The History of Ecotourism

Ecotourism has a relatively short history. The concept has just recently become popular, with most of its notoriety taking center stage in only the last twenty years.

Since 1980 environmentalism has become more important to governments, travelers and businesses. Before 1970 there were far fewer mainstream efforts to protect the environment and ecosystems during travel then there are today.

The popularity of ecotourism greatly parallels the rise in education on the environment. In the 80s large scale educational efforts went underway that taught people (through commercials, demonstrations and even in classrooms) the benefits of conservation and protecting the planet. However, in the last five years the ‘green movement’ has become much more of a mainstream ideal than it was during the 80s and early 90s. While the idea of protecting the environment has been longstanding, institutionalizing the information and teaching it to the public has really only recently begun.

The real history behind ecotourism is rooted in Africa when people could go on eco-adventure tours based on hunting the local wildlife. For a fee, you could go on an interactive hunting safari where tourists were allowed or rather, weren’t punished for, hunting elephants for ivory (and sport) in addition to a wide array of other species like leopards and lions. These species couldn’t withstand thinning populations overtime. In the 1970s it became clear that if these animal populations weren’t protected and poaching wasn’t put to a stop, certain animals would surely become extinct. This realization and the subsequent change in how safaris and hunting trips were conducted in Eastern Africa was a huge landmark in the history of how ecotourism came to be. That, and by making poaching and hunting ivory illegal, was a huge step for environmentalists and animal activists. By trying to protect those animals and the environment from the unnecessary pressure tourists were bringing to the area, a large number of the ideals within ecotourism were born.

While environmentalists all over the world were aware that this type of reckless hunting and tourism was having a negative effect on ecosystems and animal populations, making the hunting of certain species illegal and the mindful effort to rebuild populations through laws and government policies was an integral step.

The ‘green’ movement as we see it today has just recently been shot into center stage.

It has become an issue in presidential elections, something people talk about over dinner and has a presence in industries all over the world. Since the release of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, education on preservation has been at an all time high. Even though ecotourism only represents one facet of the ‘green movement’ it is certainly receiving a great deal of attention as a result. Since the increase in information about how people are negatively impacting the planet, there has been a strong influence applied to the travel industry. With more people demanding green hotels, restaurants and transportation, ecotourism is stronger and more popular then ever.

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