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What Percentage Of Tourism Is Ecotourism?


by Helene Richter



As concerns about the environment and sustainability continue to grow, more and more people are turning to ecotourism as a way to explore the world responsibly. Ecotourism, in its simplest form, can be defined as tourism that focuses on visiting natural areas while minimizing negative impacts and maximizing the conservation of the environment and the well-being of local communities.


In recent years, there has been a significant shift in consumer preferences towards sustainable and eco-friendly travel options. Travelers are increasingly interested in experiencing nature and wildlife, supporting local communities, and ensuring their tourism activities align with their values. As a result, the concept of ecotourism has gained traction and become a popular choice for those seeking unique and ethical travel experiences.


However, it is essential to determine the extent to which ecotourism contributes to the overall tourism industry. Understanding the percentage of tourism that falls under the category of ecotourism is crucial for several reasons. First and foremost, it helps us assess the impact and influence of ecotourism in promoting sustainable practices and conservation efforts. It also provides insight into the market demand for ecotourism experiences and helps businesses and destinations cater to this growing niche.


In this article, we will explore the percentage of tourism that can be classified as ecotourism. We will delve into research and data, analyze methodologies, and discuss the implications of these findings for the tourism industry as a whole. By understanding the extent of ecotourism, we can better evaluate its role in driving sustainable development and make informed decisions regarding the promotion and support of ecotourism initiatives.


Definition of Ecotourism

Ecotourism is a specialized form of tourism that aims to promote sustainable practices and conservation of natural environments while providing educational and experiential opportunities for visitors. It involves responsibly visiting and appreciating natural areas, minimizing negative impacts, and contributing to local communities.


The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.” This definition highlights the key principles that differentiate ecotourism from general tourism.


Firstly, ecotourism emphasizes the conservation of natural areas and biodiversity. It seeks to minimize the negative impacts of tourism, such as habitat destruction, pollution, and disturbance to wildlife. Ecotourism activities often take place in protected areas, national parks, and other environmentally significant locations to ensure the preservation of fragile ecosystems.


Secondly, ecotourism prioritizes the well-being and empowerment of local communities. It aims to provide socio-economic benefits to local people, including income generation, employment opportunities, and cultural preservation. Community involvement and participation are essential components of ecotourism, ensuring that local residents have a say in decision-making and benefit directly from tourism activities.


Thirdly, education and interpretation play a significant role in ecotourism. Visitors are encouraged to learn about the natural and cultural heritage of the destination, fostering an appreciation for the environment and promoting responsible behavior. Interpretive activities, guided tours, and engagement with local communities provide valuable educational experiences that raise awareness and promote sustainable practices beyond the trip.


Overall, the definition of ecotourism encapsulates the three pillars of sustainability: environmental, economic, and social. It emphasizes the importance of preserving natural resources, supporting local communities, and educating visitors about the significance of conservation efforts. By adhering to these principles, ecotourism seeks to create a positive impact on both the environment and the people involved, fostering a more sustainable and responsible tourism industry.


The Importance of Measuring Ecotourism

Measuring the extent of ecotourism within the overall tourism industry is crucial for several reasons. It provides valuable insights into the impact, growth, and potential of this sustainable form of travel. Let’s explore some of the key reasons why measuring ecotourism is important:

  • Assessing environmental conservation efforts: By measuring the percentage of tourism that falls under the category of ecotourism, we can evaluate the success of conservation initiatives and their contribution to preserving natural environments. This information helps environmental organizations and policymakers gauge the effectiveness of their efforts and make informed decisions regarding resource allocation and management strategies.
  • Evaluating market demand and consumer preferences: Understanding the percentage of tourists seeking ecotourism experiences provides valuable market insights. It allows tourism businesses and destinations to identify the demand for sustainable travel options and tailor their offerings accordingly. This knowledge helps in creating targeted marketing campaigns, developing new eco-friendly accommodations and activities, and enhancing overall customer satisfaction.
  • Supporting sustainable development: Ecotourism can be a powerful tool for promoting sustainable development in local communities. Measuring the extent of ecotourism enables governments and organizations to identify regions where sustainable tourism practices can be encouraged. It helps in identifying areas that can benefit from economic growth, job creation, and infrastructure development while safeguarding natural and cultural assets.
  • Identifying areas for improvement: Measuring ecotourism allows for the identification of gaps and areas for improvement in sustainable tourism practices. It provides an opportunity to assess the effectiveness of existing ecotourism initiatives and policies and make necessary adjustments. This includes evaluating the environmental impact of activities, ensuring fair distribution of economic benefits, and enhancing community engagement and participation.
  • Promoting transparency and accountability: Accurate measurement of ecotourism helps promote transparency and accountability in the industry. It allows stakeholders to track progress, compare performance, and evaluate the credibility of ecotourism claims. This transparency helps build trust among consumers, communities, and organizations, fostering a more responsible and sustainable tourism sector.

Overall, measuring ecotourism provides a comprehensive understanding of its impact on the environment, local communities, and the tourism industry as a whole. It aids in making informed decisions, promoting sustainable practices, and ensuring the long-term success of ecotourism initiatives. By quantifying the extent of ecotourism, we can work towards a more sustainable future, where tourism and conservation can coexist harmoniously.



