It is the understanding and perceptions of the tourist and tourism service providers towards 'Ecotourism' that will facilitate the continuation of the successful expansion of this market sector. More
'Ecotourism' plays a significant role in the economic sustainability of the Belizean economy. It is the understanding and perceptions of the tourist and tourism service providers towards 'Ecotourism' that will facilitate the continuation of the successful expansion of this market sector. This paper shows that there is a distinct lack of understanding regarding the definition of the term 'Ecotourism” and the variance in perceptions between service user and service provider. This variance and differing understanding stems from a wide range of definitions around the term 'Ecotourism' and the 'greening' of operations that would not readily fit into the ethos of 'Ecotourism' but use its messages to help promote commercial gains. This 'greenwashing' clouds the perceptions of the service user and fosters mistrust in operations that claim to offer 'Ecotourism' experiences. The consumer requires clear boundaries in terms of definition in order to make decisions as to which destination and experience to choose. This paper shows the wide range of understanding of the terminology and shows that attitudes to the sector are acceptable but in need of development and enhancement to fully capitalise on the potential of this market. Messages by service providers need to encourage education and awareness of the facilities and benefits of 'Ecotourism'. This awareness promotion should be matched with a system of independent verification of published standards. Without clearly defining the ethos of 'Ecotourism' the consumer will find it harder to accept messages that are not measurable and independently verifiable. The research here has identified areas of harmonisation between service users and service providers, it has also established areas for further development in order to sustain effective management of the sectors promotion and development.
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