Ecotourism in India : Advantages and Disadvantages

  Ecotourism: Right Way to Achieve the Goal of Sustainable Development

-Dr. Arvind Singh 
Ecotourism means making a little environmental impact as possible and helping to sustain the indigenous populace, thereby encouraging the preservation of wildlife and habitats when visiting a place. This is a responsible form of tourism and tourism development which encourages going back to natural products in every aspect of life.

eco tourism in india
The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well being of local people”. Thus ecotourism is a form of travel dedicated to sustainable travel destinations. 

Generally, ecotourism focuses on socially responsible travel, personal growth and environmental sustainability. Ecotourism typically involves travel to destinations where flora, fauna and cultural heritage are the primary attractions. Ecotourism is intended to offer tourists an insight into the impact of human beings on the environment and to foster a greater appreciation of our natural habitats.

Responsible ecotourism includes programmes that minimize the negative aspects of conventional tourism on the environment and enhance the cultural integrity of local people. Therefore, besides evaluating environmental and cultural factors an integral part of ecotourism is the promotion of recycling energy efficiency, water conservation, and creation of economic opportunities for local communities.

Why Ecotourism has become inevitable?

The environmental impact of tourism development is indeed serious. In some popular destinations, the natural attractions of the area have been damaged due to overcrowding and irrational activities.

1. In the Philippines and Maldives, dynamiting and mining of corals for resort building materials have damaged fragile coral reefs and depleted fisheries that sustain local people.
2. Inadequate sewage treatment along the coastlines of Brazil and many other countries has caused the pollution of waterways, lagoons and the ocean, making local waters unsafe for swimming and fishing. 

3. In popular resort areas like Cancun and Hawaii, overbuilt beachfront hotels have contributed to beach erosion, flooding and the disappearance of natural wetlands, generating mountains of garbage without adequate means of disposal. 

4. In Nepal, the rapid growth of the trekking industry has increased pollution in Kathmandu and caused dangerous crowding and destruction of trails. Logging for hotel building materials and cooking fires has led to deforestation, flooding and landslides as far away as Bangladesh. 

5. In Kenya, Safari activities have decreased wildlife populations, habitats and food supplies. Currently, the Cheetah population is on the verge of extinction. 

6. In Yellowstone National Park, trash left by tourists has led to the forced relocation of bears untimely leading to their death. 

Characteristics of Ecotourism

The characteristics of ecotourism are as follows: 1. Involves travel to natural destinations 2. Minimize impact. 3. Builds environmental awareness. 4. Provides direct financial benefits for conservation. 5. Provides financial benefits and empowerment for local people. 6. Respect local culture; and 7. Supports human rights and democratic movements.

Principles of Ecotourism:

In fact, ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities and sustainable travel. Therefore, those who implement and participate in ecotourism activities should follow the following ecotourism principles:

1. Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect. 

2. Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts. 

3. Provide direct financial benefits for conservation. 

4. Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people; and 

5. Raise sensitivity to the host country’s political, environmental and social climate.

Advantages of Ecotourism in India:

1. Ecotourism is an opportunity to preserve ecosystems and biodiversity. It is also a chance to generate revenue to support research efforts. 

2. Ecotourism also helps to protect threatened wildlife and ensure that robust animal populations remain that way. 

3. Ecotourism presents an environment-friendly and potentially more sustainable alternative to extractive activities such as farming, logging, mining or harvesting of wildlife. 

4. Ecotourism provides a chance for local people to escape from a cycle of poverty and by sharing their knowledge of the local terrain and ecology with visitors to develop a stronger sense of community pride and a broader, more global, perspective that recognizes the significance of biodiversity to all people. 

5. Business initiated through ecotourism ventures can become self-sufficient within a short span of time and can enhance the long-term economic prospects of a community. 

6. Foreign visitors are benefitted as ecotourism provides an educational glimpse of a world on their own often a world of striking natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. A more subtle benefit is the opportunity to engage in an international dialogue with people from different background. This cross-cultural exchange can form a healthy bridge between developed and developing nations of the world. 

7. Ecotourism can create jobs in remote areas that have benefitted less from economic development programmes that have more populous areas. 

8. Protected areas and nature conservation usually provide many benefits to society, including the preservation of biodiversity and maintenance of watersheds. 

9. The benefits of ecotourism for indigenous communities include preservation of its culture and tradition, conservation of the natural environment and maintenance of social, cultural and religious values. In remote areas with limited development ecotourism ventures can improve the quality of life, self-esteem and well- being of local and indigenous communities.

Disadvantages of Ecotourism in India:

1. Conversion of undeveloped land into profitable space for tourism. National parks and wilderness areas may be compromised by an influx of tourists.

2. Ecotourism may cause displacement of some local residents. 

3. The industry of ecotourism attracts upper-class, urban tourists who may not be culturally sensitive and may alienate the local residents.
4. Ecotourism jobs for local residents often do not pay well. Profits may spill into nation’s pockets as wealthy investors gain from the success of an ecotourism project.
5. Ecotourism is susceptible to catastrophic downfalls, such as those that could come from worldwide economic instability. Tourism dollars that poor, foreign governments grow to depend on could easily disappear. 

6. Ecotourism may cause environmental damage as the transportation required to reach the remote ecotourism areas releases a large number of greenhouse gases. 

7. Ecotourism may threaten indigenous culture.

Practices for sound Ecotourism:

Sound ecotourism activities contribute long-term benefits to both the environment and the host community. The guiding principles for ecotourism must include the following provisions:

1. Tourist activities must not degrade the resources. 

2. Tourism must respect the intrinsic value of natural resources. 

3. Tourism cannot overtax the resource supplies of the local region; and 

4. Tourist revenue must provide conservation, scientific and cultural benefits to the resources, local and community, and the industry as a whole and these benefits must be long term.

Scope of Ecotourism in India:

The scope of ecotourism in India is very high because of the wide geographical area and biological diversity.

The Government of India published the ecotourism guidelines and policies in 1998 which needs to be followed by the planners, tour operators, visitors and other agencies. Thenmala Ecotourism Project was the first planned ecotourism project in India, in the state of Kerala, launched on July 1, 1998. It is strictly based on the principles of ecotourism.

The Vaishno Devi Shrine in Jammu & Kashmir and Ajanta-Ellora caves in Maharashtra are other such places, where ecological preservation and local participation is the primary objective.


Conclusively it can be said that ecotourism is a form of tourism that involves visiting the natural areas in the remote wilderness or rural environments. It lays emphasis on environmental conservation and preservation of biological diversity and cultural diversity through the protection of the ecosystem. Furthermore, it promotes the sustainable use of biological diversity by providing jobs to local populations. Thus ecotourism is inevitable to achieve the goal of sustainable development.

Author Bio: 
Dr. Arvind Singh is M. Sc. and Ph. D. in Botany with an area of specialization in Ecology. He is a dedicated Researcher having more than four dozen published Research Papers in the Journals of National and International repute. His main area of Research is Restoration of Mined Lands. However, he has also conducted research on the Vascular Flora of Banaras Hindu University-Main Campus, India.

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