Ecotourism – A Future Report

Posted by By at 10 March, at 17 : 39 PM Print

Ecotourism – A Future Report

ECO-TOURISM –  AN OVERVIEW & OUTLOOK

From the last century, humankind has seen Earth’s Climate and its eco-systems undergo changes and generally for the worse. We have witnessed the rising sea-level, rising temperatures, abrupt climate change as well as increased frequency of natural calamities that have attested to the fact that climate change is real and it is influencing our everyday lives now. The question that arises now is if we remedy and change our lifestyle in order to aid mitigation of climate change or continue a casual and careless approach.

One approach that has become popular since the last three decades is the concept of Eco-tourism. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil in 1992 (the Earth summit) resulted in the adoption of Agenda 21 which provides for the formulation and implementation of measures to promote sustainable development. Sustainable development was defined in the summit as it was in the Brundtland Report in 1987 as “meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs”.

The aim of Eco-tourism is to pursue our touring activities with a minimal impact on the local ecosystems & the local people. Ecotourism is a form of tourism that involves visiting natural areas—in the remote wilderness or rural environments. According to the definition and principles of ecotourism established by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) in 1990, ecotourism is “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” The purpose of ecotourism may be to educate the traveler, to provide funds for ecological conservation, to directly benefit the economic development and political empowerment of local communities, or to foster respect for different cultures and for human rights. Responsible ecotourism programs include those that minimize the negative aspects of conventional tourism on the environment and enhance the cultural integrity of local people. Therefore, in addition to evaluating environmental and cultural factors, an integral part of ecotourism is the promotion of recycling, energy efficiency, water conservation, and creation of economic opportunities for local communities. For these reasons, ecotourism often appeals to advocates of environmental and social responsibility.

The International Ecotourism Society describing the area of influence of ecotourism:-

 

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Ecotourism typically involves travel to destinations where flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions. Ecotourism is intended to offer tourists insight into the impact of human beings on the environment, and to foster a greater appreciation of our natural habitats for many countries, ecotourism is not simply a marginal activity to finance protection of the environment, but is a major industry of the national economy.

But, the term ‘ecotourism’, like ‘sustainable tourism’, is considered by many to be an oxymoron. It is because tourism in general depends upon and increases air transportation, contributing significantly to greenhouse gas emissions from combustion placed high into the stratosphere where they immediately contribute to the heat trapping phenomenon behind global warming and climate change.

 

The Four Dimensions of Ecotourism as defined by FAO :-

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Environmental Dimension

Some argue that eco-tourists are motivated to preserve the environment, so one would expect them to generate little or no negative environmental impact. However, as Mr.Wall’s pointed out in his book Old wine in new bottles in 1994, that the case may be a little different than what eco-tourism actually suggest and may have adverse impacts on the local environment such as :-

  • Eco-tourists often go to environmentally fragile areas, such as alpine and arid areas;
  • Visitation may occur during sensitive periods, such as during breeding or hatching periods;
  • Visitation by eco-tourists eventually may lead to mass tourism at the site, so that the ultimate impact is much greater than the initial impact
  • Eco-tourism may also lead to off-site impacts, such as the consumption of airplane fuel.

Ecotourism’s impacts often are categorized using groups like “direct” (effect or the visitors themselves) and “indirect” (effect of the infrastructure or activities necessary to provide the visitor experience) or “on-site” and “off-site”. Then again there are numerous factors to take into account if these impacts are critical or transient in nature.

 

Socio-Cultural Dimension

As with the natural environment, the socio-cultural environment serves as both an ecotourism attraction and a recipient of ecotourism’s impacts. If these impacts become, on the whole, too negative, the local sustainability of ecotourism can be jeopardized. In some areas local residents have been sufficiently unhappy with ecotourism development that they sabotaged the natural resource on which this development was based. Many ecotourism activities involve relatively intense interaction between greatly differing cultures, and these differences may exacerbate the negative socio-cultural impacts of ecotourism. The policy makers are now becoming aware of the need to incorporate local communities into the tourism development and natural area management process and to understand and address the negative impacts on communities.

According to a Classification by Mr. Brandon, though the difference between cultural and social impacts is blurry, one grouping might include the following as cultural impacts

  • Commodification of culture, in which cultural symbols are treated as commodities to be bought and sold.
  • Changes in group social structure, the way in which lives are ordered and patterned
  • Change in the cultural knowledge, the body of information possessed
  • Changes in the perspective of usage as well as importance of cultural property.

