Tourism being one of the sectors which knows the strongest rate of development in the world, ecotourism represents a very powerful means to develop the biodiversity. It consists of ecological tourism whose principal objective is in benefitting from nature, landscapes or specific species (e.g. lions or elephants in Kenya, watching whales). Tourism industry defines it as being environmental responsible travel to relatively undisturbed areas, to enjoy and appreciate nature and accompanying cultural features and help to make become aware of the need for preserving natural capital and cultural capital,. Ecotourism should have low visitor impact and should contribute to the well-being of local populations.
Basically, the definition of eco-tourism includes involving in appreciation, conservation, admiration, enjoyment, benefiting to the cultures of the locals, preservation, protection as well as education, and it should be a non-exploitative kind of nature tourism. That is quoted from the source of various authors.
- conservation (and justification for conservation) of biological diversity and cultural diversity, through ecosystems protection
- promotion of sustainable use of biodiversity, by providing jobs to local populations
- sharing of socio-economical benefits with local communities and indigenous people by having their informed consent and participation in management of ecotourism business.
For example, in countries such as Kenya, Ecuador, Nepal, Costa Rica and Madagascar, the ecotourism represents the principal source of currencies.
Some are not convinced by the rather flexible definition of ecotourism. They estimate that the ecotourism often consists in placing a hotel in a splendid landscape, to the detriment of the ecosystem. According to them, the ecotourism must above all sensitize people with the beauty and the fragility of nature. Thus, some operators do not hesitate to use 4x4, swimming pools and air conditioning more than fauna and the flora. This kind of activity is called green washing by professionals, and hides conventional mass-tourism of mass presented as "green".
The United States are the principal tank of ecotourists (more than 5 million people each year). The majority of the other ecotourists comes from Europe and the elite of some southern countries.