Study Ecotourism Management Online. Would you like to run your own ecotourism business? Understand what is involved in working in this growing industry.

Course Code: BTR101
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Plan, Organise and Operate a Successful Ecotour Enterprise

Ecotourism is a growing industry and a major employer of leisure professionals in many countries.

Eco-tourism has been linked with Adventure Tourism and more soft tourism activities such as bush walking and bicycle touring. Establishing an eco-tour enterprise requires an understanding of a range of issues such as appropriate destinations, safety, suitable accommodation, transport, group management and legal considerations.
Some Tips for starting an Ecotourism Business:
  • Research - this is extremely important.  Find out what is popular, where is the demand and where the market is saturated as well as which areas are suitable for ecotourism ventures.
  • Planning - create a business plan outlining every detail of your ecotourism venture.  This will enhance your chance of success.
  • Find out what the legal requirements are for your business as well as the possibility of insurance.
  • Market your business in appropriate magazines and other media.
This list is not exhaustive but is a good starting point for getting you thinking about what is involved in starting an ecotourism business.

Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Nature and Scope of Ecotourism
    • Definition of ecotourism
    • Negative ecotourism
    • Principles of ecotourism
  2. Management Issues
    • Recreation and the environment
    • recreational impacts on the environment
    • ethical and legal concerns
    • code of practice for ecotourism operators
    • incorporating ecotourism principles into activities
    • interpretation
    • visitor guidelines
    • planning for minimal impact
    • quality control
  3. Industry Destinations
    • The ecotourism market
    • what do ecotourists want?
    • trends in international tourism
    • understanding the needs of the consumer
    • consumer expectations
  4. The Tour Desk/Office
    • Office procedures
    • providing information
    • employment prospects in ecotourism
    • bookings
    • business letters
    • telephone manner
  5. Accommodation Facilities
    • Types of accommodation facilities
    • layout of facilities
  6. Catering Facilities
    • Introduction to catering
    • accepted practice for service facilities
    • storing and preserving food
  7. Legal Considerations
    • National Parks
    • land use/planning restrictions
    • code of practice
  8. Safety
    • The safety strategy
    • hazards
    • first aid
  9. Planning an Ecotourism Activity
    • A special project where the student plans out an ecotourism activity including:
    • budget
    • accommodation
    • licenses
    • meals
    • destination


  • Describe the scope of ecotourism experiences available.
  • Determine management issues related to ecotourism activities/enterprises, giving due consideration to environmental and ethical concerns.
  • Develop in the learner an awareness of ecotourism destinations in existence and possibilities (in the learner's country).
  • Explain the management and operation of an ecotourism office.
  • Explain the management of ecotourist accommodation facilities including:
    • camp sites
    • cabins
    • caravans
    • resorts
  • Identify catering options for different ecotourism activities.
  • Identify legal and statutory requirements for the establishment and operation of an ecotourism enterprise.
  • Identify/establish safety precautions/requirements/procedures for an ecotourism enterprise.
  • Plan for an ecotourism activity.

What You Will Do

  • Prepare reviews of six different ecotourism destinations
    • Contact travel agencies and information centres to research the scope of ecotourism activities available in your area
    • Contact a range of ecotourism operators to research their concerns for the environment
    • Determine three examples of ecotourism activities that have had undesirable social or environmental impacts
    • Report on the relevance of indigenous culture to ecotourism in your locality
  • Carry out research into desirable ecotourism destinations
  • Identify potential ecotourism activities in your locality
  • Observe the administrative operations of an existing ecotourism venture
  • Establish administrative procedures for your own hypothetical ecotourism enterprise
  • Inspect an ecotourism accommodation facility
  • Research the statutory/legislative requirements for setting up ecotourism accommodation in your locality
  • Determine suitable layout for an ecotourism accommodation facility
  • Visit at least two suppliers of outdoor/recreation camping and cooking equipment
  • Contact your local health department or similar to find out causes of food poisoning and how it can be prevented
  • Make contact with several local ecotourism associations to research membership requirements
  • Research law and regulations in your state that may affect the operation of an ecotourism enterprise
  • Contact at least two insurance brokers for their recommendations on the type of insurance needed for a proposed ecotourism activity
  • Research safety notification requirements in a natural area
  • Interview someone who has been involved in the planning and/or delivery of an ecotourism activity.

There may, in unexpected situations, be times when an excursion into a wilderness area will have to make use of the natural resources in order to ensure survival. Obviously, water is one of our most immediate necessities and food is not far behind. Although humans can survive long periods without food this is not the case with water. In temperatures over 35ºC you may need in excess of 5 litres per day. Altitude and snow can be critically dehydrating, and exertion results in water loss.

In some wilderness environments these resources may not be as readily available as in others, for example, desert versus rainforest. Australia has a well earned reputation as a dry arid country in which water can be very scarce. Many individuals have paid the ultimate price for not having a sensible water strategy when travelling in the outback. In such circumstances, survival may depend upon making a few very important decisions at the correct time. One example would be when or should you leave a broken down vehicle. Bear in mind such factors as heat, time of day/night, distance to water/safety, and the likelihood of rescue. In most desert/outback situations you should not leave a broken down vehicle, it can be used for shade and shelter and will be far easier for rescuers to locate. If you decide that you must leave your vehicle and intend to travel on foot, rest during the hot days and move at night. This will conserve fluids to some extent.

Be aware that a water source may not be healthy. Look for signs that it is being used by the local fauna; tracks around a waterhole or visual proof of animals drinking are both good signs. Dead vegetation or animal carcasses in or around a water source are obviously bad signs. The same applies to a certain extent when unsure of the suitability of potential food. Look for signs of birds and animals eating from a plant to help determine its suitability. If there are no signs then a process of toxic elimination that should be undertaken before wholesale feeding commences. It is wise to research ways to eliminate toxins from food before commencing your trip.  

