Ecotourism and Protected areas

 UNWTO Ecotourism definition:

Ecotourism is used to mean forms of tourism which have the following characteristics:

  1. All nature-based forms of tourism in which the main motivation of the tourists is the observation and appreciation of nature as well as the traditional cultures prevailing in natural areas.
  2. It contains educational and interpretation features.
  3. It is generally, but not exclusively organised by specialised tour operators for small groups. Service provider partners at the destinations tend to be small, locally owned businesses.
  4. It minimises negative impacts upon the natural and socio-cultural environment.
  5. It supports the maintenance of natural areas which are used as ecotourism attractions by:
  • generating economic benefits for host communities, organisations and authorities managing natural areas with conservation purposes,
  • providing alternative employment and income opportunities for local communities,
  • increasing awareness towards the conservation of natural and cultural assets, both among locals and tourists.

Source: The British Ecotourism Market , UNWTO 2002

UNWTO has been involved in the field of ecotourism since the early 1990s. It published a "Guidelines for the Sustainable Development and Management of Tourism in National Parks and Protected Areas", jointly with UNEP and IUCN in 1992 and held a series of regional seminars.

A revised and enlarged publication was produced in 2002:
Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas - Guidelines for Planning and Management (UNWTO/UNEP/IUCN 2002)
The link between protected areas and tourism is as old as the history of protected areas. Though the relationship is complex and sometimes adversarial, tourism is always a critical component to consider in the establishment and management of protected areas. These guidelines aim to build an understanding of protected area tourism, and its management. They provide both a theoretical structure and practical guidelines for managers. The underlying aim is to ensure that tourism contributes to the purposes of protected areas and does not undermine them.


In the framework of the UN-declared International Year of Ecotourism (IYE) 2002 UNWTO undertook a wide range of activities, including the organization of regional conferences and the World Ecotourism Summit, publishing of guidelines and methodologies for ecotourism development and market studies, as well as supporting regional and national activities.

At the request of the United Nations General Assembly, the World Tourism Organization prepared a report on the activities undertaken by States and major international organizations in the framework of the International Year of Ecotourism. The report, together with information on follow up activities and archives of IYE 2002, can be found at the following web site

In the UNWTO series of Compilations of good practices in sustainable development of tourism, two publications were dedicated to ecotourism:
Sustainable Development of Ecotourism: A Compilation of Good Practices
Sustainable Development of Ecotourism: A Compilation of Good Practices in SMEs

More details, ordering of publications



Also in 2002 for the occasion of the International Year of Ecotourism, the WTO prepared a series of market reports with the aim to increase the knowledge of seven important countries considered “Ecotourism generating markets”:

The British Ecotourism Market (hard copy) , Electronic version
The Canadian Ecotourism Market (hard copy) , Electronic version
The French Ecotourism Market (hard copy) , Electronic version
The German Ecotourism Market (hard copy) , Electronic version
The Italian Ecotourism Market (hard copy), Electronic version
The Spanish Ecotourism Market (hard copy) , Electronic version
The U.S. Ecotourism Market (hard copy) , Electronic version