The following grouping is of common social and socio-physical impacts. Lindberg and Johnson stated that depending on how tourism is developed, these impacts might on balance be; positive or negative, and this balance may affect resident attitudes toward tourism:-

  • Economic–tourism can generate a wide variety of economic benefits (such as jobs) and economic costs (such as inflation).
  • Disruption–tourism can generate an increase in traffic congestion, crowding in stores and other areas, and crime.
  • Recreation facilities–tourism can increase both the number of recreation facilities and the demand for such facilities (recreation is used broadly here to include outdoor recreation, urban entertainment, and related activities).
  • Aesthetic–tourism can contribute to an aesthetically pleasing environment, for example, by catalyzing waterfront revitalization; however, it can also detract from an aesthetically pleasing environment by, for example, leading to construction that is deemed inappropriate or by increasing the amount of litter or vandalism.
  • Interaction with non-residents–tourism can lead to satisfying relationships with non-residents, even if those relationships are brief.
  • Interaction with residents–tourism can affect local social relationships among residents, such as by reducing the friendliness of local residents.
  • Community/Culture–because tourists often are motivated by the desire to experience the host community and its culture, tourism can affirm that culture and lead to community pride; it also can disrupt local cultures, particularly when international tourists visit remote areas with little historic foreign contact.
  • Influence over community decisions–studies have shown that residents are more supportive of tourism when they have been able to influence the tourism development process.

 

Economic Dimension

The final dimension is economic. There are various stakeholders in ecotourism, from operators to natural area managers to local communities. One thing they have in common is that they often seek economic benefits from ecotourism, whether it is sales and profits for operators, user fee revenues for natural area management, or jobs and income for local communities.

With respect to natural area finance, many public natural area systems around the world have encountered severe financial difficulties as the number of national parks and other areas has grown while funding has remained stable or declined as both studies by Eagles stated in 1995. As a result, many area managers and environmentalists have turned to ecotourism as a source of revenue, as a means to at least cover the ecotourism-related park costs that historically have been financed by governments.

There have been disagreements between the environmentalists, policy makers and the scientific community based on the optimum utilization of user fees and how it can be prioritized for distribution to the local environment and community. Though a full discussion of this issue is beyond the scope of this paper, several points are worth noting.

First, the appropriate fee system will depend on the objectives for the area. If the objective is to generate revenue, fees should be relatively high. If the objective is to maximize the number of visitors to provide job opportunities for local businesses, than the fees should be low or non-existent.

Second, there are strong economic reasons for charging user fees, including that ecotourism generate. Lindberg in ‘Policies for Maximizing Nature Tourism’s Ecological and Economic Benefits’ states that in the case of developed country visitors to developing country public natural areas, it is particularly inappropriate for relatively poor local non-users to subsidize the visits of relatively wealthy users.

Third, most analyses conclude that current fee levels at most sites could be increased with little or no impact on the number of visitors. In cases where fee increases would reduce the number of visitors, such increases may remain appropriate as a means to maximize total revenue and/or reduce negative environmental, experiential, or social impacts. Fourth, often, there are opportunities for increasing non-fee revenues, such as through donation programmes or through souvenir sales.

With respect to job creation, natural areas provide many benefits to society, but few are tangible. Ecotourism-related jobs are one of the most tangible benefits provided by these areas. In some cases, these jobs can provide direct alternatives to practices, such as poaching of forest products that threaten natural area conservation. In other cases, the jobs will simply, but importantly, diversify local economies the study by Lindberg and Enriquez states. As ecotourism jobs increase, it is likely that support for the natural areas providing the jobs will increase.

Experiential Dimension

Most of the attention within ecotourism and within sustainable tourism generally; has been on environmental sustainability. However, tourism should be sustainable in other dimensions, including the experiential dimension. If the visitor experience is sufficiently degraded there will be a reduction in visitation that jeopardizes sustainability. For some sites, experiential impacts may be a greater limiting factor than environmental impacts.

The three major experiential impacts as defined by Roggenbuck in 1992, can be grouped into three categories

  • Crowding in which the quality of the experience is reduced by visitor perceptions that they saw too many other people during their visit.
  • Conflict in which the quality of the experience is reduced by visitor perceptions of incompatibility or animosity with other visitors.
  • Environmental degradation in which the quality of the experience is reduced by visitor perceptions of environmental deterioration caused by other visitors.

In reality, not many contemporary ecotourism projects meet the standards set for sustainable tourism, even if some guidelines are executed, local communities still face other negative impacts. South Africa is one of the countries that are reaping significant economic benefits from ecotourism, but negative effects – including forcing people to leave their homes, gross violations of fundamental rights, and environmental hazards far outweigh the medium-term economic benefits.

 

MARKET OUTLOOK FOR ECO-TOURISM

According to a study by Miller (2007), Ecotourism has become one of the fastest-growing sectors of the tourism industry, growing annually by 10–15% worldwide.

