>> Monday, March 31, 2008
Though the interview on Planeta.com beteen Hector Ceballos-Lascurain and Ron Mader took place a few years ago, it's worth revisiting, because he explains how he coined ecotourism:
Ron Mader: What led you to coining the term 'ecotourism' and has your definition changed since then?
Hector Ceballos-Lascurain: I have actually been an "ecotourist" since my childhood. In the 1950s and 1960s I began traveling all around Mexico, getting to know and admiring its many natural and cultural heritage features. By the 1970s and 1980s my ecotouristic forays (including as a prime component the activity of birdwatching, but also a great interest in archeology) had extended to five continents.
I coined the term 'ecotourism' in early July 1983, when I was performing the dual role of Director General of Standards and Technology of SEDUE (the Mexican Ministry of Urban Development and Ecology) and founding president of PRONATURA (an influential Mexican conservationist NGO). PRONATURA was lobbying for the conservation of the wetlands in northern Yucatan as breeding and feeding habitats of the American Flamingo.
Among the arguments that I used to dissuade the building of marinas in the Celestún estuary area was the presence of an ever growing number of tourists, especially from the United States. Back in those days I was already convinced that such people could play an important role in boosting the local rural economy, creating new jobs and preserving the 'ecology' of the area, and began using the word "ecotourism" to describe this phenomenon.
I also provided the preliminary definition of ecotourism later that year, at a presentation in Mexico City for PRONATURA: "Ecotourism is that tourism that involves traveling to relatively undisturbed natural areas with the specific object of studying, admiring and enjoying the scenery and its wild plants and animals, as well as any existing cultural aspects (both past and present) found in these areas. Ecotourism implies a scientific, esthetic or philosophical approach, although the 'ecotourist' is not required to be a professional scientist, artist or philosopher. The main point is that the person who practices ecotourism has the opportunity of immersing him or herself in nature in a way that most people cannot enjoy in their routine, urban existences. This person will eventually acquire a consciousness and knowledge of the natural environment, together with its cultural aspects, that will convert him into somebody keenly involved in conservation issues."