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As seen in the Transitions Abroad Webzine December 2008 Issue

Ecotourism and Sustainable Development by Martha Honey

Reviewed by Living Abroad Contributing EditorVolker Poelzl

This second updated edition of “Ecotourism and Sustainable Development” provides a lot of critical insight and information for anyone interested in ecotourism and issues related to sustainable development and environmental protection. This is not a guide to ecotourism outfitters or eco-lodges, but a critical analysis and comprehensive overview of the ecotourism industry, its promises and challenges since its rise in the early 1980s. The author begins with the history and definition of ecotourism and gives an overview of trends in the tourism industry, especially the travel industry specializing in so-called “green” or “ecological” travel.  Instead of the usual pep talk divulged by the travel industry, readers get to take a real look behind the theory and practices of ecotourism today and learn about the positive and not so positive impact of ecotourism around the world. The author gives an overview of how the ecotourism business is structured and how it operates, shedding light on little-known facts about the industry. Martha Honey notes that ‘ “ecotourism lite” still remains all too common. Much of what is marketed as ecotourism is simply conventional mass tourism wrapped in a thin veneer of “green.”’

After outlining the fundamentals of ecotourism in part 1 of the book, Martha Honey offers case studies of ecotourism developments in the second and main part of the book. For these “Nation Studies” the author chose seven different countries from around the world and investigates ecotourism development and practices in depth. Among them she selects as examples the Galápagos Islands, Costa Rica, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Kenya, South Africa, and the United States. In these case studies the author examines the role of ecotourism in each country and investigates the impact on the local culture and environment with an honest and critical eye. The case studies from around the world paint a poignant picture of the threats to endangered species and ecosystems everywhere, and what ecotourism can and cannot do to help preservation efforts and encourage sustainable use of land and natural resources.

What I like about this book is that it is very accessible for general readers interested in ecotourism. It is not an academic study elaborating on data, statistics and scientific observations, but a very readable account of ecotourism practices that are relevant for anyone concerned about the preservation of threatened ecosystems around the world. “Ecotourism and Sustainable Development” is an important source of insight, information, and understanding which should open readers’ eyes to the complex issues relating to ecologically sustainable tourism. It is a great primer and resource for anyone who is planning an ecotourism adventure in the near future and would like to find out more about what ecotourism really is.

Martha Honey, a former journalist, is the co-director of the Center on Ecotourism and Sustainable Development and editor of Ecotourism and Certification: Setting Standards in Practice (Island Press, 2002).

Island Press is non-profit publisher of environmental information and publishes 40 new books each year that cover a wide spectrum of environmental topics;

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