In the early 1980s, ecotourism was initially connected with outdoor travel to remote, unique and/or scenic areas. Early ecotourism usually involved an educational or retreat focus. As ecotourism has increased in popularity, these educational elements became increasingly important. The recognized ecotourism industry has developed an organized framework for planning, management and economics. The encompassing methodology considers the immediate environment, site-specific information including historic human use, conservation and preservation education, community responsibility and equitable social benefits; as well as outdoor activities and education. Ecotourism has been described to include pursuits as diverse as bicycling; bird watching; big-game hunting; meditation; sailing; paddling canoe trails; hiking; and visits to buffalo farms, historic reenactments and museums.
Ecotourism and agritourism have many parallels and some development professionals consider the latter a subset of the former. In either case, much of the experience is designed around an area's natural variety, including its animal, plant and human cultural diversity. However, some adherents take exception with many of the activities of agritourism (for example, traditional farming and preserve-type hunting operations) if they are seen to be unsustainable or environmentally or culturally intrusive. In general, ecotourism includes several major principles that should be a part of any basic business plan: education about the area; sustainable resource use, no environmental degradation; local community enhancement and assistance in the area’s overall sustainable development; respect for the local people’s cultural/social/political concerns; and profit for the business and the area’s overall tourism industry. [Read More]
Tool Kits and Planning Guides
- Agritourism and Nature Tourism in California - second edition, Small Farm Program, University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, 2011 - The new edition of this for-purchase workbook adds updated information on risk management; marketing trends, such as social media; and county, state and federal regulations. The book includes easy-to-use worksheets and activities, including creating business and marketing plans.
- A Community Guide to Nature Tourism, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife - This site provides a five-step process to assessing your community, resources and guides.
- Developing Naturally: An Exploratory for Nature-Based Community Tourism, Strom Thurmond Center, Clemson University.
- Establishing a Birding-Related Business: A Resource Guide, Texas Agricultural Extension Service, Texas A&M University.
- Making Nature Your Business: A Guide for Starting A Nature Tourism Business in the Lone Star State, Texas Parks and Wildlife.
- Nature-Based Tourism and Agritourism Trends: Unlimited Opportunities, Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, NRCS, USDA, 2002.
- Nature-Based Tourism Enterprises, Strom Thurmond Institute, Clemson University, and the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium - This guide was developed to assist individuals in developing nature-based businesses. Topics include: planning and development, defining your service, start-up costs, administration, operations, creation of an Internet presence and marketing.
- Nature Tourism Development - Adventure, Agritourism, Fishing & Hunting, Texas AgriLIFE Extension.
- Providing Positive Wildlife Viewing Experiences, Watchable Wildlife, Inc. and the Colorado Division of Wildlife - A resource book for professionals providing wildlife viewing experiences.
National Nature-Based Organizations
- American Prairie Foundation
- Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies
- Christmas Tree Farm Network - Commercial, organized by state.
- The International Ecotourism Society - Uniting conservation, communities and sustainable travel, TIES promotes responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.
- National Christmas Tree Association
- North American Blueberry Council - U-pick farm.
- North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association - This organization sponsors an annual direct marketing conference, trade show and bus tours that feature agritourism topics.
- Rural Bounty
- State Fish Wildlife and Natural Resources Management - This site provides a starting point for finding the state agencies that manage fish and wildlife resources.
- Active Outdoor Recreation Report, Outdoor Industry Foundation, 2006 - This study estimates outdoor recreation contributes $730 billion annually to the U.S. economy.
- Alternative Enterprises and Agritourism: Resource Evaluation Guide - This online guide helps evaluate your resources, research marketing alternatives and liability considerations.
- Back to Nature and Ready for Guests in the Great Plains, New York Times, 2008 - Article on great plains and western ecotourism by Joshua Kurlantzick.
- Birding in the United States: A Demographic and Economic Analysis, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 2009 - This report identifies who birders are, where they live, how avid they are and what kinds of birds they watch. In addition to demographic information, this report also estimates how much birders spend on their hobby and the economic impact of these expenditures. The five top states with the greatest birding rates include Montana (40%), Maine (39%), Vermont (38%), Iowa (33%) and Minnesota (33%).
- A Community Guide to Nature Tourism, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife - Five-step process to assessing your community, resources and guides.
- Consumer Demand for Agricultural and On-Farm Nature Tourism, University of California Small Farm Center, 2005 - This research study focused on identifying demographic and psychographic characteristics of potential agritourism visitors in Northern California.
- Developing Naturally: An Exploratory Process for Nature-Based Community Tourism, Strom Center, Clemson University.
