I started EcoTripMatch.com, a website designed to support conservation through ecotourism. Ask me anything about how to plan a nature trip.

Terry Lawson Dunn
Jun 4, 2018

Planning a nature-focused trip can be a challenge. Where to find the setting or creature you are looking for? Should you hire a guide? What time of year is the best time to go for different experiences? These types of questions, and more, come up once you start planning. Do you know what to consider when you are trying to get the most out of your trip? Ask me anything...https://ecotripmatch.com/

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What are some of the misconceptions people have about ecotourism?
Jun 10, 11:44PM EDT0
Is tourism development dependent on the development of an infrastructure?
Jun 9, 12:22AM EDT0


Well, often it is dependent on some infrastructure....accommodations, the abilty to get to and from those accommodations (although that can be by dugout canoe or horseback, not necessarily always roads) for instance. Although, there are some good cases for 'repurposing/recycling' existing buildings and roads like the Canopy Tower in Panama (ecotripmatch.com/canopy-tower-panama/).

Jun 9, 3:47PM EDT0
Are you aware of any ecotourism investors that have built something from scratch?
Jun 8, 5:49PM EDT0

Hi Sue,

Hmmmm. I'm not sure what you mean by building something from scatch. Do you mean an ecolodge? A tour company? A website? Either way, the answer is yes. A good example of an ecolodge that was built by scratch is Yacutinga Lodge in Argentina (ecotripmatch.com/?s=yacutinga). A good example of an eco-tour company would be Gondwana (ecotripmatch.com/?s=gondwana). And a website....well, I'm biased, but....how about the one I built (EcoTripMatch.com)? That's mostly an investment of blood, sweat and tears though!

Jun 9, 3:44PM EDT0
In what activities can tourists take part, and what experiences can those that travel in ecotourist areas enjoy?
Jun 8, 3:49AM EDT0

Great question! So, the essence of ecotourism is that it's nature-focused. So, activities that take place in nature that are not as damaging to wildlife and wildlands would fall into that category, such as birdwatching, wildlife watching, kayaking, hiking, snorkeling, cross-country sking, whitewater rafting, astronomy and photography would be those types of activities. Sound fun, don't they?

Jun 8, 10:29AM EDT0
When did you first hear about sustainable tourism and why is it important to you to travel sustainably?
Jun 8, 2:09AM EDT0


I actually can't pinpoint the moment I first heard about sustainable tourism. I was seeing it in action before realizing there was a name for it. When you arrive at a lodge, hoping to experience wildlife, and you are handed a water bottle, asked to use the same one during your whole stay, and shown where to refill it, then you know you are experiencing something different! 

It's impotant to me because I know I am leaving less of an impact when I'm traveling and the last thing I want is for that place I've just experienced to be left in worse condition after my stay. 

Jun 8, 10:24AM EDT0

What have you found to be the most effective way of promoting your business?

Jun 4, 4:22PM EDT0

The most effective way I've come up with so far is creating the EcoTripMatch.com Best Nature Tour Guide award (the second annual process finished earlier this year). I wanted to honor someone who is exceptional at guiding visitors and educating them about the wildlife, plants and ecosystems they were seeing. I also had a hunch that people would want to vote for their favorite person and pass that information along to get more votes. It also enables people to participate in something good and EcoTripMatch.com becomes associated with that feeling. So, the way it works: I ask for nominations from around the world, have a group of judges that narrows them down to 5 finalists and put it up for a global vote. I then send an engraved plaque to the winner (and this year a sponsor donated a nice pair of binoculars for the winner too). My hope is to find a sponsor so I can deliver the plaque in person, wherever that may be, so my travel to that location and seeing the winner in action becomes part of the story. 

The voting is finished for this year and the winner was from Panama. You can see the page and read about all the finalists at this link:


Jun 4, 6:53PM EDT1
What kind of tourist is most fitted to enjoy an eco-travel adventure?
Jun 4, 2:56PM EDT0

Ironically, I wrote a blog post about that a while ago on EcoTripMatch.com, titled, "Are You a Closet Ecotourist?". I'll include it below. In essence, because ecotourism can encompass all sorts of travel from luxurious to rustic, it has more to do with the eco-friendly measures taken by the places the tourist choses to stay and less to do with the type of person that tourist is. They just have to care about how they are traveling and be interested in learning a little something about nature. Here's the short blog post:

Are you a closet ecotourist?

