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Community Ecotourism

How is Ecotourism different from other forms of tourism? And more specifically, what exactly is understood by Community Ecotourism?


Ecotourism is travel to areas of exceptional natural beauty, sometimes to remote wilderness areas, which includes measurable environmental benefit (either through direct conservation action or with financial contributions to projects) as well as tangible economic benefit for host communities with due consideration of local or traditional livelihoods, people's aspirations and cultural concerns.

Most succinctly, ecotourism is defined as responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.

Community Ecotourism   

While ecotourism by definition must bring some direct socio-economic benefit to local communities (unlike nature tourism; see below), all too often this element is forgotten as travellers and development planners focus only on the 'eco' of ecotourism. For this reason, the term 'community ecotourism' is here used synonymously with 'ecotourism' -- simply to reemphasise the importance of communities both as participants and decision-makers as well as cultural resource and possible victim of the tourism industry.

Community-based, community-driven ecotourism thus not only brings socio-economic benefit to local communities and support for local conservation efforts, but (importantly) also involves local people in decision-making. Ideally, the whole venture of tourism in an area should be directed by communities themselves. Community ecotourism helps to promote local empowerment and strengthens community cohesion and people's sense of identity and worth. It also can be designed to encompass nearly all of the traveller's interests, including nature or wildlife tourism, adventure sports, cultural experiences, and exceptional photographic opportunities.

Nature Tourism                 

Nature tourism is travel to or through areas of exceptional natural beauty. However this form of travel alone should not be misunderstood (or inappropriately advertised by tour operators) as ecotourism. While nature tourism may be enormously rewarding for the traveller, it can occur without promise or intent of benefit for communities or the environment - yet as it clearly provides one of the most promising foundations for ecotourism, it should be developed accordingly. Nature-based (eco)tourism can easily be combined with other forms of tourism that benefit local people and protect the environment.  

Adventure Tourism, Cultural Tourism, Photo Tourism         

Traveling through Qinghai province, the numerous extraordinary options for creating the travel experience of a lifetime are obvious!  Add some adventurous trekking or whitewater rafting. Stay with local families and practice your herding skills, or learn to make traditional handicrafts. Photograph the people and culture, scenic landcapes and rare wildlife. The options simply abound -- and engaging directly with local people and communities is the most satisfying way to experience the region. Choose to adopt the Community Ecotourism approach today, inclusive of all the above options!

Sustainable Tourism     

Whatever form of tourism one chooses to participate in, by virtue of the choices made vis-a-vis destinations and selection of tour operators, it should be sustainable -- economically, socially, culturally, environmentally. At a minimum, tourism must not degrade its own resource base (including the natural and physical environment and the socio-cultural foundation upon which tourism is built). A sense of sustainability should become a central pillar of all business activities, including the tourism sector.

Responsible Tourism        

Likewise, all forms of tourism should be environmentally sensitive as well as culturally appropriate. That is, both tourists and tour operators, as well as ancillary service industries, should always be responsible members of society. Individual and corporate responsiblity is now increasingly recognized as important in society, and should be foundational in all sectors of the travel industry.


Through this site it is hoped that Community Ecotourism may be supported and developed for the benefit of local people, communities and the environment in Qinghai Province.