Working in the Ecotourism Industry
Ecotourism is a fast growing branch of the tourism industry. It focuses on showing people the natural world and its wildlife. It has also been acclaimed as the best solution for attaining the often conflicting goals of conserving our planet´s habitats and creatures, and improving people´s quality of life through economic development of a region. In this short article we will first look at some reasons why it might be a good idea to look into the Ecotourism industry, then at what types of jobs there are in the Ecotourism industry for those wishing to work in conservation and, finally, at some good places to look for job opportunities in the sector.
There are two different kinds of reason to look into Ecotourism. First, conservation is a very competitive field and sometimes a job can be a hard thing to find. Sending out loads of applications with no results is something I have come to dread, now that I am just half a year away from plunging into the job market. I am sure this has happened to many people before, even people who have done the almost mandatory volunteering in conservation. Take the example of Chris Thompson.
“…despite a large number of applications (>50) and a reasonable amount of volunteering experience I was getting nowhere with my search for a job in conservation (not a single interview).”
That is, until Chris decided to start looking for a job in the ecotourism sector…
“To give you an idea of the difference in responses: In 6 months applying in the conservation sector I probably only heard back from 60% of organizations and even then I didn’t have a single interview; whereas in 1 month of applying in the tourism sector I heard back from all the companies I applied to and had 2 interviews and 2 job offers. Maybe this was due to my situation / CV / skill-set or simply because the industry is less competitive (some jobs I applied for in conservation had over 350 applicants), but just getting responses was an improvement.”
Chris Thompson is now working for a company called Audley Travel, which has been awarded 5 stars for Sustainable Tourism by AITO (Association of Independent Travel Operators).
Second, being in the ecotourism industry can be a way to marry your passion for nature and your will to be active in conservation with your more entrepreneurial side, should you have one. Working with people and showing them the natural world is perhaps the single most important thing to do in conservation if we are to guarantee the future and sustainability of our ecosystems. So, if ecotourism is something that appeals to you or if you think it might be your way into conservation, read on.
Jobs in Ecotourism
A lot of the jobs involved with any kind of tourism are probably not of interest to people wishing to work in conservation such as, for example, jobs associated with travel agencies – but there are some exceptions of which the following three categories are examples:
Assessment and Development of Locations
Certain job titles such as Ecotourism Development Specialist, Tourism and Human Resources Advisor or Sustainable Tourism Development Manager refer to the early stages of planning and developing of an ecotourism business.
Your job would be to determine if a location has the potential to support sustainable tourism, what would be the biodiversity impacts of such tourism – positive and negative – and assessing the benefits for the local communities. One of the things you might participate in is a Tourism Assessment Process (TAP). To get an idea of what it entails see the scheme below taken from the report “Linking Communities, Tourism & Conservation; A Tourism Assessment Process” you can find here.
One of its authors is Eileen Gutierrez, Destination Management and Training Advisor at Conservation International.
In an example of a job description for an Ecotourism Program Specialist, some of the mandatory qualifications include:
- Master´s degree
- At least 5 years experience in ecotourism
- Excellent people skills
This category encompasses a wide variety of job descriptions such as Ecotourism Project Manager, Nature Tourism Ranger, Eco-lodge Manager and Sustainable Tourism Operator, among others. They all broadly refer to the actual running of the ecotourism operation.
Your job would be to supervise projects and budget allocation, build local capacity, develop partnerships with communities and the private sector, and promote sustainable practices.
In an example of a job description for an Ecotourism Project Officer for WWF-Cambodia the requirements span several categories, including Education and Qualification, Experience, and Personality. For this particular post they were looking for someone with a degree in business management and ecotourism development, or in a related field, 3 years of experience implementing eco-tourism projects, fluency in English and Khmer language (because Khmer is such a popular choice of second language in school…) and in terms of personality, someone flexible, patient and tolerant – among others.
For the full job description see here.
Communications and Marketing
Finally, this category includes job titles such as Protected Areas Communications Officer, Responsible Tourism Marketing Manager, and Responsible Tourism Communications Manager.
Your job would be to promote the place or company you are working for, using the media and coordinating marketing campaigns – in short, try and make your employer stand out and attract attention from the public.
For example, in a job post for an Ecotourism Marketing Manager, the desired qualifications included “Mastery of web 2.0 / Social Media Platform including and not limited to: Blogs, Reviews, Affiliates, eCommerce”, but mostly the description just listed things the applicant would have to be good at such as:
- Ensuring effective advertising in relevant media channels while guarding Return on Investment (ROI)
- Understanding the core products at each reserve and improving the options for accessing the eco-tourism offering
- Keen eye for emerging markets: embassies, consulates, expat communities
Where to look for jobs and other online resources
Now that you know the kinds of jobs there are in the sector and why it might be a good reason to look into them, here are a few places where you might find useful information:
- EcoClub – The international Ecotourism Club is an award-winning network in the sector. However, one must pay for membership – approximately 17 pounds for one year or 25 pounds for 3 years.
- TIES – A far-reaching institution whose community encompasses organizations from 120 countries. A membership is also required to access the job board (approximately 50 pounds/year). See here (ecotourism.org/smart-choice) why this could be a good use of your money.
- Job Monkey OR Green Careers Guide – Free to access but a lot less targeted to the ecotourism sector. They both provide a lot of valuable information on ecotourism, though, and are worth a look.
Ultimately, it might be worth it to try and track down the companies you would like to work for and check their vacancy pages regularly, or make the investment in one of the paid job boards that specialize in ecotourism.
About the author
This post was written by Conservation Careers Blogger Marta Cálix. Marta is doing an Internship with Flora and Fauna International working on their Global Trees Campaign. She comes from Portugal and has a special interest in threatened species reintroductions and protected area management.
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