- Developing Trails and Tourism on Private Lands in Texas, Texas Cooperative Extension, 2001 - This publication features details on developing trail-type tourism activities.
- Ecotourism: A Guide for Planners and Managers, Vol. I; Kreg Lindberg and David Hawkins, Donald, eds - This best-selling text has been used internationally as a resource for ecotourism professionals and as a text for university courses. It is an invaluable guide providing in-depth, how-to information with informative case studies.
- Ecotourism: A Guide for Planners and Managers, Vol. II; Kreg Lindberg, Megan Epler Wood and David Engeldrum, eds - Volume II provides up-to-date perspectives, case studies, concrete lessons learned from the field and recommendations on future procedures for ecotourism development. It is written by a combination of academics and practitioners to be a practical, user- friendly guide for ecotourism project developers, an indispensable text for students and an excellent summary of current thinking for all those considering the field.
- Ecotourism Society Publications - Find out about the latest ecotourism market statistics and articles.
- Entertainment Farming & AgriTourism, Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA), NCAT, 2004 - This publication covers agri entertainment, a new consumer-focused type of agriculture that offers opportunity for additional farm income and diversification.
- Evaluating a Special Nature-Based Tourism Event, Institute for Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, Utah State University Extension, 2002 - This document outlines how to create a one-page exit survey to evaluate an event.
- Fee-Fishing Enterprise, Western Maryland Research and Education Center
- The Institute For Integrated Rural Tourism - This institute works with communities and individuals to develop tourism systems in which rural people and rural life patterns form the foundation of the touristic experience.
- Managing Agricultural and Nature Tourism Operations Fact Sheets, University of California Small Farm Center.
- Nature-based Tourism Enterprises. Guidelines for success, Clemson University, 2000 - Topics covered in this online document include planning and development, defining your service, start-up costs, administration, operations, creation of an Internet presence and marketing.
- Nature-oriented Visitors and their Expenditures: Upper San Pedro River Basin, University of Arizona, 2002 - This report summarizes the travel patterns, demographics and local expenditures of visitors to two birding sites in Arizona’s Upper San Pedro River Basin.
- Outdoor Recreation Participation Report: 2008, Outdoor Industry Association.
- The Sonoran Institute - This Institute works with communities to conserve and restore important natural landscapes in Western North America, including the wildlife and cultural values of these lands. The Institute's efforts relate to healthy landscapes and livable communities that embrace conservation as an integral element of their economies and quality of life.
- Sustainable Tourism, Global Development Research Center.
- Watchable Wildlife Industry - This site provides statistics and reports on national economic value.
- Wildlife Recreation: Rural America's Newest Billion Dollar Industry, The Main Street Economist, Center for the Study of Rural America, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, 2004 - Wildlife-related recreation in the United States is estimated to be a $108 billion industry.
- Wildlife Watching Trends: 1991-2006 A Reference Report, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 2009 - In 2006 a third of U.S. residents, or 70 million people, observed, photographed and fed wildlife. Most did so within a mile of their home, but a third took trips specifically to interact with wildlife. Each wildlife watcher spent an average of $642 for equipment and trip-related items, totaling $45.7 billion nationally.
Business & Case Studies
- At Home with the Claytons: An On-farm Bed and Breakfast Experience, North Central Initiative for Small Farm Profitability, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2002 - This case study on Clayton Farms, located near Grinnell, Iowa, details how an on-farm business can help with household income. The business targets pheasant hunters.
- Knapp Farm Bed and Breakfast, Titusville, Pennsylvania - Knapp Farm Bed and Breakfast is a working beef and hardwood tree farm. It offers activities for hunting, fishing, camping and trail rides on 1,000 acres of private land.
- Logging Camp Ranch, Bowman, North Dakota.
- Montana Bunkhouses Working Ranch Vacations - Guests experience life on a working cattle ranch, hosted by more than ranch families. The type of experience varies by the season.
- Montana Hunting Company - Example of a business that runs bison hunts with an appreciation of the heritage and natural history of the region.
- Native American Tourism of Wisconsin - An example of a regional specialty tourism group with contact information and links to local tribal development specialists and information on conferences, special events and educational resources.
- Off the Beaten Path, Bozeman, Montana.
- Paint Rock Valley Lodge and Retreat, Estill Fork, Alabama - The hunting lodge is busy year round. When it isn’t deer and wild turkey hunting season, visitors enjoy activities like hiking, fishing, canoeing and cave exploring.
- Spring Valley Trout Farm, Dexter, Michigan - This farm offers the public a chance to fish from farm-raised channel catfish ponds or a rainbow trout pond.
Links checked July 2013.