Managing Ecotourism

Course CodeBTR101
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours

Start a Great Career in Ecotourism

Tourism is a major industry in many countries.
Ecotourism has emerged out of growing interest in outdoor activities - from mountaineering and bird watching, to low impact bush walking.  Establishing such an enterprise requires an understanding of a wide range of issues including:
  • destinations
  • safety
  • accommodation
  • transport
  • the tour desk as a first point of contact
  • legal considerations
  • management

This course develops your ability to establish and operate an ecotourism enterprise


Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Nature and Scope of Ecotourism -
    • Definition of ecotourism
    • Negative ecotourism
    • Principles of ecotourism
  2. Management Issues -
    • Recreation and the environment
    • recreational impacts on the environment
    • ethical and legal concerns
    • code of practice for ecotourism operators
    • incorporating ecotourism principles into activities
    • interpretation
    • visitor guidelines
    • planning for minimal impact
    • quality control
  3. Industry Destinations -
    • The ecotourism market
    • what do ecotourists want?
    • trends in international tourism
    • understanding the needs of the consumer
    • consumer expectations
  4. The Tour Desk/Office -
    • Office procedures
    • providing information
    • employment prospects in ecotourism
    • bookings
    • business letters
    • telephone manner
  5. Accommodation Facilities -
    • Types of accommodation facilities
    • layout of facilities
  6. Catering Facilities -
    • Introduction to catering
    • accepted practice for service facilities
    • storing and preserving food
  7. Legal Considerations -
    • National Parks
    • land use/planning restrictions
    • code of practice
  8. Safety-
    • The safety strategy
    • hazards
    • first aid
  9. Planning an Ecotourism Activity -
    • A special project where the student plans out an ecotourism activity including:
    • budget
    • accommodation
    • licenses
    • meals
    • destination

Always Prepare a Tour Group

Before commencing any tour into a natural area prepare the group for a visit, informing them of ways to treat the site respectfully and with sensitivity. This can include informing them of special considerations, such as the shyness or timidity of particular animals, and should include general guidelines, such as taking all your waste (even a cigarette butt) with you.

Most reserves and parks now restrict visitors’ movement to marked trails or prohibit cars and four wheel drives in certain area. Many use signs to remind visitors to avoid disturbing the environment, even to replace a rock after looking at the insects found beneath it. However, many wildlife and nature park managers are faced with the initial problem that a wildlife habitat is or has already largely been destroyed or altered.  This can be their primary obstacle in successfully managing wildlife.

Responsible wildlife managers, tour guides and visitors can use gathered information to encourage visitors to reduce damage to habitats and sites. 

Preparing material
There are many things to consider when preparing a guided walk. Lots of different people come on guided walks and the more you think about your audience and their needs, the more successful your walk is likely to be. 

Types of audiences

  • School groups
  • Family groups
  • Community Groups
  • Holiday Groups
  • Special interest groups
  • Excluded groups

What you need to know about your audience

What do they know already?
What level of knowledge do they have? They could be a school group studying local ecosystems, a group of international students exploring the local area, a travelling group touring the world, a group of teachers on a learning or team building day. By knowing who the group is and the reasons for coming (below) you can gauge what they may already know.

What can they do?
How far can they walk? How fast can they walk? Are there any disabled individuals? How old is the group? How much time do they have? All these things need to be considered. When the tour is booked it is best to obtain as much information as possible about the group. Most tours cater for a range of people and there are often a range of topics that can be the focus of a tour. If working with school groups tours often cater for specifics of the school curriculum and level.

Why do they want to come?
Are they looking for knowledge, a social event, or entertainment? 

How big is the group?
What numbers can you cope with? Do you have a maximum and minimum for the tour. Reasons may be for safety of quality of the tours. 
Often tours need to be adapted for certain situations. A leader must be versatile and adaptable. For example a guided wildlife walk was planned for a country park. Many of the people had minor mobility problems. The walk was planned to cross one of the meadows. However, the route had to be changed because walking through the grass would have been difficult and tiring for the audience. It is best to have a back-up plan for any of these circumstances.

When do you do it?
Who your walk is for and why you want to do it will affect when you do it. You need to think about time of day, time of week, and the time of year.
Some people will be reluctant to go on a walk in the evening. Others may find it difficult to go on a walk on a week day. Walks in the winter may need to be shorter because people are less willing to stay outside as long as in summer.
For example, a bat walk will need to be organised for later in the evening when the bats are likely to be active. If planning a bat walk for children this could be difficult as some bats may not appear until later in the evening. However, at different times of the year the bats may be out earlier, therefore the walk may be a seasonal activity for the children.

The Introductory Talk
Before an ecotour sets off there should be a preparatory talk that will enable the participants to ready themselves for what they are about to experience. A talk such as this should include the following:

  • Welcome your audience by introducing yourself, your project or organisation and any other staff.
  • Explain why you are doing the tour.
  • Hint at the highlights of the tour and Inform people of the distance and duration of the tour such as the itinerary, including time taken to complete, time to be spent in certain areas, highlights of the trip and the finishing point/time.
  • Outline any important safety messages before leaving.  Warn about any hazards.  For example, for an expedition that is travelling through snake-infested sugar cane, you should previously recommend the wearing of snake gaiters and defensive snake tactics as well as snake bite basics.    
  • Anticipate and encourage questions. Remember that what is obvious to you may not be obvious to less experienced individuals. Accord questions the respect that they and anyone seeking knowledge deserves, no matter how ridiculous or insignificant they may seem to you. 
  • It may also be necessary to outline any important conservation messages before leaving.


Who Can Benefit From This Course?

  • If you already work in tourism, it can broaden and deepen your knowledge; leading to new opportunities.
  • If you aspire to work in ecotourism; you will better understand the industry, be less likely to make mistakes, and more capable of succeeding in this industry.
  • If you hope to start or buy an ecotour business, you will make better business choices, both in what you start or buy, and how you move forward beyond that.

This course will improve your knowledge and understanding of ecotourism; but beyond that it will raise your awareness of the industry and help you to see opportunities in a different more enlightened way.


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