Ecotourism is usually defined as travel to natural or cultural sites which informs the visitor, conserves the site, and benefits the local economy. Ecotourism is a niche segment of the total world tourism market, and has been growing steadily over the past two decades. Several international organizations see ecotourism as a tool for poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation especially in developing nations.
The United Nations General Assembly designated 2002 the International Year of Ecotourism. Eighteen regional meetings were held culminating in the World Ecotourism Summit, held in May in Quebec City, Canada, sponsored by the UN Environmental Program, The World Tourism Organization, the Canadian Tourism Commission, and Tourisme Quebec. Just over 1100 participants attended with various interests especially in ecotourism planning and development, regulation, marketing, and benefits sharing. The principle product of the meeting was the Quebec Declaration on Ecotourism used to inform the discussions at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa September 2002. ( Excerpts from the WSSD Plan of Implementation )
While the Department of Commerce sets U.S. policy for tourism, several U.S. federal agencies, including the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management promote ecotourism in the U.S. The State Department tracks current international ecotourism activities related to biodiversity conservation, sustainable development, and eco-certification schemes.
An overview of sustainable ecotourism in the U.S. was prepared for the World Ecotourism Summit in May 2002.
Above photo family hiking in Medicine Bow National Forest, Wyoming (State Dept. photo)