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Ecotourism vs Volunteer Tourism

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The discussion on ecotourism and its essence has led to over eighty different definitions of the topic (Fennell, 2008). However, one of the most used and comprehensive definitions is reported by Weaver (ibidem). It describes ecotourism as “a form of tourism that fosters” awareness, education and enjoyment of the natural environment and the local values in a sustainable way (Weaver, 2001a:15). Hence, ecotourism, while thriving for profitability, aims to promote education and cultural awareness of destinations without compromising their ecosystems. Eco-tourists demand for more authentic and meaningful forms of travel and; according to Orams (1996) (in Weaver, 2001a), they can be classified in two different categories: hard and soft ones. The hard eco-tourists believe in “radical” self-commitment with their destination, in order to ameliorate the natural environment (give back something) through “not-mediated” (Weaver, 2001b:106), challenging physical activities immersed in the site’s nature (ibidem). However, the soft visitors have shallower levels of commitment to the environment than hard eco-tourists. Indeed, while hard eco-visitors tend to organise independently (where high competence and time availability are required and low level of services expected on-site), soft ones rely on eco-tour-operators to organise less physically demanding tours (tab. 1.1a) (ibidem). Nevertheless, further distinctions can be created between these two categories depending on the antagonism
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