In recent years a new type of tourism has emerged in which tourists are abandoning traditional vacations for a new type of experience that provides them with the sense of nature and culture. Archaeological digs, cultural tours, trekking in the mountains, and bird-watching are all new types of vacation that attract tourists to travel to relatively remote or unspoiled areas. This type of travel is called "nature-culture based travel." or ecotoutism. Ecotourism has been defined in recent literature as environmentally responsible travel and visitation to relatively undisturbed natural areas in order to enjoy, study and appreciate nature and accompanying cultural features (Lascurain, 1996). Such travel promotes conservation and leads to the socioeconomic involvement of local populations.
As the ecotourism industry expands worldwide, well· planned. ecologically sensitive facilities are in high demand. This demand can met with ecolodges: small-scale facilities that provide visitors with a window on the natural and cultural world of a region, allowing them to be in close contact with culture and nature (Salama and Elleithy, 1997). The ecolodge concept advocates that building footprints and other necessary impositions on terra·firma should be designed in harmony with cultural settings and natural landscapes.
This paper argues for more effective integration between tourism, culture and environment. Cts objective is to envision ways in which the demand for environmentally sustainable tourism can be met. It focuses on ecotourism as a major component in eco-development processes and it emphasizes that ecolodges can be regarded as a physical tool to help enhance protection of natural and cultural heritage. The paper's methodology involves developing a conceptual argument, which is based on reviewing the available literature developed in the field of ecotourism. Several case studies representing the ecolodge in a natural setting and in a cultural/urban context are introduced and analyzed based on field surveys and interviews. The paper draws generalizable conclusions in the form of ecolodge design criteria and guidelines for Egypt. Lastly, a set of recommendations are conceptualized and presented.