Ecotourism refers to responsible tourism practices within the tourism industry; this entails adoption of best sustainable practices in the use of tourism resources by involving the local communities in the use of resources and management of tourism wastes.
According to Wikipedia Ecotourism is basically:
"a form of tourism involving visiting fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas, intended as a low impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial tourism. Its purpose may be to educate the traveler, to provide funds for ecological conservation, to directly benefit the economic development and political empowerment of local communities, or to foster respect for different cultures and for human rights"
Although ecotourism may be relatively new in Africa, its growth in Kenya is spectacular. In fact, Kenya was chosen by the United Nations as the venue of the first African Ecotourism conference in 2002, this is because it is the original home of African Safari.
It is not surprising that he world’s top-most promising tourism project have emerged from Kenya; with initiatives that have empowered local communities (as custodians of their natural resources)to make use of their natural resources and has encouraged recycling of tourism waste.
Kenya's ecotourism industry first drew international attention in 1997, when the now-famous community lodge at Il' Ngwesi was a runner-up in British Airways' prestigious Tourism for Tomorrow awards. In the four years since, two other properties - Tortilis Camp in Amboseli and Ol Donyo Wuas in the Chyulu Hills - have also been honoured in the awards. Il' Ngwesi (for more info please visit the website)has gone on to become a model for community tourism projects across Africa.
These developments have led to the establishment of a Leadership Mentoring Programme which empowers its members by enlightening them on the fundamentals and best practices of ecotourism. This program blends the academic and professional aspects of ecotourism with the practical aspect which impresses on empowering local communities to own ecotourism projects hence making the project sustainable.
Ecotourism Kenya has launched an Eco-Rating Scheme which certifies tourism accommodation facilities based on environmental and social criteria.