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Ecotourism's 25th Anniversary: Conversation with Hector Ceballos-Lascurain


Publication Date: 2008


The Planeta Forum features a Q&A with Hector Ceballos-Lascurain in celebration of the 25th anniversary of ecotourism.

Winner of the Colibri Ecotourism Lifetime Achievement Award, Hector Ceballos-Lascurain is a Mexican architect, environmentalist and international ecotourism consultant. He is Director General of the Program of International Consultancy on Ecotourism (PICE), based in Mexico City, and also a Special Advisor on Ecotourism to IUCN (The World Conservation Union), The International Ecotourism Society and the World Tourism Organization.

Hector has performed research and provided consultations in more than 70 countries worldwide on all aspects of ecotourism planning and development, including the architectural design and construction of ecolodges and other environmentally friendly facilities. He has authored or co-authored more than 130 books, reports and articles and is widely credited with coining the term 'ecotourism' and its preliminary definition in 1983.

Hector has agreed to participate in an online conversation to celebrate ecotourism's 25th anniversary. The Q&A is featured on the Planeta Forum.


In 2008 ecotourism is being developed in practically every country around the world, at different levels and with varying orientations. In some developed countries (including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the U.S. and Japan) ecotourism has mainly been a private sector initiative (including both inbound and outbound operations), with somewhat limited participation of poor rural communities (and also limited benefits to them).

In a number of Latin American, African and Asian countries there have been some noteworthy community-based experiences, in some cases solely developed by the rural inhabitants themselves. In some nations (including Mexico), ecotourism has been in recent times strongly promoted by government authorities, interested in improving the quality of life and economic level of poor rural communities (however, many of these experiences have failed, because of excessive paternalism of the public authorities and due to lack of interest and proper training of local groups).

Generally speaking, I think ecotourism is going strong around the world, and is providing important tangible benefits to local communities and to nature conservation in many places of our globe.

Ecotourism is too often being confused with adventure tourism, i.e, the practice of physically exertive sporting activities in a natural setting (frequently with limited benefits to poor rural communities and little concern for the conservation of the natural environment). In this case, ecotourism is failing in two of the main goals which I set out back in 1983, namely benefiting local communities and nature. Another drawback in Mexico is that (for some reason unknown to me) many of the 'ecotour' operators are mainly addressing the domestic market and hardly trying to attract international ecotourists, thus missing out on the possibility of attracting large amounts of foreign currency, something which is badly needed in our country.


g Colibri Award
g Weaving the Web: Hector Ceballos-Lascurain
b ECOCLUB Interview conducted by Antonis Petropoulos (PDF)
b El Ecoturista (PDF)



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