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The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Consumption and Consumer Studies by J. Michael Ryan, Daniel Thomas Cook

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Ecotourism

RICHARD SHARPLEY

University of Central Lancashire, UK

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs104

The term “ecotourism” defies precise definition. Indeed, since it was popularized by Hector Cellabos-Lascuráin in the early 1980s (Sharpley 2006), such has been the variety of tourism activities, experiences, and products to which it has been applied that it has become almost meaningless. Nevertheless, definitions of ecotourism abound. Fennell (2013), for example, describes it simply as “a type of tourism based on an interest in the natural history attractions of a destination” (p. 323). In so doing, he not only acknowledges the breadth of the concept, but also confirms, as Cellabos-Lascuráin first proposed, that it is primarily a nature-based form of tourism consumption. However, this definition is problematic. Not only does it fail to distinguish between ecotourism and other forms of tourism, such as nature, wildlife, adventure, or rural tourism, which are to a greater or lesser extent dependent on the consumption of the natural environment, but it also fails to acknowledge two distinctive perspectives on ecotourism.

On the one hand, many definitions emphasize the role of the tourist in ecotourism consumption. Thus, ecotourism is considered to be “responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people” (International Ecotourism Society 2012; emphasis added), although it is recognized that ecotourists vary in their motivations, ...

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