You may have some assumptions about what an ecotourist is… unshaven, vegetarian, war- torn backpack… you know, someone who would turn down a perfectly good hammock to sleep on the ground. But, ecotourists come in all shapes and sizes (and ages, and motivations, and levels of grooming). You may be one and don’t even know it yet. Here are some clues you might be a closet ecotourist:

It makes you feel virtuous when you don’t have your hotel wash your towel each day.

Your travel ‘bucket list’ gets longer the more you travel.

You practically have to wipe the drool off your chin when you see photos of beautiful places you’ve never been.

You know what the International recycling symbol looks like.

You stop and smell the roses (and wonder what kind of rose it is).

It bothers you that Mother Nature seems to be rebelling and given a fun, easy way to lend her a hand, you would.

Jun 4, 3:12PM EDT0
When is the best time of the year to travel to Antarctica?
Jun 4, 9:57AM EDT0

When it's not cold. Ha ha. Ok, it's always cold, but I'm a cold weather wimp. So, it depends on what you want to see in terms of wildlife: it would be nesting penguins in November, penquin chicks December to mid-February, whales from mid-February and early March. The southern hemisphere is having it's summer while the northern hemisphere is having its winter. 

Jun 4, 3:05PM EDT0
Do you have some eco-principles when selecting the businesses you partner with?
Jun 4, 7:54AM EDT0

Yes, although some details may not be appropriate for everywhere (solar panels in a rainy place for instance). Generally, sustainable, eco-friendly criteria include: How wastewater is processed, reducing the use of plastics, reducing energy use, recycling, using eco-friendly building materials, protecting nearby natural areas, not keeping endangered wildlife in captivity or selling products made from them, hiring local people for all positions and paying them fairly, providing safe working conditions, involvement with local communities that are a benefit toeveryone, and offering educational/interpretive programs for guests. 

There are a lot of certification programs, some are international, some are by country or by organization. If an ecolodge or ecotour company has a certification, then it's usually a good sign, but it's not realistic (expensive) for all of them to go through a certification process, so I looked for the criteria above when communicating with them. It wasn't a fast or easy process, that's for sure!!

Jun 4, 11:00AM EDT0
What advantages get the eco-businesses that partner with your company?
Jun 4, 7:03AM EDT0


The eco-businesses get more customers. Well, that's the hope anyway. They also are more likely to get customers that are appropriate for what they offer. So, imagine this scenario....a very interesting, giant bug shows up at dinner time at an ecolodge in the middle of the rainforest. If the guests came there looking for a real rainforest experience, this is a real treat and everyone gets up from their chairs to come look. (I saw this happen once, so it's a good example!). If a guest came to that ecolodge because it looked pretty on the website, but would rather keep the rainforest at arms length, then the reaction to the bug might be very different. You can see why It's an advantage to the ecolodge that their guests are well matched!

Jun 4, 10:44AM EDT0
If you had to recommend people to use your website EcoTripMatch?, what would you say?
Jun 3, 10:22PM EDT0

Hi Ann,

The best way I can describe EcoTripMatch.com is that I am attempting to streamline the daunting task of searching through many ecolodge/ecotour websites by doing that digging first, then making it possible for them to be 'matched' with places that meet their criteria. Essentially, there are filters for their common questions...ones that are sometimes difficult to find answers to...for example, questions about the difficulty getting to a place, the stamia needed to participate in activities and whether or not health precautions (immunizations) are needed.  My hope is that by making it easier for people to find what they are looking for,, they are more likely to travel to these places, which supports conservation. 

Jun 4, 8:54AM EDT0
Do you think that ecotourism can boost the economy of a nation?
Jun 1, 3:09AM EDT0

Heck yeah!! As I mentioned in the question just below this, 83% of developing countries rely on ecotourism as a major export. I found when I was looking for ecolodges to contact as I was developing EcoTripMatch.com, that developing countries were more engaged with developing ecotoursim than countries in the northern hemisphere. More tourists might be from developed countries, but the bulk of the people creating the experiences and accommodations seem to be from the developed world. 

