By Brian Clark Howard
Do they support the local economy in sustainable ways, providing jobs and livelihoods for the community and protection for the environment? A movement began in the late 80's to foster ecological tourism, or ecotourism, to educate travelers about the environmental impact they have and the green choices they can make. Within a little more than ten years, it had reached large enough importance that the UN declared 2002 The Year of Ecotourism. The International Ecological Society (TIES
), founded in 1990, defines ecotourism as "Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." Its goal is sustainability, considered by TIES to be travel that "meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunities for the future." Ecotourism
embraces six principles: to minimize impact; to build environmental and cultural awareness and respect; to provide a positive experience for visitors and hosts alike; to provide direct financial benefits for conservation; to provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people, and to raise sensitivity to host countries' political, environmental and social climate.