Ecotour Management - BTR101

Study How to Manage Environmental Tourism

  • Learn from professional tutors with experience and formal training relevant to ecotourism
  • Work in ecotourism, start a business or improve an existing enterprise



Tourism has become a boom industry in recent times and a major employer worldwide. Ecotourism has emerged out of a growing interest in outdoor adventure activities - from mountaineering to low impact bush walking.

Establishing such an enterprise requires an understanding of a wide range of issues including: legal considerations, safety, accommodation, the tour desk as a first point of contact, destinations, and management. This course develops your ability to establish and operate an ecotourism enterprise.


There are 9 lessons as follows:

  1. Nature and Scope of Ecotourism -
    • Definition of ecotourism
    • Negative ecotourism
    • Principles of ecotourism
  2. Management Issues -
    • Recreation and the environment
    • recreational impacts on the environment
    • ethical and legal concerns
    • code of practice for ecotourism operators
    • incorporating ecotourism principles into activities
    • interpretation
    • visitor guidelines
    • planning for minimal impact
    • quality control
  3. Industry Destinations -
    • The ecotourism market
    • what do ecotourists want?
    • trends in international tourism
    • understanding the needs of the consumer
    • consumer expectations
  4. The Tour Desk/Office -
    • Office procedures
    • providing information
    • employment prospects in ecotourism
    • bookings
    • business letters
    • telephone manner
  5. Accommodation Facilities -
    • Types of accommodation facilities
    • layout of facilities
  6. Catering Facilities -
    • Introduction to catering
    • accepted practice for service facilities
    • storing and preserving food
  7. Legal Considerations -
    • National Parks
    • land use/planning restrictions
    • code of practice
  8. Safety-
    • The safety strategy
    • hazards
    • first aid
  9. Planning an Ecotourism Activity -
    A special project where the student plans out an ecotourism activity including:
    • budget
    • accommodation
    • licenses
    • meals
    • destination

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

Duration: 100 hours

On successful completion of the course you should be able to do the following:

  • Describe the scope of ecotourism experiences available.
  • Determine management issues related to ecotourism activities/enterprises, giving due consideration to environmental and ethical concerns.
  • Develop in the learner an awareness of ecotourism destinations in existence and possibilities (in the learner's country).
  • Explain the management and operation of an ecotourism office.
  • Explain the management of ecotourist accommodation facilities including:
    • camp sites
    • cabins
    • caravans
    • resorts
  • Identify catering options for different ecotourism activities.
  • Identify legal and statutory requirements for the establishment and operation of an ecotourism enterprise.
  • Identify/establish safety precautions/requirements/procedures for an ecotourism enterprise.
  • Plan for an ecotourism activity.

Here are just some of the things you will be doing:

  • Prepare reviews of six different ecotourism destinations
  • Contact travel agencies and information centres to research the scope of ecotourism activities available in your area
  • Contact a range of ecotourism operators to research their concerns for the environment
  • Determine three examples of ecotourism activities that have had undesirable social or environmental impacts
  • Report on the relevance of indigenous culture to ecotourism in your locality
  • Carry out research into desirable ecotourism destinations
  • Identify potential ecotourism activities in your locality
  • Observe the administrative operations of an existing ecotourism venture
  • Establish administrative procedures for your own hypothetical ecotourism enterprise
  • Inspect an ecotourism accommodation facility
  • Research the statutory/legislative requirements for setting up ecotourism accommodation in your locality
  • Determine suitable layout for an ecotourism accommodation facility
  • Visit at least two suppliers of outdoor/recreation camping and cooking equipment
  • Contact your local health department or similar to find out causes of food poisoning and how it can be prevented
  • Make contact with several local ecotourism associations to research membership requirements
  • Research law and regulations in your state that may affect the operation of an ecotourism enterprise
  • Contact at least two insurance brokers for their recommendations on the type of insurance needed for a proposed ecotourism activity
  • Research safety notification requirements in a natural area
  • Interview someone who has been involved in the planning and/or delivery of an ecotourism activity.


Learn to Understand the Market

In order for the ecotourism operator to provide activities that satisfy the tourist expectations it is important to understand the profiles of the ecotourist. It is not helpful to too narrowly define each group as with all areas of tourism there are cross-over groups as well.

Information required includes general socioeconomic characteristics, the types of nature-based activities that are typically undertaken, and demands for different kinds of natural environments, particular features or species of plants and animals, and levels of satisfaction received in relation to expectations built by advance promotional information. 

Once this information is gathered the ecotourism operator can design tour packages to suit the clientele.   Ecotourism is usually perceived as providing an intimate experience with the natural environment, usually combined with some kind of educational or learning experience.  Due to this groups should be small, in the order of about 15 to 20 participants and each group should have a knowledgeable leader. The size of the group is particularly important to the small operator who may not be able to organise, finance or facilitate the type of tours offered by larger operators. These types of tours could include up to 100 people, as can be seen in Fairy Penguin Parades in Australia or Great Barrier Reef activities, and are guided by very professional tour guides.   

Operators should also ensure that they understand the current and past levels, of satisfaction with tours and travel experiences, how best to deliver the message of ecologically sustainable tourism, how to provide returns to the environmental resources, and how to best identify key natural features or aspects which appeal to tourists without diminishing them in any way. This type of research can be collected by conducting client surveys at the end of each trip. By analyzing the resultant responses operators can get a clearer understanding of what the client would like to experience. 

Understanding the needs of the Consumer

The Consumer needs to be informed before departure of the nature and content of their trip to make their trip enjoyable, educational and low-impact. They are travelling, often from the other side of the world. It is the duty of the ecotour operator to help them get the best out of their experience. To help achieve this, the ecotour operator needs to take into account the following factors.
Cultural differences

Adventure travel is just that and may not always be comfortable. People from differing cultures approach things in a different way. Some people really enjoy authentic cultural and environmental experiences; others may be terrified by them. The well informed tourist needs to know what to expect at this new and exotic destination before they book. For example they may need to know:

  1. When to take off shoes
  2. What is appropriate clothing for the country they are visiting
  3. What hand they should eat with and so on

The well informed tourist will have a more pleasurable and enriching experience, also gaining the respect of the host community when they honour and practice local customs.


Although the cultural activities may appear to be exotic and colourful in tourist brochures in reality a lot of destinations are urbanised and modern. The ecotour manager needs to ensure that the client is getting what they have paid for always erring on the side of underselling and over delivering. 

Travel to remote places is often dirty, dusty, hot, cold, uncomfortable and on unpaved roads, if roads exist at all. The air-conditioned van is not nearby and vehicles also break down at times. The experienced traveller expects the unexpected - this is adventure travel after all.  Operators need to find the balance allowing enough "cushion" time for transfers and appropriate waiting for hours at airports. We need to adjust schedules to take account of problems - but the consumer must be prepared to expect these eventualities as well.



  • Make that your skills are relevant and current by pursuing further studies or attending professional development activities.
  • Research ecotourism activities that might be appropriate for available natural areas. Is there a demand for tourism in these areas?
  • Expand your knowledge of natural features of the area you wish to walk in.  Learn to identify plants and animals as well as identify features of cultural significance.
  • Keep up to date with what's happening in the Ecotourism Industry. What are the most pressing issues, what are the most popular activities and locations, and where is there likely to be more work?
  • Join a networking group to meet people who are working in the field of Ecotourism.




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