Ecotourism (sustainable tourism) Specialists seek to provide people with ways of seeing the world while doing minimal harm to the environment and respecting the cultures in the lands they visit.
Tourism, while providing great pleasure for individuals, often does considerable damage to environments and cultures around the world. Ecotourism professionals want their business dealings to benefit the areas where they work. Ideally, ecotourism is centered in natural areas and educates travelers about those environments. It provides financial benefits directly to local people in areas visited. Rather than imposing any cultural values on local people, it respects their ways of life. And it avoids supporting oppressive regimes and instead supports human rights and democratic values, as much as possible, without engaging in political struggles.
An ecotourism specialist can have an exciting and rewarding career, especially if he or she can help to define genuine ecotourism as the industry matures. One must be devoted to sustaining nature and can share that passion every day with co-workers and consumers. Ecotourism specialists spend time planning and coordinating tours, budgeting, and reporting. Of course, they spend a lot of time traveling with clients in outdoor locations, guiding them, teaching them, and ensuring their safety. This sort of work takes them to remote locations all over the world.
Many ecotourism guides specialize in geographical areas or in their knowledge of wildlife, climate and weather, ecosystems and biomes. They who enjoy writing about their work often get their writing published in books, magazines, websites, and marketing materials. Some ecotourism specialists do not work directly with tourists. For example, they might manage conservation projects in host areas financed in part by ecotourism companies. Or they might conduct research on the impacts of ecotourism, long before the ecotourists arrive. This involves working with local people and governments, and advising them on how to create a sustainable tourism economy.
The most obvious employment opportunities are with ecotourism travel agencies, but government park services also employ ecotourism specialists. International environmental groups such as Conservation International and Rainforest Alliance also have ecotourism programs.
Becoming an ecotourism specialist usually requires a bachelors or masters degree in some related field like wildlife biology, ecology, resource conservation, or forestry. Coursework in hospitality, tourism, and international studies can be useful. Courses in business and marketing and experience with fundraising are helpful. Having one or more foreign languages is highly valuable. Volunteer work experience with an organization working to preserve ecosystems or human cultures can also be a strong plus.
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Belonging to professional organizations & LinkedIn groups can provide you with networking, informational interviewing, & job shadowing opportunities, as well as assist you with finding internships and jobs.
- Ecotourism Internship Program
- Organization for Tropical Studies Research Experience for Undergraduates
- Research & Internship Listings
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Information retrieved from Cengage: Environmental Careers.
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