Ecotourism Operator

1. What is an ecotourism operator?

Tour companies offer outings to travelers, tourists, and residents to introduce them to area highlights they might not otherwise see.  Ecotourism companies focus on non-consumptive tours of natural areas and practice the Leave No Trace principles.  These can be birdwatching tours, backpacking tours, kayaking tours, yoga retreats in natural settings….the business is limited only by your imagination and the natural resources that are available locally.

So compelling is the case for ecotourism as a win-win that Costa Rica, the country that perhaps pioneered sustainable tourism, has enjoyed a prosperous economy unrivaled by any other central American country and the model is now being copied by other central American nations.  Its tourism industry, a large percentage of which is ecotourism, produces more revenues for the country than coffee (double) and bananas (1.3 times as much), its other two major economic players.

But one need not venture to Costa Rica to do eco-tourism.  A quick web search yields hundreds of ecotour companies operating in the U.S. offering thousands of adventures and tour types.  The International Ecotourism Society even hosts an annual ecotourism conference, to be held in Portland, OR, in September 2010.

2. What required knowledge or skills are necessary?

Very beneficial attributes to have for an entrepreneur include having a detailed knowledge of the subject of your tours.  In other words, if you are leading birdwatching tours, you better know your area’s birds better than anyone.

3. How much money is required to start?

$-$$   (on a scale of $ to $$$$$)

4. What is the income potential?

$$-$$$   (on a scale of $ to $$$$$)

5. What is the best location for an eco-tourism business?

The location you start this business is not very important, but access to the outdoors and good recreation areas is crucial.  You should have several great places to take customers, such as National Parks, beaches, hiking areas, nature preserves, estuaries, etc.

6.  Three best questions to ask yourself to find out if this business is right for you (if you can answer yes to all three, this business might be for you):

Are you an experienced naturalist or have a passion for a particular aspect of natural ecology?
Do you enjoy sharing your passion with others interested in nature?
Are you a good enough ‘people person’ to accomodate customers who may be unintentionally ignorant of ecological and Leave No Trace principles (it sometimes requires a lot of patience when customers want you to capture a beautiful bird so they can see it closer…that’s a big no-no in Leave No Trace, but some people will naively think this is the kind of thing an ecotour might entail…)?


Interested in starting one in your community? Where do you begin?  What permits do you need?  Who is your target customer?  How do you find them?  What is the best use of your limited advertising dollars?  What’s the best way to attract a great employee or volunteer?  What does an average day look like?  What strategic tips do veteran eco-entrepreneurs suggest for startups like you?

There’s a lot to think about.  Rest easy.  Our mission is to help you succeed, so drop us a line (  We’ll get you a business planning document to get you on your way for ONLY $199!  We also guarantee our work, so if you are not satisfied, you get your money back!*

Take a look at a sample table of contents and a few sample excerpts from similar plans here.   In essence, we’ll provide you the What, When, Where, and How…you provide the Who!

*Subject to the terms of our Licensing Agreement.

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