In 2006, the New York Times named “ecotourism” the buzzword of the year, citing efforts by numerous countries to cash in on their natural resources and boost their tourism revenue. Five years on, the not-so-fledgling industry continues to generate hype, helping economies and the environment along the way. It’s no surprise that an increasing number of college graduates are eyeing careers in ecotourism, and that the field is growing wider and more competitive by the day.
Ecotourism jobs span a broad range of fields, including business, management, finance, science, arts and communication, and the social sciences. Indeed, there are ways to apply just about any skill in the quest to save the planet. Sites like Treehugger.com (owned by the Discovery network) offer comprehensive job boards in ecotourism and other “green collar” jobs.
Perhaps the most direct way to get into ecotourism is to specialize in the sciences. Chemistry, biology, and environmental science are all in high demand among green companies. Graduates from these fields can make a living doing research for private and public agencies, helping them find ways to preserve endangered sites and maintain wildlife populations.
If you’re more attracted to hospitality jobs, ecotourism also offers ample opportunities. With the right training, you can work for hotels, restaurants, airlines, and other travel firms with an environmental thrust. You can also occupy information desks and help people plan sustainable vacations. If you love to travel, this field may be your best bet. A degree in tourism or management can come in handy.
Management and business professionals often end up at the helm of operations, or even running the outfit themselves. If you work well with a team and are able to make smart decisions, you can launch and head your own ecotourism projects, promoting local sites or traveling to other destinations. If your skills lie more on the creative side, you can go into environmental journalism, public relations, or marketing, where communication skills and a bit of creative flair are valuable.
Ecotourism is a broad discipline, and its rapid growth over the years is proof that it’s here to stay. And that’s a good thing, because it opens doors for people who would otherwise enter an already crowded job market. Whether you’re just starting or looking to change career paths, you’re sure to find a wealth of opportunities in ecotourism. As an added perk, you get to travel, meet interesting people, and make the world a better place while you’re at it.