Ecotourism and Forest Recreation

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Ecotourism and forest recreation encompass responsible travel and leisure activities that focus on experiencing and appreciating natural environments, such as forests, while minimizing environmental impact and supporting local communities. This approach promotes sustainable tourism practices, conservation efforts, and economic development in rural areas.

Impact on climate action

Ecotourism and Forest Recreation in Sustainable Forestry promote climate action by fostering conservation awareness and supporting forest preservation. By generating revenue from non-extractive activities, this innovation incentivizes sustainable forest management, preserves biodiversity, and mitigates carbon emissions, contributing to climate resilience and environmental stewardship.


  • Sustainable Tourism Principles: Ecotourism and forest recreation adhere to principles of sustainable tourism, which aim to minimize environmental impact, respect local cultures, and support local economies.
  • Conservation and Biodiversity Protection: Ecotourism and forest recreation activities often contribute to conservation efforts by generating revenue for protected areas and raising awareness about the importance of biodiversity.
  • Community-Based Tourism: Community-based tourism initiatives empower local communities to participate in and benefit from tourism activities, promoting economic development and cultural exchange.
  • Environmental Education and Interpretation: Ecotourism and forest recreation experiences often include educational components that raise awareness about the environment and promote responsible behavior.
  • Digital Technologies: Digital platforms and mobile apps can be used to promote ecotourism destinations, facilitate bookings, and provide information to visitors.

TRL : 7-8

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) Experiences: VR and AR technologies can create immersive and educational experiences for ecotourists, allowing them to explore forests and learn about biodiversity without physically impacting the environment.
  • Eco-Lodges and Sustainable Accommodations: Eco-lodges and other sustainable accommodations are being developed to minimize environmental impact and provide comfortable and immersive experiences for ecotourists.
  • Community-Based Tourism Platforms: Digital platforms are connecting tourists with local communities, enabling them to book authentic and sustainable tourism experiences directly with local providers.
  • Citizen Science Initiatives: Ecotourism and forest recreation activities can be combined with citizen science initiatives, engaging visitors in data collection and research to contribute to conservation efforts.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Conservation and Biodiversity Protection
  • Community Empowerment in Tourism
  • Environmental Education and Interpretation
  • Digital Technologies in Ecotourism
  • Immersive VR/AR Experiences
  • Eco-Friendly Accommodation Solutions
  • Community-Based Tourism Platforms
  • Citizen Science Integration
  • Social Implications of Ecotourism
  • Sustainable Tourism Policy
  • Nature-Based Tourism Management
  • Cultural Preservation in Tourism
  • Ecotourism Marketing Strategies

