Does it help or hurt fragile lands and cultures?


In the booming global travel business, ecotourism is among the fastest-growing segments. Costa Rica and Belize have built national identities around their celebrated environmental allure, while parts of the world once all but inaccessible — from Antarctica to the Galapagos Islands to Mount Everest — are now featured in travel guides, just like Manhattan, Rome and other less exotic destinations. Advocates see ecotourism as a powerful yet environmentally benign tool for sustainable economic development in even the poorest nations. But as the trend expands, critics see threats to the very flora and fauna tourists flock to visit. Moreover, traditional subsistence cultures may be obliterated by the ecotourism onslaught, replaced by service jobs that pay native peoples poverty wages. Meanwhile, tour promoters are using the increasingly ...

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