Ecotourism is a much-contested term ecologically, economically and politically. It has been used by proponents of ecotourism comprising practitioners from government departments and industry, to open up new areas for tourism. It has, unfortunately, opened avenues for tourism industry to promote initiatives that have had a profound impact on people and environment in the name of ecotourism.
Indigenous and local communities have raised concerns and even resisted the onslaught of such development of ecotourism at international, regional, national and state levels. On the other hand, there are also instances of communities cautiously using ecotourism as a means to augment their sources of livelihood and income.
Ecotourism or tourism in a sustainable manner can potentially enhance the livelihood of local people, particularly those living in and around ecologically fragile areas and, as a result, also provide local people an incentive to conserve these areas.
However, there is little or no consensus over the definition of ecotourism. Each ‘player’ has tried to define it to his or her advantage. Communities have accused ecotourism – its definition and concept of being largely industrydriven, developed through non-consultative processes. The voices of concern raised during the International Year of Ecotourism in 2002 and the processes that led to it, including the World Ecotourism Summit, are a testimony to this.
Globally, much has been written on, about, for and against ecotourism. An enormous amount of information exists in print and in digital form on the World Wide Web.