Community Based Ecotourism – adopting an integrated approach

This is the second in a series of posts on Community Based Ecotourism

Rather than being pursued in isolation, community-based ecotourism should occur in the context of other options and programmes for conservation, sustainable development and responsible tourism.

The small scale of most community-based ecotourism initiatives means that their impact, both on nature conservation and on income and employment for the community as a whole, is limited. They can be more influential and successful if they are integrated within other sustainable development initiatives at a regional and local level.

Ecotourism can be integrated with other sectors of the rural economy, creating mutually supportive linkages and reducing financial leakage away from the area. It can also be coordinated with agriculture, in terms of the use of time and resources and in providing markets for local produce.
In principle, multiple sector activity within local communities should be encouraged. Ecotourism markets are small, seasonal and sensitive to external influences such as political changes or economic instability in the host or generating country. On the other hand, ecotourism can shield against threats to other sectors.

As well as horizontal integration within the community, the success of local ecotourism initiatives may depend on vertical integration with national level initiatives to support and promote responsible tourism. In addition to making linkages with what may already exist, efforts should be made to influence national policies in favour of ecotourism, including coordination between tourism and environmental ministries and policies.

National level support is needed in terms of linking conservation and tourism activities and responsibilities, appropriate legislation and assistance towards small enterprises and community initiatives, and national and international promotion.

At an early stage in work on ecotourism it is important to be aware of the work of other state or provincial, national and international agencies in this field and to seek mutually beneficial coordination.

Future posts will deal with ‘Planning Ecotourism with Communities’, ‘Working together to develop an agreed strategy’, ‘Ensuring environmental and cultural integrity’, ‘Ensuring market realism and effective promotion’, ‘Offering a high quality of visitor experience’ and more.

Contact Lorton Consulting about helping communities in your area develop a sustainable ecotourism offering — we would be more than willing to advise you.

With acknowledgement to WWF – Taking action for a living planet


  1. Alfonso

    Love your material on community development. Have you written a toolkit yet?

    • Darryl Lombard

      Thanks Alfonso. There is a toolkit in the pipeline. May take a while.

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