Eco-tourism is a recent trend in vacationing. Vacationers are told that they are going on a nature tour that is friendly to the environment, "green," and sustainable. However, promotions of eco-tourism are often deceptive. While some eco-tourism trips don't harm the environment or are even helpful for the environment, the physical, economic and social ramifications can be devastating.
Threat to Local Culture
Eco-tourism occasionally enters tribal areas and the trip arrangers recruit tribe members for demonstrations and entertainment. While this can be fun for vacationers, it can threaten local culture if all tribe members haven't discussed the arrangement and agreed upon it. This arrangement causes a divide in the tribe.
Little or No Infusion to Local Economies
Eco-tourism is almost always arranged by outside groups who aren't even based in the country that they are visiting. Vacationers think that they are benefiting the country that they visit, when in fact they are using the country's resources and infusing very little economically. In these cases, the vast majority of the fare paid for the trip goes to the outside agent who arranged the trip.
Environmental scientists and industry experts have argued that eco-tourism causes extensive environmental damage, as the transportation required to reach the remote eco-tourism areas releases a large amount of greenhouse gases. Eco-tourism usually covers a larger area than other types of travel (such as timeshares or all-inclusive resort experiences), requiring much more transportation and releasing more pollution in less time.
Many tourists looking for an eco-tourism experience want their trip to be as authentic as possible and want to view the "real lives" of people in the country they are visiting. To get this experience, some people think it is necessary to avoid the major tourism companies (such as Disney, Trafalgar, or Brendan) and book through an independent agent or company. While these independent agencies can sometimes offer insider experiences and eco-tourism trips that aren't available to larger groups, they lack the funding, insurance and experience of larger groups. They often are not concerned with safely operating a tour experience, and they cut corners to decrease cost. This leads to an unsafe--and often unpleasant--eco-tourism experience.
Lack of Regulation
There is no certification process for providers of eco-tourism, so there is no overseeing commission to ensure that eco-tourism is carried out responsibly. While some countries have sustainable development committees, there is little to stop companies from claiming that they are providing a genuine eco-tourism experience, and in fact destroying the environment in the process. Another problem with the lack of regulation is that tourists have no overseeing board or company to complain to if their trip is unsatisfactory.