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 3: The history of ecotourism

Ross Dowling

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


Natural areas have been tourism destinations for centuries, with initial forays into natural areas being considered ‘romantic’ at the beginning but latterly more ‘ecological’ (Davidson & Spearritt, 2000). It was not until the mid-twentieth century that ecotourism was born, through the growth of mass tourism, on the one hand, and environmental awareness, on the other. Thus, to understand the birth and growth of ecotourism it is first necessary to examine the evolution of the environment–tourism relationship. An investigation of this illustrates the range of factors that led to the genesis of ecotourism. This genesis has been attributed to a number of people over a range of decades in the second half of the last century. The history of ecotourism has been described by Lindberg and McKercher (1997) and Fennell (1999) described the convergent evolution of ecotourism. Both suggest that it was only in the 1980s that it sought to find common ground due to the expansion of global tourism and the increasing interest in the natural environment. The phenomenon known as ecotourism was in existence long before the terminology began to be used within tourism studies even though it was often called other things.

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