National Geographic Expeditions: Is Ecotourism all it’s Cracked up to be?

Initially I was going to write about Tegu the block company, but while scrolling through the Global Issues in Context page another theme caught my eye: ecotourism.  I’m passionate about travel especially backpacking (I spent 3 weeks in the wilderness of the High Sierra’s this past summer).  Also, two summers ago a friend and I traveled around Costa Rica which is renowned for its wildlife and ecotourism offerings.  We visited a couple famous cloud rain forests and national parks.  The trip was fun but all I saw was a dolphin, a couple hummingbirds, handful of red frogs and a sloth.  This made me wonder if ecotourism actually does a good job at preserving the nature or indigenous cultures that travelers flock to see?  There have been news stories of tourist companies hurting the environment and exploiting indigenous groups for profit.

Also, I wonder if there is any oversight or standards boards for labeling a tour provider as environmentally friendly.  There are a number of companies that conduct these types of tours, but for now I’m going to research National Geographic Expeditions.  I picked them because of the name recognition and it was listed as a Top 10 Environmentally Friendly Travel Company.  If another company later presents itself as a better fit than switching won’t require much work.  I know this is a little backward of a method since this week we’re supposed to pick the company.  However, there are a lot of similar players in the industry so I want to first understand the dynamics at play in ecotourism.


Links (Primarily for my own reference):

Top 10 Environmentally Friendly Travel Companies:

National Geographic Expeditions site:

Article about conflict between ecotourist groups and the Maasai in Kenya:




6 responses to “National Geographic Expeditions: Is Ecotourism all it’s Cracked up to be?

  1. This is a really cool idea, and I think there’s a lot to explore from a variety of ethical standpoints. It will be especially interesting to see how National Geographic (or whichever company you end up going with) seems to orient themselves- as enriching the cultural education of its tourists or as enriching the economy of the cultures they showcase. Is this partnership jointly beneficial, or does it at least have the potential to be? Their ability to turn a profit while creating value for and protecting the interests of each major stakeholder will ultimately determine their success as a sustainable business model. It will be really interesting to see to what extent they are taking these strides, and maybe what your prediction for the future of ecotourism is based on their efforts to date.
    Here’s an article you might find helpful (I can’t figure out how to format it in a comment, so sorry the link looks crazy):,d.cWc


    • I agree, tour operators can run the gambit from partnership to exploitation. Also, sometimes the shareholders can fall into a grey zone. For example, one article I read had a conflict between the Massai of Kenya versus the tour operators and Kenyan government. Both sides had legitimate concerns, but they were in sharp contrast.

      Also, thanks for passing on the article! I’ll definitely read it as I prep my paper.


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