As a concept, ecotourism has essentially evolved over the past decade. Its specific aims and objectives lay emphasis on tourism being ecologically friendly. It is thus a force that is contributing to the greening of the tourism industry and can be visualised as a process of significant importance to the industry as a whole, even though it is presently limited to a small niche market with a very few operators.

The term "ecotourism" was originally defined as "travelling to relatively undisturbed or uncontaminated areas with the specific objective of studying, admiring or enjoying the scenary, its wild plants and animals, as well as any existing cultural manifestations found in these areas"(Ceballos-Lascurain,1988). However since then different definitions have been put forward, some of which do not clearly demarcate between different forms of nature based tourism. The most appropriate appears to be the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's definition, which describes ecotourism as being .... "...environmentally responsible travel and visitation to relatively undisturbed natural areas in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and any accompanying cultural features, both past and present); that promotes conservation; has low visitor impact; and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local populations" (Ceballos-Lascurian, 1993, in Ceballos-Lascurian, 1996).

The major underlying assumption of ecotourism is that visitors can provide the necessary economic licentives to achieve local conservation and development.. In theory, ecotourism generates revenue which will be used to protect and conserve the existing biodiversity and natural environment that drag visitors to a particular site. Ecotourism's objectives, therefore, include visitors education, non-alterations of ecosystems, and local economic benefits.

Today, ecotourism is universally recognised as defining a very specific type of nature based tourism,in which small groups of people are taken to experience various aspects of nature and participate in wildlife viewing, nature trekking, educational tours, and so on. Special care is taken to prevent negative impact on the ecosystem, and tourist education in matters related to the environment is given high priority. The distinguishing feature of ecotourism is that it emphasises the ecological fragility, carrying capacity and biodiversity conservation of the region, while acting as a liaison between local communities and the tourism industry.

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