Ecology & Sustainable Tourism
The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as “purposeful travel to natural areas to understand the culture and natural history of the environment, taking care not to alter the integrity of the ecosystem while producing economic opportunities that make the conservation of natural resources beneficial to local people.”
Ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. This means that those who implement and participate in ecotourism activities should adhere to the following ecotourism principles:
- Minimize impact.
- Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
- Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
- Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
- Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people.
- Raise sensitivity to host countries' political, environmental, and social climate.
An ecolodge in the cloud forest of Manu National Park, Peru
(Photo by Michael Sweeney)
One cannot study the relationships in nature while sitting in the comfort of
one's home. One has to get out into the world - every corner of it that one
- Alexander von Humboldt
Testimonial: Sally Botzler, November 2011
As a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2009-2011 serving with my husband Rick in the Sierra Gorda region in Querétaro, Mexico, I made the fortunate decision to enroll in Michael Sweeney's Ecotourism Certificate Program (ECP) offered online through Humboldt State University's Extended Education. My goal was to become more knowledgeable about ecotourism and to provide stronger support to my Peace Corps counterparts in the Sierra Gorda as they endeavored to develop and support sustainable ecotourism projects. Ecotourism projects are the culmination of decades of committed work by the Sierra Gorda Ecological Group in relation to their vision of sustainable development with a "conservation economy" that benefits both the environment as well as the people who live there.
During the three ECP courses in 2010-2011, I was able to focus all of my assignments on the Sierra Gorda. Each semester, I benefited enormously from the rich feedback that Michael and my classmates provided. During the final course, I developed an appealing two-week educational ecotourism experience in collaboration with Margarita Pedraza Muñoz who coordinates Sierra Gorda Ecotours. Now, Rick and I are very excited about returning to the Sierra Gorda in July 2012 to co-facilitate the experience.
I am very pleased that my enrollment in the ECP resulted in such a positive outcome for the Sierra Gorda, and it is gratifying also to have achieved my certification in ecotourism. In the future, I feel confident that there will be many additional opportunities for me to apply my learning from this exceptional educational experience. I wholeheartedly recommend the ECP to other Peace Corps volunteers and to any other people who want to enhance their knowledge and skills and to support their communities in seeking higher levels of environmental responsibility and sustainability.