If you see a storm coming, find catchment basins or lay out a tarp to trap as much rain as possible. Fill every available water-holding device as quickly as you can, for the shower might be brief.
Sometimes you'll find small pockets of dew in the wee hours of morning. Lap up as much as you can.


Plan ahead to find water
The best plan for finding water is to plan ahead, by consulting maps, contour maps, local park stations and other local, timely sources.  Maps indicate obvious sources of water, such as streams, rivers, lakes and ponds.  Many maps also indicate seasonal versus permanent sources of water – make sure the water you are counting on is available when you need it (just in case).  

How much water do you need?
On average, you will need around 2-3 litres of water per day (but up to 5 litres if you are in the desert or during high activity). This is just drinking water. If you need water for other purposes, such as cooking, you will need to increase your water need accordingly.

Water weighs quite a lot per litre so it may also be worth measuring the energy cost of carrying water compared to finding it.

Landscape, vegetation and animal signs  

To find natural sources of water, you need to look for patterns – water sources are not always the obvious bodies of water or streams.  Look for changes in landscape structure, vegetation patterns or animal behaviour.  

Many times, low lying areas are sources of water – look for natural, low lying funnels between several ridgelines or for depressions where water from many sources may gather.  Also, look for valleys and gorges – these areas were cut by natural water pathways.  Look also to clumped areas of vegetation along the gentler slope of a mountain, particularly if otherwise the mountain is relatively barren.  This may indicate a high concentration of retained water.

As with landscape structure, look for patterns of vegetation and changes in those patterns.  Particularly, in an area low in vegetation, a thick clump of vegetation likely indicates water is nearby – look for scrub or shrub concentrations, such as a line of willow trees.  Following a line of willows, especially if it descends into a lowland area or funnel, is a good way to find water.  In desert or more arid climates, big cottonwoods or cottonwood stands are another sign – whereas willows can withstand brief periods of drought, cottonwoods cannot thrive without a steady supply of water.

A concentration of insects, beetles and flocks of certain birds, such as doves, are signs of water.  If you dig deeply as well as in the right place you can find water just about anywhere. By deep digging you will locate the water table. Running water such as springs or streams in isolated areas is generally safe for consumption.

It is wise to carry a water purification pump with you. This allows the hiker to make use of stagnant water in any situation and it is not necessary to carry water with you. In areas where no surface water is available, dig into damp soil and allow this muddy water to settle and become clear. During winter ice and snow can be melted.

Look for water in the following places:
  • Muddy or damp ground. 
  • Large, steep and shaded sand-banks.
  • Areas with water-loving vegetation. 
  • Base of cliffs with moderate or dense vegetation.
  • Look for birds or animal tracks.
  • Morning dew on rocks or plants can be moped up with a cloth.
  • Rain water collected from rocks with pockets or ridges. 

Remember that you must always purify water before drinking.

Things to avoid:
  • Stagnant Water, unless you are carrying a purification pump. Not all water sources are clean and may also contain animal carcasses.
  • Water from poisonous plants.
  • Drinking salt water.
  • Eating more than sustenance food (food dehydrates the body).
  • Unnecessary activity.
  • Sunlight.

Making an above ground still
Water can be drawn from the ground or non-poisonous plant material by making a still.
To make the above ground still, you need a sunny slope on which to place the still, a clear plastic bag, green leafy vegetation, and a small rock.
  • Fill a plastic bag with air by scooping in the wind.
  • Half to three quarters fill the bag with green leafy vegetation. 
  • Place a small rock inside the bag.
  • Place a hollow reed at the mouth of the bag and tie the top of the bag securely with maximum air inside. 
  • Tie off or plug the top of the reed (this will be used to drain water off later).
  • Place the bag in full sun with the mouth downhill but slightly higher then the low point of the bag. It should be placed so that the rock will work its way to the lowest point.
To retrieve the condensed water from the still, loosen the tie around the bag's mouth and tip the bag so that the water collected around the rock will drain out. Then re-tie the mouth securely and reposition the still to allow further condensation.
Change the vegetation in the bag after extracting most of the water from it. This will ensure maximum output of water.

Soakage water
When a river or creek-bed in the desert dries up, you can sometimes still get water by digging down beneath the riverbed sand where water is still sitting. This area is called a ‘soakage’. For thousands of years Aboriginal people in Australia have found water this way. Soakage is often near the side of the river bed and have gum trees (eucalypts) growing beside them (this is a good sign because the trees are feeding on the water below the surface). To get to the water, first you dig down with a cup or with your hands or with a piece of wood. When the sand starts to get damp you know you are close. When you find the water level, scoop out the first lot of water you find (don’t drink it because it’s dirty) and then clean water will flow back into the hole.

Water from tree roots
Another place you can find water is from the roots of trees. This is not an easy thing to do. If you are able to identify the type of tree whose root will hold water, you break the roots open and drink from them.

Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Peter Douglas

Over 50 years experience in Agriculture and wildlife management.
Former university lecturer, Wildlife park manager, Animal breeder, Equestrian.
Peter has both wide ranging experience in animal science, farming and tourism management, and continues to ap

Barbara Seguel

Teacher and Researcher, Biologist, Aquaculture expert.
Barbara has a B.Sc. and M.Sc in Aquaculture Engineering.
Over the past decade, Barbara has worked in Hawaii, Mexico, Chile, New Zealand, and is now settled in Australia. She has co authored severa

Dr Robert Browne

Zoologist, Environmental Scientist and Sustainability, science based consultancy with biotechnology corporations. Work focused on conservation and sustainability.
Robert has published work in the fields of nutrition, pathology, larval growth and develop

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