On-going discussion surrounds the definition of ecotourism. Definitions are usually constructed by policy-makers involved in developing ‘ecotourism’ destinations, tour operators, organisations such as the International Ecotourism Society, certification bodies and academics who wish to bring some order to the multiplicity of definitions that exist. This paper seeks to add information relating to tourism provider understandings of ecotourism, by assessing evidence based on in-depth interviews against diagnostic criteria compiled by Fennell, D. A. [2001. A content analysis of ecotourism definitions. Current Issues in Tourism, 4, 403–421. doi:10.1080/13683500108667896]. The research was conducted in the Greenbox ecotourism destination in the north midlands of Ireland. The Greenbox provides an example of an emerging destination, without a strongly developed image, providing a multiplicity of ecotourism products, the providers of which held narrow understandings of ecotourism for the most part. It was a short-term ‘top-down’ experiment but had longer-term impacts in contributing to a provider-led initiative. Ecotourism was understood principally as being based on the natural environment which needs to be protected and conserved; more detailed understanding was influenced by the personal background and experience of a minority of providers.
Keywords: developed world; ecotourism definition; tourism providers; Ireland