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. Rainforest Alliance:
    • Technology Enhancement: Rainforest Alliance focuses on promoting sustainable ecotourism and forest recreation practices through certification, education, and advocacy. They leverage technology to support their mission, including online platforms for certification processes, monitoring tools for tracking environmental impact, and educational resources for tourists and businesses.
    • Uniqueness: Rainforest Alliance’s uniqueness lies in its holistic approach to ecotourism, which includes not only certification of sustainable tourism businesses but also community engagement, conservation efforts, and policy advocacy. They work closely with local communities, businesses, and governments to promote responsible tourism practices that benefit both people and the environment.
    • End-User Segments: Rainforest Alliance targets a wide range of stakeholders, including tourists, tour operators, hotels, restaurants, and local communities in ecotourism destinations. Their certification programs and educational resources appeal to eco-conscious travelers seeking authentic and sustainable travel experiences.
  2. Ecobnb:
    • Technology Enhancement: Ecobnb is an online platform that connects eco-conscious travelers with sustainable accommodations around the world. Their technology enables users to search for and book eco-friendly hotels, lodges, and vacation rentals based on environmental criteria such as energy efficiency, waste reduction, and conservation practices.
    • Uniqueness: Ecobnb’s uniqueness lies in its focus on sustainable accommodations, providing travelers with a curated selection of eco-friendly options that align with their values. They differentiate themselves by offering not only a booking platform but also educational resources, travel tips, and community forums for eco-minded travelers.
    • End-User Segments: Ecobnb targets environmentally conscious travelers who prioritize sustainability when choosing accommodations for their trips. Their platform appeals to a growing segment of travelers seeking authentic, responsible travel experiences that minimize their environmental footprint.
  3. Lokal Travel:
    • Technology Enhancement: Lokal Travel is a community-driven platform that connects travelers with authentic, off-the-beaten-path experiences hosted by local guides and communities. Their technology facilitates peer-to-peer bookings, community engagement, and responsible tourism practices, fostering cultural exchange and sustainable development.
    • Uniqueness: Lokal Travel’s uniqueness lies in its focus on community-based tourism, which empowers local hosts and communities to showcase their culture, heritage, and natural landscapes to travelers. They differentiate themselves by promoting responsible tourism practices, supporting community development projects, and fostering meaningful connections between travelers and locals.
    • End-User Segments: Lokal Travel targets adventurous travelers seeking immersive, culturally rich experiences that go beyond traditional tourist attractions. Their platform appeals to travelers interested in sustainable tourism, authentic cultural exchange, and supporting local communities in ecotourism destinations.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. University of Queensland (Australia):
    • Research Focus: The University of Queensland (UQ) is a prominent institution in research on Ecotourism and Forest Recreation, focusing on sustainable tourism practices, conservation efforts, and socio-economic benefits associated with forest-based recreation activities.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses studies on visitor behavior, preferences, and impacts on forest ecosystems, as well as the development of ecotourism management strategies, visitor education programs, and community engagement initiatives to promote responsible and sustainable forest recreation.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in ecotourism development, nature-based tourism planning, and protected area management. By fostering environmentally friendly tourism practices and promoting the appreciation of forest biodiversity, UQ’s research contributes to the conservation of natural resources, preservation of cultural heritage, and enhancement of local livelihoods in forest-dependent communities.
  2. Colorado State University:
    • Research Focus: Colorado State University (CSU) conducts innovative research on Ecotourism and Forest Recreation, leveraging its expertise in natural resource management, recreation ecology, and outdoor recreation planning to address sustainability challenges and opportunities in forest-based tourism.
    • Uniqueness: Their research integrates ecological, social, and economic perspectives to assess the environmental impacts of ecotourism activities, identify visitor preferences and motivations, and design ecologically sensitive recreational facilities and trail systems in forested landscapes. They also collaborate with stakeholders, government agencies, and non-profit organizations to develop ecotourism policies, guidelines, and certification programs.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in ecotourism destination management, ecotourism product development, and wilderness stewardship. By promoting responsible visitor behavior, fostering environmental stewardship, and enhancing visitor experiences, CSU’s research supports the sustainable development of forest-based recreation opportunities and the conservation of natural resources.
  3. Wageningen University & Research:
    • Research Focus: Wageningen University & Research (WUR) is engaged in cutting-edge research on Ecotourism and Forest Recreation, drawing upon its expertise in tourism studies, landscape ecology, and environmental governance to address the interplay between nature conservation, recreation demand, and land management practices.
    • Uniqueness: Their research explores the ecological and social impacts of forest recreation, including biodiversity conservation, landscape restoration, and cultural heritage preservation. They also investigate visitor satisfaction, carrying capacity assessment, and spatial planning tools for optimizing the sustainable use of forest resources for recreational purposes.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in ecotourism destination planning, nature-based tourism marketing, and ecotourism policy development. By integrating scientific knowledge with stakeholder engagement and participatory planning approaches, WUR’s research contributes to the promotion of ecologically sensitive tourism practices, economic development, and community well-being in forested regions.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Ecotourism and forest recreation are growing segments of the tourism industry, with numerous destinations and businesses offering sustainable tourism experiences. For example, Costa Rica is a renowned ecotourism destination, with a strong focus on conservation and community-based tourism.