Issue Brief #1 Office of Sustainable Ecosystems & Communities U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Nature tourism is travel and recreation for the appreciation of nature and the outdoors. Areas that attract nature tourists range from pristine wilderness to community parks. Economic benefits of nature tourism accrue to those in a community who provide goods and services to tourists. Properly planned and managed, nature tourism can have minimal impacts on the environment, protect and enhance social and cultural values, and enhance the economic well-being of residents. Proper planning and a clear understanding are needed for a community to develop a nature tourism industry that protects the natural resources upon which their livelihood depends. "Ecotourism" is defined as travel and recreation to natural areas that is designed to contribute substantially to those areas' conservation and enhancement, through education and the dedication of tourism dollars to protect natural resources. Ecotourism is a relatively small component of the total nature tourism industry, but is growing rapidly.
Breadth of Nature Tourism Activities
The fastest growing nature tourism -- growing 30% annually -- involve nonconsumptive activities: bird and other wildlife watching, hiking and backpacking, nature study and photography, boating, biking, camping and picnicking, and allied activities. 76.5 million Americans enjoy viewing wildlife, and 24.7 million observe and/or feed birds. In 1991, Americans spent:
$4.4 billion for food and lodging to view nonconsumptive wildlife
$198 million for guide services and $88.6 million for equipment rentals
$5.7 billion for nonconsumptive equipment expenditures Camping, hiking, backpacking, and boating are enjoyed by tens of millions of Americans.
There are 35.6 million American anglers and 14.1 million hunters.