The ecotourism system exercises tremendous financial and political influence. The evidence above shows that a strong case exists for restraining such activities in certain locations. Funding could be used for field studies aimed at finding alternative solutions to tourism and the diverse problems Africa faces in result of urbanization, industrialization, and the over exploitation of agriculture according to findings by Kamuaro.

One of the primary changes will be in the balance of western and Asian visitors (with Asian visitors being both domestic and intraregional). Though growth is expected for western eco-tourists, faster growth is expected for Asian eco-tourists, such that the latter will comprise a larger proportion of all visitors. In general, Asian visitors are more likely to prefer larger group sizes, relative comfort, and easy site accessibility. They may seek forest-oriented experiences, but are more likely to do so in the context of trips taken for other purposes, such as golfing or diving.

Moreover, there often is divergence between the on-site experiences sought by Asians and westerners, and this will compound the need for effective management. The issue of divergent experiences is illustrated by the case of Dinghushan Biosphere Reserve (DBR) in China, visitor survey results suggest that many DBR visitors (almost all of whom are domestic) are motivated by the opportunity to view scenery in the reserve, as well as to learn about nature. These motivations lead to support for restricting activities, including infrastructure development that might threaten natural features. Nonetheless, observation of visitor behavior in DBR suggests that these responses should be interpreted cautiously and with due regard to the cultural context. For example, there is a much higher tolerance for littering in the reserve than would be the case in many western reserves.

Though little empirical research has been conducted on cross-cultural motivations and desired experiences in ecotourism settings, observation and discussion with researchers and reserve managers in many countries suggest that substantial cross-cultural differences exist. The example of litter suggests that perceptions of depreciation and environmental degradation caused by other visitors varies across cultures.

Other trends also will cause changes in the visitor market. For example, the population in many source countries is ageing. Though older visitors may still seek ecotourism experiences, they are more likely to desire more comfort and greater site accessibility than their younger counterparts.

OPPORTUNITIES

The United Nations World Tourism Organization in its report ‘2020 Vision’ forecasts around 1.6 billion international tourist arrivals. Ecotourism is a business and, therefore, the ecotourism product needs to adapt to changes in the marketplace. Thus, if natural areas are to take full advantage of ecotourism, they will need to evaluate the market most suited to the ecotourism product offered, as well as tailor the product to the desired market as far as practical and desirable. It may be difficult to simultaneously satisfy markets with disparate desires and tolerances, such that a variety of spatially or temporally separated ecotourism experiences may need to be offered within or across natural areas.

According to FAO, the characteristics of eco-tourists and ecotourism vary widely across sites in the region. From 1984 to 1993, visitor numbers increased 360%, from 8,200 to 30,000, respectively. Numbers have continued to increase, reaching 36,924 in 1994 and 43,491 in 1995 (an 18% growth rate from 1994 to 1995).

With the concept of Ecotourism becoming the buzzword of the tourism industry, there is high potential for growth. It currently is implemented successfully in countries like Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nepal, Kenya, Madagascar and territories such as Antarctica, ecotourism represents a significant portion of the gross domestic product and economic activity.Also developing countries see it as an opportunity because of the major source of revenue it can provide and also it’s potential for the upliftment of masses.

There are various explanations for ecotourism’s growth, including:

  • Increasing environmental awareness and interest, including the desire to be perceived by others as environmentally sensitive;
  • Increased media exposure to natural areas around the world;
  • Related to the above two, a desire to see natural areas before they disappear;
  • Increasing dissatisfaction with traditional tourism destinations and products, and a desire for more educative and challenging vacations;
  • Desire to go to novel destinations, sometimes as a way to “outdo” others (e.g., to be the first person one knows who has been to Antarctica); and
  • Easier access to remote ecotourism destinations through development of air routes, roads, and other infrastructure.

Moreover, intraregional ecotourism in particular is expected to grow as regional population centres become increasingly crowded and polluted, and as increased wealth and education lead to greater knowledge of, and interest in, the natural environment.

The government of Philippines has allotted P1 billion ($22 million) for mangrove and beach forest development in disaster-prone areas, a senior official said today.Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources ( DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje asserted that the Aquino administration is putting ecotourism at the forefront of its development priorities to help coastal communities affected by last year’s calamities, such as typhoon Haiyan, recover from the devastation.

Thus Eco-tourism is similarly being approved by the Governments world over. An overarching issue faced by policy makers is the need for ecotourism to be dealt with in a business-like approach in terms of reacting to changes in the marketplace and satisfying eco-tourists as customers. There are two general options for doing so: either natural area management agencies can take on this responsibility themselves or they can invite the private sector to do so in a partnership mode.Such an approach will enhance the probability that ecotourism objectives will be achieved into the future.

 

 

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