Eco-tourism is a growing part of the tourism industry. However, there are no agreed-upon criteria of what constitutes eco-tourism, so the industry is currently self-identified, with eco-lodges simply declaring themselves so. Here we present the first systematic comparison of eco-tourism versus conventional (or mass) tourism, using as our study area a set of 37 resorts along the southern Red Sea coast of Egypt, all constructed on similarly oriented parcels between the sea and the Red Sea Mountain Range. We compared resorts based on their water, energy, and waste management (all virtually equivalent), and based on mappable environmental parameters such as swimming pool surface area, distance from mangrove patches, conflict with flood plains, extent of lawn area, and means of access to deep water. We found that the self-identified eco-tourism establishments were not significantly different from the conventional tourism resorts in terms of their stress on environmental resources. We recommend that future eco-tourism operations be modified in two key ways. First, on the planning level, by modifying the regional master plan created by the central government tourism authorities. Second, on the site design level, by introducing significant improvements to the design approval processes for the developments to ensure compliance with environmental requirements.