, these resorts serve as inspirations for the industry as a whole and demonstrate the positive impacts that can be achieved through ecotourism.



Ecotourism resorts are not only vacation destinations but gateways to immersive and sustainable experiences. They prioritize environmental conservation, community engagement, and educational opportunities, offering travelers the chance to connect with nature and make a positive impact on the places they visit.


Throughout this article, we have explored the definition and characteristics of ecotourism resorts. These unique accommodations are designed to harmonize with their natural surroundings, implement sustainable practices, and provide guests with unforgettable experiences. From sustainable design and conservation focus to community engagement and cultural preservation, ecotourism resorts embody the principles of responsible tourism.


While there are challenges and criticisms associated with ecotourism resorts, they serve as important reminders of the ongoing work needed to achieve sustainable tourism. By addressing issues such as greenwashing, overcrowding, and cultural appropriation, the industry can continue to evolve and improve upon its environmental and social commitments.


Examples of successful ecotourism resorts, such as Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, Lapa Rios Ecolodge, and Spirit Bear Lodge, showcase the positive outcomes that can be achieved through sustainable practices. These resorts prioritize conservation, support local communities, and provide educational opportunities, encapsulating the essence of ecotourism and inspiring other destinations to follow suit.


In conclusion, choosing to stay at an ecotourism resort offers travelers the chance to have unique and meaningful experiences. By supporting sustainable tourism, guests become active participants in environmental conservation, cultural preservation, and community development. Ecotourism resorts provide a pathway for travelers to explore the world responsibly, leaving a positive footprint and creating a legacy of sustainability for future generations to enjoy.