Tourism Ecotourism and Biodiversity

Leisure travel is big business. Its many niches, including holiday resorts, theme parks, package tours, independent travel, and budget tours have a collective influence on local ecologies and economies in destinations all over the world. Tourists travel for a variety of reasons—rest and relaxation, sightseeing, pleasure, adventure, education, and the broadening experience of other lands and cultures. The ecological impact and resource demands of a steady influx of large numbers of humans significantly transform destination locations. A dramatic increase in tourism in recent decades is placing new strains on coastal, mountain, and desert ecosystems. Poor Third World nations often lack resources to develop

A group of tourists photographing in the Qalapagos Islands, Ecuador. As the number of tourists flocking to fragile ecosystems increases, the proclamation "Take only pictures, leave only footprints" provides limited protection from the cumulative impact of thousands of footprints. (Qalen Rowell/Corbis)

A group of tourists photographing in the Qalapagos Islands, Ecuador. As the number of tourists flocking to fragile ecosystems increases, the proclamation "Take only pictures, leave only footprints" provides limited protection from the cumulative impact of thousands of footprints. (Qalen Rowell/Corbis)

a tourism infrastructure and to increase the capacity for visitors and the income they generate, while at the same time preserving the fragile environments and habitats that are often the principal attraction in the first place. Ecotourism is growing in popularity, and the development of conservationist tourist programs in tropical biodiversity hot spots like Costa Rica and Belize are models for other countries to follow.

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