David Newsome and Michael Hughes
We explore the complex spectrum within which ecotourism exists ranging from mass tourism at one end to highly specialized niche tourism at the other. Positive and negative impacts are identified but the nature of such impacts varies according to how ecotourism is understood and interpreted by tour operators and tourists alike. On a larger temporal scale the nature of impacts is influenced by political and socio-economic factors that characterize the areas in which the biodiversity occurs. Protected area areas, such as national parks, play a vital role in conserving biodiversity and tourism is a central tenet of public engagement and conservation in the role of parks themselves. Protected area managers have an active role to play in promoting sustainable tourism and in the provision and maintenance of visitor facilities. Potential negative impacts of tourism on biodiversity often interact with wider landscape-level impacts such as pest animals and fire regimes that compromise biodiversity conservation. We conclude this chapter with an exploration of the implications for Environmental Impact Assessment of these complex characteristics of ecotourism and its interaction with biodiversity. Considerations include understanding: the impacts of ecotourism on biodiversity at various scales; the role of people’s perceptions in what is regarded as an impact; and the cumulative effects of a number of land uses, of which tourism is only one, on biodiversity.