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Ecotourism is defined as responsible travel to natural areas or ecosystems that would help to maintain conserve the aesthetic values of the environment and biodiversity and also improve the well being of the local people residing in that area.
"Putting tourism on a sustainable path is a major challenge, but one that also presents a significant opportunity"- by Klaus Topfer, UNEP Executive Director

According to International Ecotourism society (TIES, 1991) - Ecotourism is defined as responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well being of local people.

IUCN in 1996 gave the definition for ecotourism as- "Environmentally responsible travel and visitation to relatively undisturbed natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and any accompanying cultural features- both past and present) that promotes conservation, has low negative visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local populations."
Prime motives of Ecotourism is observation and appreciation of natural features and related cultural assets of that place.It stresses the role of local community, its involvement in educating travellers about value of healthy environment and the biological diversity.
Goals of ecotourism can be categorized as natural area focus, ecological sustainability, contribution to conservation, work with local communities, cultural component, minimize visitor impact, and responsible marketing.

Ecotourism and Sustainability

Ecotourism is a component of sustainable tourism. In many ways, sustainable tourism exemplifies the relationship between ecotourism and sustainable development (Sâmbotın et al. 2011; Bansal & Kumar 2011).

Sustainable tourism will focus on three areas:
  • Quality – valuable experience for visitors and increased life quality for host communities through cultural identity, poverty reduction and environmental quality.
  • Continuity – exploitation is made at the optimum level that allows the preservation and regeneration of the natural resources.
  • Balance between the needs of tourism industry, environmental protection, and local communities by an equitable distribution of benefits among stakeholders.
Sustainable tourism should also maintain a high level of tourist satisfaction and ensure a meaningful experience to the tourists, raising their awareness about sustainability issues and promoting sustainable tourism practices amongst them (World Tourism Organisation, 2001).
Dimensions of ecotourism development refers to the environmental, economic, and social aspects of tourism development, and a suitable balance between these dimensions must be established to maintain its long-term sustainability (Bhuiyan et al. 2012). 
Tourism can be sustainable if development meets the needs of tourists and local residents while protecting future opportunities. Ecotourism offers benefits for local residents, conservation, development and educational experiences. Ecotourism is a sustainable form of natural resource-based tourism. It focuses primarily on experiencing and learning about nature, its landscape, flora, fauna and their habitats, as well as cultural artefacts from the locality (Dowling 1997; Fennell 1999).

Ecotourism is often perceived as an tool for promoting sustainable development in developing countries. Ecotourism helps in community development by providing the alternate source of livelihood to local community which is more sustainable. Many, view ecotourism as a viable way to protect the natural environment and create social and economic benefits for local communities. Ecotourism encompasses a 
spectrum of nature-based activities that foster visitor appreciation and understanding of natural and cultural heritage and are managed to be ecologically, economically and socially sustainable. Therefore, ecotourism is accepted as an alternative type of sustainable development. Ecotourism has attracted increasing attention in recent years, not only as an alternative to mass tourism, but also as a means to promote a country’s economic development and environmental conservation. Its aim is to conserve resources, especially biological diversity, and maintain sustainable use of resources, which can bring ecological experience to travelers, conserve the ecological environment. (Bansal & Kumar 2011; Godratollah et al. 2011; Tewodros 2010). 

Sustainability goals of Ecotourism :

A: Environmental sustainability goals of ecotourism:
  • Promotes environmental protection (impact assessment and environmental planning, construction methods and materials, visual impacts, water supply, air quality, waste minimization and litter drainage and stormwater, wastewater, water conservation, energy minimization— buildings, energy minimization— transport, minimal impact on wildlife).
  • Provides environmental education.
  • Increases public environmental consciousness.
  • Fosters healthy attitudes and behaviors towards nature.
  • Encourages donations to contribute to the protection of local.
B: Sociocultural sustainability goals of ecotourism:
  • Promotes local peoples active participation.
  • Promotes local ownership.
  • Empowers local people-e.g. builds up local peoples confidence/self-esteem.
  • Enhances local community's equilibrium.
  • Encourages intercultural appreciation and communication between host communities and tourists
C: Economic sustainability goals of ecotourism:
  • Contributes to lasting local economic development.
  • Creates permanent jobs for local people.
  • Drives the development of other related industries.
  • Upgrades local infrastructure.
  • Profits earned retained within local communities.
  • Equal distribution of revenues.
  • Promotes consumption and production.
  • Finances the establishment and maintenance of protected areas.
  • Uses natural resources efficiently.( Source: )
For further details please visit this link- Role of Ecotourism in Sustainable Development