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Induced by the fast development of urbanization and industrialization, environmental pollution and deterioration have been the great threats to regional and global ecosystems, while undisturbed natural areas with beautiful landscapes are becoming the “lost paradise” for most civilians, which led ecotourism to be the mainstream of tourism in the 21st century. However, do only regions with pristine and fragile landscapes have the privilege of developing ecotourism? What are the major factors driving environmentally contaminated or polluted cities to develop ecotourism? How can they succeed and what are the environmental effects caused? In this paper, a detailed comparison of successfully transformed industrial cities reveals the driving factors, key issues and environmental effects of a city's ecotourism policy, which presents suggestions for the urban transformation of resource-based cities.