Ecotour Management - BTR101

Learn about Ecotourism

Tourism has become a boom industry in recent times and a major employer. 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.


The definition of ecotourism provides a framework from which to explore the criteria of what makes ecotourism;

1. Nature

Nearly all definitions of ecotourism include the focus on the natural environment. This focus is flexible and allows the focus to range from say a biome such as a rain forest and all that it includes to a narrow product focus on a single species. Thus the focus may be holistic or elemental, although it is best to consider a single species in the context of its broader environment to provide a better educational outcome.

Many ecotourism ventures focus on certain elements in nature; these elements are commonly referred to as ‘charismatic megafauna/megaflora/megaliths’. Megafauna include any animal species that provide a target such as whales, lions, birds and even insects. Megaflora includes plant species such as rafflesia in Indonesia, while Megaliths are natural formations such Mt Everest and other geographic features of interest.

Additionally it is also unwise to separate one element from any cultural background or context due to the paucity of environments that are untouched by humans. Thus an element is not only placed in the broader environmental context but also in the human/cultural context providing the visitor with the most realistic and in-depth experience.

2. Education/Interpretation

Later definitions include an emphasis on education as an essential part of ecotourism. This aspect is broad enough to encompass a spectrum of learning ranging from highly organised formal education to self guided tours or even entertainment.

There is argument that ecotourism should be teaching ‘preferred behaviour’ as a way of instigating preferred outcomes for the target product, however this is not considered necessary for the product to be considered educational. Effective interpretation is essential educational means for not just providing facts and figures, but to reveal the complex relationships found in nature as well as encouraging appropriate behaviour to minimise impacts and to improve outcomes for the element in focus.

Interpretations can be either off-site or on-site. Off site interpretation includes guidebooks, information and images on website, brochures or even word of mouth. This is important as it influences the visitor’s decision to visit the attraction but also establishes future behaviours, expectations and images in the visitor which can have a dramatic effect upon their actual experience. On site interpretation includes visitor facilities, self guided and guided tours.

3. Cultural Impacts

The inclusion of the cultural welfare of the local/indigenous populations as a key component in ecotourism was introduced to reduce exploitative practices by foreign owned companies that essentially were not investing back into the local economy or environment and used locals in the lowest entry level employment.

It makes sense to involve the local community, garner their support and interest by making it benefit them as this is most likely to lead to the protection of the natural attractions. In some cases lack of consideration of the cultural impacts has lead to mass displacement of indigenous populations and destruction of natural resources. The most famous example of this is the displacement of approximately 70% of the Masai people for the creation of game parks in a pattern that was repeated across eastern Africa.

Another major aim of ecotourism is to put money back into the local community. Operators are therefore encouraged to spend money associated with the running of the tour in the local community in which they are operating. This can be money associated with the actual running of the business, the tour, and personal expenditure, and includes goods and services.

The local economy is stimulated by this spending and economic growth is a flow-on effect, creating employment and economic security for the local rural populations. Income is also generated through the fees associated with permits and licences; this ensures that more money is spent on public land management and conservation. Job opportunities in this field therefore also increase with a greater demand for park rangers, kiosk operators, park assistants and so on.

Another positive result of putting money back into the community is community support. For example, rural communities, often with a sometimes high proportion of unemployment and low incomes, are much more inclined to support ecotourism in their area if they too can benefit from it.

4. Sustainability

Sustainable Development was defined in 1980’s as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. While this principle is enthusiastically embraced, actually defining how this is to be met is another matter.

One aspect of sustainability calls for either the maintenance of the status quo in environments that are adequately ‘intact’ or enhancement the natural environment when degraded in some aspect.

This can actually dovetail nicely with tourism in providing visitors with an opportunity to give back to the environment by participation in restoration activities or by providing donations to such work. This approach promotes the notion of the environment as everyone’s responsibility not some undefined ‘other’.

Ecotourism ventures need to be assessed to determine whether they are actually ‘sustainable’, but the lack of consensus as to what constitutes sustainable creates further issues. In fact is nearly impossible to actually say that a particular business is ‘environmentally sustainable’, rather it is considered better to place the expectation that operations will work with what is considered environmental best practice.

5. Financial Aspects

If the venture is operating as ‘for profit’ it must consider financial viability seriously. Realism dictates that there will be a balance between running a business, customer satisfaction and meeting the requirements of ecotourism.

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Fee Information (S2)
Prices in Australian Dollars

PlanAust. PriceOverseas Price
A 1 x $781.66  1 x $710.60
B 2 x $416.96  2 x $379.05

Note: Australian prices include GST. 

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