Since no one wants to be Chevy Chase in the National Lampoon's Vacation series, it has become hip to be an ecotourist: a responsible traveler, aiming to conserve the environment and contribute to the well-being of local people. It's become so popular that the United Nations proclaimed 2002 as the International Year of Ecotourism.
But buyer beware. Recently, the Bangladesh government drew up plans to develop "ecoparks" in the jungles where the Khasis and Garos tribes residewithout consulting them. Not only will the tribes be on display in a "cultural village," but 1,000 families will lose their homes in the name of reforestation and economic development.
In opposition to the U.N. support of ecotourism, the Indigenous Peoples Interfaith Dialogue on Globalization and Tourism stated, "Further work needs to be done by our organizations to demystify the belief in the sustainability of ecotourism and its economic benefits."
"The United Nations appears to forget that the questions of place for the indigenous peoplestheir land, their identity, and political rightsare at the center of tourism expansion," Tan Chi Kiong, director of the Ecumenical Coalition on Tourism, told Sojourners. "Indigenous peoples as stakeholders have lost out in this process."