In ecologically fragile but aesthetic mountain areas of Guizhou province, China, ecotourism has been opted as an optimal regional development model to raise living standards of local ethnic minorities with rich cultural heritage. This paper undertakes first a brief theoretical review exploring the substance of sustainable tourism and intrinsic values of nature aesthetics as the basis of tourist attraction and economic exploitation. Using ecotourism in Libo County as a case study, the triangular relationship of nature conservation, livelihood improvement of minority groups via ecotourism and their culture preservation which make up the crux of sustainable tourism is evaluated and analyzed. The key finding is that achieving a perfect state of equilibrium in these three elements of sustainable tourism is illusionary. The gain in one element is the loss of another. Their coexistence is found to be in the state of a compromised rapport and outcome.
Key words: Aesthetic value, culture and nature conservation, ecotourism, ethnic minorities, mountain areas, sustainable tourism.
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