Measuring the percentage of tourism that falls within the realm of ecotourism requires careful methodology and data collection. Researchers and organizations utilize various approaches to gather information and estimate the extent of ecotourism. Here are some common methodologies used:

  1. Surveys and questionnaires: Researchers often conduct surveys and questionnaires among tourists to gather data on their travel behaviors and preferences. These surveys may include specific questions related to ecotourism, such as the types of activities undertaken, the consideration of environmental factors, and the choice of accommodations. By analyzing survey responses, researchers can estimate the percentage of tourists engaged in ecotourism-related activities.
  2. Destination and industry data: Another method involves examining destination-level data and industry reports. Tourism organizations and governments sometimes collect and publish data that includes information on the number of visitors to ecotourism destinations or the revenue generated from ecotourism activities. This data can be used to estimate the proportion of tourism that can be classified as ecotourism.
  3. Certification and accreditation data: Some researchers rely on data from ecotourism certification and accreditation programs. These programs often require businesses and accommodations to meet specific environmentally-friendly criteria and standards. By analyzing the number of certified businesses or the volume of certified ecotourism products and services, researchers can estimate the scale of ecotourism within the broader tourism industry.
  4. Collaboration with industry stakeholders: Researchers may collaborate with local tourism boards, tour operators, and industry associations to gather data on ecotourism. These stakeholders often have valuable insights and access to information regarding the number of eco-friendly tours, the capacity of eco-lodges, or the percentage of tourists seeking sustainable travel experiences. By combining this information with other data sources, researchers can develop a more comprehensive picture of ecotourism participation.

It is important to acknowledge that estimating the percentage of tourism that is ecotourism is not without its limitations. Data collection can be subject to inherent biases, and definitions of ecotourism may vary among studies. Moreover, ecotourism activities may sometimes overlap with other forms of tourism, making it challenging to categorize and measure accurately. Despite these challenges, researchers and organizations continue to refine methodologies and collaborate to improve the accuracy of ecotourism estimations.


By employing a combination of these methodologies and continually refining data collection practices, researchers and organizations can gather valuable insights into the proportion of tourism that is ecotourism. These findings provide a foundation for understanding the market demand for sustainable travel, assessing conservation efforts, and driving the development of policies and initiatives that further promote ecotourism.



While the percentage of tourism that can be classified as ecotourism may vary depending on the methodology and data sources used, several studies and reports have provided valuable insights into the extent of ecotourism participation. Here are some key findings:


1. According to a report published by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), ecotourism accounts for approximately 20% of worldwide tourism revenue. This finding demonstrates the significant economic impact of ecotourism and its growing popularity among travelers seeking sustainable experiences.


2. Destination-level data indicates that certain regions have a higher concentration of ecotourism activities. For example, countries like Costa Rica, Belize, and Ecuador are known for their ecotourism offerings and have a higher percentage of tourists engaged in sustainable travel practices.


3. Surveys and questionnaires among tourists consistently reveal a desire to engage in ecotourism activities. Many travelers express interest in visiting protected areas, participating in wildlife conservation programs, and supporting local communities. These findings highlight the strong market demand for ecotourism experiences.


4. Data from ecotourism certification programs provides insights into the number of certified ecotourism products and services. For instance, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) certifies businesses that meet specific sustainability criteria. The increasing number of certified businesses indicates a growing industry response to the demand for ecotourism.


5. Collaborative efforts between industry stakeholders and researchers have uncovered valuable information about the proportion of tourists engaged in ecotourism. For example, partnerships between tour operators and researchers have allowed for the collection of data on the percentage of guests participating in nature-based activities or choosing eco-friendly accommodations.


It’s important to note that these findings are not exhaustive and may vary depending on the specific study or report. The percentage of tourism considered ecotourism is likely to continue evolving as consumer awareness and demand for sustainable travel increase.


Overall, the findings suggest that ecotourism plays a significant role in the overall tourism industry. It contributes to environmental conservation, generates economic benefits for local communities, and meets the demand of travelers seeking sustainable and meaningful travel experiences.



The findings regarding the percentage of tourism that can be classified as ecotourism raise several important points for discussion. Here are some key considerations:


1. Continued growth potential: The findings indicate that ecotourism represents a significant portion of the tourism industry. As awareness and concern for the environment continue to grow, it is likely that the demand for ecotourism experiences will also increase. This presents an opportunity for businesses, destinations, and policymakers to further invest in sustainable practices and cater to the growing market.


2. Importance of destination management: As certain regions show a higher concentration of ecotourism activities, it becomes crucial for destination managers to carefully plan and manage tourism development. Conservation efforts must be balanced with infrastructure development to ensure the long-term sustainability of both the natural environment and local communities.


3. Economic benefits and local empowerment: Ecotourism has the potential to provide significant economic benefits to local communities, particularly in regions where it is a prominent tourism segment. By engaging residents in the tourism industry and promoting community-based initiatives, ecotourism can contribute to poverty alleviation and cultural preservation. It is important to ensure that these economic benefits are distributed equitably and that local communities have an active role in decision-making processes.


