The Notion Of Ecotourism, Geotourism, Responsible Tourism, Cultural Tourism & Sustainable Tourism


The purpose of this report is to discuss the key concepts of ecotourism, geotourism, responsible tourism and cultural tourism and how these components relate to sustainable tourism. Case studies will also be briefly brought up as examples to give context and further support each component that will be discussed.

Sustainable Tourism

The best known definition of sustainable development is 'development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs' (WCED, 1987 as cited in Zolfania, Sedaghat, Maknoon & Zavadskas, 2015). In the beginning, tourism was used as a mean to boost a destination’s economy. In recent years, there has been a paradigm shift and people started to look more at the effects tourism have on the social, cultural, economic and environmental health of these destinations. As economic growth remains an important aspect, tourism cannot be put to halt but should be better managed.


Definitions of ecotourism typically include three key features: conducted in natural environments, ecotourism businesses to make positive contributions to all dimensions of sustainability in the places visited and focus on providing opportunities for tourists to learn about, understand and develop positive attitudes towards sustainability in both the places visited and in life (Kerstetter, Hou, & Lin, 2004 as cited in Walker, Kaye, 2014). Due to the nature of ecotourism being conducted in natural environments it is relevant to sustainable tourism in a sense that nothing (i.e. infrastructure) has been drastically changed in the environment in the name of tourism. Tourism gives an economic incentive for the government to take extra efforts to protect biodiversity and the inflow of tourists will help boom the revenue of the hospitality industry and local businesses as well.In a case study of Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica ecotourism has also been said to reap many positive benefits, particularly economic benefits as tourism workers were more likely than non-tourism workers to feel that their jobs had allowed them to progress financially. (Hunt, Durham, Driscoll & Honey, 2014)

Responsible Tourism

Responsible Tourism works with cultural and environmental conservation. Tourists are encouraged to integrate themselves into the lifestyle of the locals and through their interaction, the locals and tourists will participate in knowledge exchange and mutual understanding (Fuentes-Moraleda, Muñoz-Mazón, & Rodríguez-Izquierdo, 2016). The act of allowing tourists to appreciate the authentic local culture with little or no moderations done to fit tourists’ needs can help to strengthen and reinforce local identity and cultural pride. Due to the nature of this type of tourism, not much of the environment needs to be modified and there is also price transparency as the locals are the ones hosting the tourists directly. Relating to sustainability, responsible tourism can help to keep the flow of money within the country, without modifying the environment while preserving and even strengthening local culture. The downside of responsible tourism would be the lack of control in developing countries where locals are more concerned with their own than sustainability. For example, in the case of Kinabalu National Park, Sabah the rise of illegal tour operations caused low profit margin, negative impacts and lack of control over tourism practices. (Kim & Kai, 2016)


Geotourism is a form of natural area tourism that specifically focuses on the learning and appreciation of geology and landscape. (Maha, Suzan, & Wafik, 2017) This educational approach prompts behaviors such as respecting the landscapes, buying local products and donating to local causes. (Jorgenson & Nickerson, 2015). Besides the sales of local products, when tourist come to learn about such sites, jobs are created for locals in industries such as transportation, management of the sites and accommodations. These are all factors that help to drive local economy. Tourists’ change of behaviour towards these sites also decreases the possibility of vandalism and mistreatment of the environment.Arxan is an example of how geotourism has helped to boost the economy. In 2012, the volcanic geosite helped to contribute to the direct employment of 11,056 people and indirect employment of 33,976. (Wang et al., 2014)

Cultural Tourism

In destinations, whereby other industries or other form of tourism are unable to help the country boost its revenue, cultural tourism works as a good alternative for growth in revenue. It is an experience that cannot be replicated as culture is something unique to a destination and is a unique selling point. However, focusing on cultural tourism may cause ‘cultural’ impact and other potential risks generated by unsustainable tourism (Streeten, 2006 as cited in Noonan & Rizzo, 2017). In a case study in Guizhou Province, cultural tourism has reaped economic benefits from the development of tourism increasing the income levels for residents which helped increase affordability for higher education and business activities. However, it has caused a change in land use modes and landscapes to satisfy tourist demands and not local’s needs which directly weakens the traditional agricultural function (Li, Yu, Chen, Hu & Cui, 2016). In this case, the economic benefits have improved their social wellbeing but have ironically affected their culture and livelihood.


One of the limitations of this research is that the case studies are solely focused a few destinations. However, the different components of sustainable tourism differ among countries with different cultures and status. Therefore, this research suggests further study on a few destinations of similar demographics for each component of sustainable tourism and how it effects the social, cultural, economic and environmental health.


In conclusion, ecotourism, geotourism, responsible tourism and cultural tourism each relate to sustainable tourism in different ways and reap both positive and negative impacts to the different pillars of sustainability. Whichever type of tourism a destination chooses to embark in will require careful planning and weighing of the pros and cons and a closer look into the causes and effects of their actions.


  1. Fuentes-Moraleda, L., Muñoz-Mazón, A., & Rodríguez-Izquierdo, S. (2016). RESPONSIBLE TOURISM AS AN INSTRUMENT FOR LOCAL DEVELOPMENT: A CASE STUDY TO ANALYZE THE MAIN MOTIVATIONS FOR TOURISTS. Cuadernos De Turismo, (37), 507-509.
  2. Hunt, C., Durham, W., Driscoll, L., & Honey, M. (2014). Can ecotourism deliver real economic, social, and environmental benefits? A study of the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica. Journal Of Sustainable Tourism, 23(3), 339-357. doi: 10.1080/09669582.2014.965176
  3. Jorgenson, J., & Nickerson, N. (2015). Geotourism and Sustainability as a Business Mindset. Journal Of Hospitality Marketing & Management, 25(3), 270-290. doi: 10.1080/19368623.2015.1010764
  4. Kim, L. C., & Kai, X. T. (2016). Tour operator perspectives on responsible tourism practices: A case of kinabalu national park, sabah. International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, 10(2), 121-137. doi:
01 April 2020
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