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Posted on 04/08/2021 Transformational travel

What is the history of ecotourism?

Ecotourism, which is increasingly in demand today, did not always exist. Learn about its origins and history in this article.


Ecological tourism, ecotourism or nature tourism is an approach to tourist activities in which the observation of the natural environment is offered. It is a style of alternative tourism, or ecologist, different from traditional or mass tourism.


This type of tourism responds to the climate crisis that exists in the world and seeks to preserve ecosystems and interact with nature in a sustainable and friendly way. But, when did the history of ecotourism begin?

Horses in the Patagonia


History of ecotourism: how it began

Ecotourism is a relatively new concept whose importance resides, mainly, in that it encompasses an ecological, ethical and sustainable tourism, which seeks the minimum negative impacts on the natural landscapes and the population of nearby towns.


In the 80s the term “ecotourism” began to be used, but it was in 1990 when the first definition appeared, established by the International Ecotourism Society.


In 1990, The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) was founded, whose global network spans more than 190 countries, 750 organizations and 14,000 individuals who join forces to make tourism a viable tool for conservation, protection of biocultural diversity and sustainable development of the community.


At that moment, the definition of ecotourism was: “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local populations.”


But in 1999, as a result of increased activity, the definition was extended to cover a broader context: “Ecotourism is travel to fragile and pristine areas, usually protected, which is intended to be low-impact and generally small-scale. It helps educate the traveler, provides funds for the conservation of the environment; directly benefits the economic development and sovereignty of local communities; and fosters respect for different cultures and human rights”.


Later on, a consensus is reached on the definition adopted by the World Conservation Union of Nature that defines Ecotourism as: “That environmentally responsible tourism modality consisting of traveling or visiting natural areas in order to enjoy and appreciate nature, as well as any cultural manifestation of the present and the past, that promotes conservation, has a low impact of visitation and encourages an active involvement and socioeconomically beneficial to local populations. “

a girl taking a picture in ushuaia


Latest facts in the history of ecotourism

Ecotourism activities have been expanding rapidly over the last two decades globally; and there is an expectation of further growth in the future. Recognizing its global importance, the United Nations designated 2002 as the “International Year of Ecotourism”; and its Sustainable Development Commission, required international agencies, governments, and the private sector to take support and support activities for this initiative.


In this work agenda of the United Nations, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), WTO in English: World Tourism Organization, met at the World Summit of Ecotourism. This took place in Quebec City, Canada, from May 19 to 22, 2002, the International Year of Ecotourism, with more than a thousand participants from 132 countries, from the public, private and non-governmental sectors.


The Quebec Summit is one of the most important points in the history of ecotourism since it represents the culmination of 18 previous meetings held between 2001 and 2002, involving more than three thousand representatives of local and national governments, including tourism administrations. and the environment, ecotourism associations and businesses, non-governmental organizations, consultants and academic institutions, intergovernmental organizations, and local and indigenous communities.


The document resulting from the Quebec Declaration on Ecotourism contains general principles and practices of ecotourism. And it concludes with 49 recommendations made to governments, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, community associations, academic and research institutions.

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