Eco-tourism - travel that preserves the environment and promotes the welfare of local people - continues to gain momentum. Impressed by the success of countries like Costa Rica and Ecuador, which have lured flocks of travelers for mountain treks and jungle safaris, a growing number of regions across the globe are turning to eco-tourism as a strategy for economic growth.

Omar Bongo, the president of Gabon, a developing country in west central Africa, has set aside about 10 percent of the country's landmass for 13 national parks. Green Visions, a tourism and environment protection company, based in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, is pioneering an eco-tourism development plan in Central Europe with "green adventures" that promote environmental principles and support local businesses. Even Greece, better known for its pumping night life and archaeological monuments, devotes a section of its national tourism Web site to "Greek nature" and eco-tourism.

Over the last four years, at least 48 countries, from Puerto Rico to Portugal, have created or started to define a national strategy for eco-tourism development, according to a 2004 eco-tourism report by Mintel International Group, a market-research company based in Britain.

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