"Ecotourism" is a fashionable description given to excursions to relatively untouched lands, which for the tourist promise the chance to observe unusual wildlife and indigenous inhabitants. The travel industry, in an attempt to market adventure and authenticity to those travellers weary of "civilization", promote travel to environments free of modern technology. Ecotourism's inherent contradiction is the promotion of untouched lands, which immediately become touched by the hands of tourism. Consequent environmental deterioration assures the destruction of a given land's natural allure. Native cultural practices may also be at stake. To alleviate poverty, natives may market cultural practices and products to interested visitors. Eventually native economies shift in response to the demands of tourism, and cultural authenticity threatens disappearance.
Often governmental limitations on the influx of tourists are disobeyed. Recently the government of Ecuador imposed a limit of 10,000 visitors per year to the Galapagos Islands. As enforcement proved weak, an approximate 45,000 tourists visited those islands the following year. Costa Rica, whose natural inhabitants number 3 million, was visited by approximately 500,000 travellers in 1992. There are an estimated 9,000 adventure-travel outfitters in the USA alone. It is forecast that tourism will be the number one industry by the year 2000. It is claimed that World Bank and USAID-supported "megatourism" ventures have been destructive to habitats and human settlements.
Ecotourism wears the cloak of environmental correctness, yet it is no different from any other tourism. Numerous travellers in sensitive environments ensure environmental and cultural degradation. Limits must be imposed.
Every human being has the right to travel and explore foreign lands. The accessibility of tourism lends itself to increased intercultural understanding and appreciation.