Jun 1, 10:56AM EDT0
How much revenue does ecotourism provide to a country?
May 31, 11:39PM EDT0

It would depend on the country and what is being offered (Botswana and Costa Rica are good examples of countries where ecotourism are BIG). According to The International Ecotourism Society, 83% of developing countries rely on ecotourism as a major export. Worldwide, ecotourism represents 6% of the gross domestic product and is growing at a rate of 5% a year. Not bad!

Jun 1, 10:51AM EDT0
What are the characteristics of ecotourism?
May 31, 7:08PM EDT0

Hi Joshua,

This is going to sound similar to the more-complete answer below....Ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel.  So, ecotourism factors in eco-friendly practices, the way tourism affects local communities and educating tourists about what they are seeing and experiencing. 

Jun 1, 10:44AM EDT0
How does ecotourism differ from normal tourism?
May 31, 1:09PM EDT0


Ecotourism is different than normal tourism because it considers the environment, local communities and learning about nature as part of the travel experience. So, that means everything from what kind of materials are used to build accommodations, how energy and water is conserved, protecting wildlife and wild lands, making sure locals are benefiting from tourism (rather than outside corporations) and providing tourists with new knowledge and an authentic experience. 

May 31, 2:47PM EDT0
What are the key principles of ecotourism?
May 31, 1:38AM EDT0


So, I'm going to borrow the very coherent explanation of the key ecotourism principles from The International Ecotourim Society to answer your question. This kind of sums up the whole deal:

Ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. This means that those who implement, participate in and market ecotourism activities should adopt the following ecotourism principles:

  • Minimize physical, social, behavioral, and psychological impacts.
  • Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
  • Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
  • Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
  • Generate financial benefits for both local people and private industry.
  • Deliver memorable interpretative experiences to visitors that help raise sensitivity to host countries' political, environmental, and social climates.
  • Design, construct and operate low-impact facilities.
  • Recognize the rights and spiritual beliefs of the Indigenous People in your community and work in partnership with them to create empowerment.
May 31, 2:42PM EDT0
What are some of the awareness and education programs related to ecotourism that are currently available and where can they be found?
May 30, 11:43PM EDT0

Hi there,

Well, there are a ton of them! Countries, non-governmental organizations, even the United Nations have programs related to ecotourism. A good place to start for more information is the International Ecotourism Society at: www.ecotourism.org/

May 31, 2:37PM EDT0
How do local communities benefit from ecotourism?
May 30, 7:07PM EDT0


Well local communities can benefit is several ways. When tourists are willing to pay to see wildlife and intact ecosystems, local communities are less likely to seek income from more environmentally destructive activities. Also, ecotourism emphasizes hiring locals and empowering locals to make decisions about how they want to manage tourism, rather than having those decisions made by outsiders. 

May 31, 2:32PM EDT0
How does the role of the tourist change when you talk about ecotourism?
May 30, 2:03PM EDT0

The role changes somewhat, but more importantly, ecotourism tends to draw the type of person who wants to learn about what they are seeing (plants, animals, ecosystems) and wants to travel in a way that considers the impact on the environment and local communities. It doesn't have to mean hiking long distances, staying in uncomfortable lodging or eating food that's tasteless. On EcoTripMatch.com there are luxury accommodations as well as rustic ones. There are accommodations that come with daily guided nature tours and ones where you can do your own thing. What they all have in common are eco-friendly practices with conservation in mind and nature-focused experience at hand.

May 30, 2:22PM EDT0
How does ecotourism fit into the industry? How much has this type of tourism grown?
May 30, 1:15PM EDT0

I would say ecotourism is a subset of responsible/sustainable tourism. It focuses on the environmental aspects of responsible tourism by focusing on experiences in nature (for example, birdwatching) rather than cultural experiences (for example, visiting ancient ruins). Both can be done in a responsible and sustainable way, but ecotourism emphasizes time in nature and eco-friendly practices. Ecotourism is growing faster than more traditional types of travel. 

May 30, 2:13PM EDT0
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