Frog in Costa Rica, Ecotourism, Ecotour

Nat Hab guide Eric Rock snapped this closeup on an NHA Costa Rica tour.

If you’ve read my other ecotourism posts here, you’re probably familiar with my emphatic stance on ecotourism’s potential in the conservation of environments and cultures.  But, I think it’s about time to break out some cold hard facts about the accomplishments and milestones already made by this thing called ecotourism.

  • Tourism is the world’s largest employer.  Directly and indirectly, it generates 200 million jobs, or approximately 10% of global employment (Honey and Rome 2000).
  • Guests learn about flor and fauna on a Costa Rica ecotour, ecotourism

    NHA group in Costa Rica. (c) Eric Rock

    In 2006, Travel and Tourism (consumption, investment, government spending and exports) is expected to grow 4.6% and total US$6.5 trillion.

  • In 2009, international tourism receipts reached US$852 billion and the World Tourism Organization (WTO) estimates that by the year 2020, 1.6 billion tourists will travel annually (WTO 2000, WTO 2009).
  • If tourism were a country, it would have the 2nd largest economy in the world, surpassed only by the U.S.
  • In 4 out of 5 countries, tourism is one of five top export earners.
  • Tourism is a principle “export” (foreign exchange earner) for 83% of developing countries, and the leading export for 1/3 of poorest countries (Mastny 2001).
  • Since the 1990s, ecotourism has been growing 20% – 34% per year (Mastny 2001).
  • In 2004, ecotourism grew globally 3 times faster than the tourism industry as a whole (WTO 2004).

If you’ve been on a quality ecotourism adventure, you probably understand why this unique brand of tourism is gaining in popularity so quickly.  I’m sure you can also appreciate the crucial role it plays in promoting the wellbeing of our planet.

Have you heard of other impressive ecotourism facts or have a unique story from one of your ecotourism experiences?  Comment below or email me at


Honey, M. and A. Rome. 2000. Ecotourism and sustainable tourism certification: Where are we today? Draft report, prepared for the ecotourism and sustainable certification workshop, November 17–19, Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, New York.

United Nations World Tourism Organization. 2010. World Tourism Barometer. Interim Update.

Mastny, L. 2001. Treading lightly: New paths for international tourism, Worldwatch Institute, Washington D.C.

World Tourism Organization. 2004. Tourism, a force for sustainable development. 19th OSCE Economic Forum, Prague, Czech Republic.