Natural Resources, School of


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Powell, L., Powell, K., Nieland, K., 2018. Guidelines for Ecotourism Operations in the Great Plains. Lincoln, NE: School of Natural Resources, UNL. pp. 8.

Education Circular 27 | EC-27 | April 2018



Copyright 2018 Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska


The International Union for the Conservation of Nature defines ecotourism as: Environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and accompanying cultural features, both past and present) that promote conservation, have a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socioeconomic involvement of local peoples.

Ecotourism has the potential to support communities and conservation efforts from revenue streams to parks and reserves in the Great Plains, while also contributing to a culture shift towards a conservation ethic. Recent surges in ecotourism have contributed to growth in the tourism sectors in Great Plains states, because these approaches to tourism can leverage the open spaces, natural landscapes, and culture and heritage of the region.

Facilities, Food, Activities, Guest Care, and Environment Awareness-- This resource is designed to support the planning, growth, and development of ecotourism facilities that offer beds, activities, and food to guests. We selected five components of ecotourism for use in guidelines and evaluations for ecotourism operations: facilities, activities, food, guest care, and environmental awareness. Tourists vary in their expectations and needs, and ecotourism operations vary in their goals and investment potential. One path to business success is to meet expectations of guests.

This publication provides rubrics that describe expectations for the five ecotourism components at each level (1-star to 5-star). Achievement of higher levels of guest expectations may require more design, planning, and investment, and clients may pay more for facilities that achieve higher levels. Each facilities’ goals should dictate the level at which they wish to operate. These evaluation guidelines were developed after considerable experience at domestic and international facilities.