Volume Two: The Business of Ecotourism Development and Management
cotourism has become an important economicactivity in natural areas around the world. It pro-vides opportunities for visitors to experience powerfulmanifestations of nature and culture and to learn aboutthe importance of biodiversity conservation and localcultures. At the same time, ecotourism generates incomefor conservation programs and economic benefits forcommunities living in rural and remote areas.The attributes of ecotourism make it a valuable toolfor conservation. Its implementation can:
give economic value to ecosystem services that pro-tected areas provide;
generate direct income for the conservation of pro-tected areas;
generate direct and indirect income for local stake-holders, creating incentives for conservation inlocal communities;
build constituencies for conservation, locally,nationally and internationally;
promote sustainable use of natural resources; and
reduce threats to biodiversity.Some areas have greater potential for realizing thebenefits of ecotourism than others. In areas with lowvisitation, the potential is not usually clear. In others,tourism may already be an important factor. In bothcases, the ecotourism planning process is critical toachieving ecotourism’s potential as a powerful conser-vation strategy.Of course, not all tourism to natural areas is eco-tourism. Nature tourism, as opposed to ecotourism,may lack mechanisms for mitigating impacts on theenvironment and fail to demonstrate respect for localculture. Nature tourism is also booming economically.Consequently, we are witnessing an onslaught of visita-tion to natural areas that, in many cases, is undermin-ing the values that make these areas attractive.Because of their ecological value, protected areas,especially those found in the tropics and in less-devel-oped countries, contain many of the world’s greatestecotourism attractions. These attractions may consistof rare or endemic species of flora or fauna, abundantwildlife, high indices of species diversity, unusual orspectacular geomorphological formations, or uniquehistoric or contemporary cultural manifestations in anatural context.Protected area managers, then, are faced with thechallenge of controlling and limiting the impacts of unfettered nature tourism while at the same time decid-ing where and how to plan adequately for the develop-ment of ecotourism as a compatible economicdevelopment option.By integrating ecotourism development into a sys-tematic approach to conservation using The NatureConservancy’s Conservation By Design
framework, wecan ensure that ecotourism is initiated only when it isthe most effective strategy to achieve tangible, lastingresults. The distinct but intimately interrelated aspectsof ecotourism, conservation management and businessdevelopment, must be fully understood by ecotourismplanners and protected area managers before movingahead with plans to implement ecotourism activities.Conservationists have typically approached eco-tourism with a limited understanding of business issuesand an incomplete understanding of the managementmechanisms that are available and necessary to ensurethe sustainability of tourism in protected areas. Startingpoints for ecotourism initiatives have typically beenguide training programs or lodge construction, whichare almost guaranteed to end in failure. They have led to:
Conservation by Design: A Framework for Mission Success.
2001. Arlington, Virginia: The Nature Conservancy.