Table of Contents

International Handbook on Ecotourism

International Handbook on Ecotourism

Elgar original reference

Edited by Roy Ballantyne and Jan Packer

This Handbook brings together contributions from over forty international experts in the field of ecotourism. It provides a critical review and discussion of current issues and concepts – it challenges readers to consider the boundaries of what ecotourism is, and could be. The Handbook provides practical information regarding the business of ecotourism; insights into ecotourist behaviour and visitor experiences; and reflections on the practice of ecotourism in a range of different contexts.

Chapter 2: Defining ecotourism: consensus on core, disagreement on detail

Ralf Buckley

Subjects: development studies, tourism, environment, ecological economics, environmental sociology, tourism, geography, tourism


Ecotourism has proved to be an enduring concept in the popular as well as the academic literature of travel and tourism. The frequency with which the term has been used has increased in an approximately linear fashion in both fields, with popular usage lagging scholarly publications by about a decade (Buckley & Ollenburg, 2011). Ecotourism has also become a term with a degree of political power. Not surprisingly, therefore, different interests promote their own perspectives on what it means. Each protagonist sees commercial or political advantage through the adoption of their preferred definition. This includes those researchers who propose normative frameworks under which ecotourism terminology should be applied according to some predefined position. Other researchers, however, take a descriptive approach, setting out simply to summarize how the term is used in practice. A few have set out to define eco tourists rather than ecotourism, but with a similar variety of approaches. Both the behaviour of an individual tourist on holiday and the structure of an individual retail packaged tourism product may contain some components that would qualify as ecotourism and others that would not. In addition, the emphasis given to different aspects of ecotourism differs not only between stakeholders, but also between countries and cultural traditions. Both these issues add to the difficulty in generating any universally recognized definition of ecotourism.

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