4. Certification and standardization: The availability of certification programs and industry standards contributes to the credibility and transparency of ecotourism initiatives. However, it is essential to continually evaluate and improve these certification processes to ensure that they accurately capture the environmental and social impacts of tourism activities. Encouraging businesses to meet and exceed sustainability criteria can further enhance the reputation of ecotourism and the overall credibility of the industry.


5. Education and awareness: The findings highlight the importance of educating tourists about ecotourism and promoting responsible behavior. Increased awareness and understanding of the environmental and social implications of travel can lead to more sustainable practices. Collaboration between stakeholders, including governments, tourism organizations, and local communities, is key to providing educational opportunities and fostering a sense of responsibility among travelers.


Ultimately, the discussion surrounding ecotourism and its percentage within the tourism industry emphasizes the need for ongoing research, collaboration, and innovation. By continuously measuring and understanding the extent of ecotourism participation, stakeholders can work together to enhance the positive impacts of this sustainable form of travel, protect natural resources, and ensure the well-being of both the environment and local communities.


Implications for the Tourism Industry

The findings regarding the percentage of tourism that falls under the category of ecotourism carry significant implications for the broader tourism industry. Here are some key implications to consider:


1. Shift in consumer preferences: The growing demand for ecotourism experiences signifies a shift in consumer preferences towards sustainable travel options. Travelers are increasingly seeking authentic, nature-based experiences that align with their values. This trend presents an opportunity for the tourism industry to adapt and cater to this growing market segment.


2. Market differentiation and competitive advantage: Incorporating ecotourism practices and offerings can provide destinations and businesses with a competitive advantage in the market. By developing sustainable tourism products and services, destinations can differentiate themselves and attract environmentally-conscious travelers who prioritize responsible travel choices.


3. Sustainable destination management: The findings underscore the importance of sustainable destination management practices. Effective planning and management are essential to ensure the preservation of natural and cultural assets while maximizing the positive impacts of tourism. Encouraging collaboration between public and private sectors, as well as involving local communities, is crucial for sustainable destination development.


4. Community engagement and empowerment: Embracing ecotourism can provide opportunities for local communities to participate in and benefit from tourism development. Engaging residents in the tourism industry, supporting community-led initiatives, and promoting cultural preservation can enhance the overall sustainability and authenticity of tourism experiences.


5. Environmental conservation and stewardship: The findings emphasize the importance of prioritizing environmental conservation and responsible practices. Incorporating sustainable tourism practices, such as reducing carbon footprints, promoting wildlife conservation, and supporting eco-friendly initiatives, can contribute to the preservation of fragile ecosystems and biodiversity.


6. Educational and interpretive experiences: To fully engage with ecotourism, the tourism industry should prioritize providing educational opportunities and interpretive experiences. This can include guided tours, interactive programs, and collaborations with local experts to enhance visitors’ understanding of the natural and cultural heritage of the destination. These experiences can foster a sense of stewardship and responsibility among tourists.


7. Long-term economic stability: Supporting ecotourism can contribute to long-term economic stability for destinations. By diversifying tourism offerings and promoting sustainable practices, destinations reduce their reliance on mass tourism and create a more resilient and balanced tourism economy. This can help mitigate the negative impacts of seasonality and dependence on specific market segments.


Incorporating the implications of ecotourism into the strategies and practices of the tourism industry can lead to more sustainable and responsible tourism. It can foster positive environmental, social, and economic impacts, enhance destination competitiveness, and contribute to the well-being of host communities. Embracing ecotourism is not only an ethical choice but also a strategic decision for long-term success in the evolving tourism landscape.



The assessment of the percentage of tourism that can be classified as ecotourism provides valuable insights into the impact, growth, and potential of sustainable travel. Ecotourism, as a specialized form of tourism, promotes responsible travel practices, conservation efforts, and the well-being of local communities.


Through various methodologies, including surveys, destination data, certification programs, and collaborations with industry stakeholders, researchers have uncovered significant findings. These findings indicate that ecotourism accounts for a notable proportion of the tourism industry, contributing to economic growth, environmental conservation, and community empowerment.


The implications for the tourism industry are substantial. The shift towards ecotourism represents a change in consumer preferences, with travelers seeking responsible and nature-based experiences. This creates opportunities for destinations and businesses to differentiate themselves and cater to this growing market segment.


Sustainable destination management practices, including community engagement, cultural preservation, and environmental stewardship, are crucial for the success of ecotourism. By promoting education and interpretive experiences, destinations can create awareness and foster a sense of responsibility among tourists.


Incorporating ecotourism practices into the broader tourism industry not only benefits the environment and local communities but also provides long-term economic stability and competitive advantage. By embracing responsible tourism, destinations can cultivate a sustainable and resilient tourism economy.


In conclusion, measuring the percentage of tourism that is classified as ecotourism is essential to understand the impact, growth, and potential of sustainable travel. The findings highlight the importance of responsible practices, community engagement, and environmental conservation in the tourism industry. By embracing ecotourism principles and fostering a culture of sustainability, the tourism industry can contribute to a more responsible, ethical, and sustainable future of travel.