Ecotourism and the environment: The environment is one of the primary concerns of ecotourism, which often involves travel

to relatively undisturbed areas. As the tourism product is often dependent upon nature, negative impacts upon that resource should be minimized. As Cater [1994] notes, even the most conscientious tourist will have some degree of impact on the environment and so ecotourism should therefore attempt to minimize that impact. Many studies of tourism attempt to identify an environmental carrying capacity but a major difficulty of this technique is that it “implies the existence of fixed and determinable limits to development and that if one stays below those threshold levels no changes or deterioration will occur” [Murphy, 1994, p.282; see also Gunn, 1994, Farrell & Runyan, 1991, p.31]. Ecotourism, the local population and economic benefits: A definition of ecotourism must also take into account the local population - ecotourism should minimize negative impacts on the host community because otherwise the local population may come to dislike the presence of tourism, and this could undermine its long-term prospects. Tourism is likely to have the greatest socio-cultural impacts on small, isolated communities [Pearce, 1994] which may themselves be one of the tourist attractions. As a result, any cultural changes in the community's way of life may reduce the tourism product's overall marketability and therefore future prospects. At the same time, ecotourism should produce direct economic benefits for the local community if it is to receive their continued support – benefits that should compliment rather than overwhelm traditional practices and sources of income [Wallace & Pierce, 1996]. However, such economic benefits and material wealth obtained by the local community may themselves lead to cultural changes in their way of life. The literature on ecotourism asserts that economic benefits should be accrued by the host community whilst at the same time preserving the environment and cultural way of life of that community. Little of the literature acknowledges the fact that the two will often be mutually exclusive. An article by Wall [1997] notes that “ecotourism is an agent of change” [p.490]. He also notes the widespread misuse of the term “sustainable tourism”, asserting that it should be considered as “tourism which is in a form which can maintain its viability in an area for an indefinite period or time” [ Butler , 1993, cited in Wall, 1997, p.486]. Considering that “ecotourism is not automatically

Ecotourism is often found in designated protected areas or national parks which may have been imposed upon the indigenous population and if they can see no benefit from it's existence. Ecotourism is regarded by some critics as a form of neo-colonialism. Healy. ecotourism is required to provide direct economic benefits to the local community and minimize negative environmental and socio-cultural impacts. 1997. The most likely way these objectives can be achieved . 1994. Instead it is the rich consumer in the industrialised North with leisure and wealth to be a tourist in the Third World who gains from the designation of national parks”. 1994]. Such an argument questions the underlying principle of ecotourism – that it is a sustainable form of tourism. The degree of control the local population has over tourism in their locality is generally perceived as being a significant element of sustainability [Mowforth & Munt.850]. According to Wallace and Pierce [1996].490]. Without economic benefits. the host community will have little reason to view the intrusion of tourists positively and will have little incentive to protect the environment upon which tourism depends. It rarely seems to be the local people and. p. they may have little incentive to adhere to the environmental regulations of the “common pool” resource [Hardin. it may have to be viewed as part of a longer term strategy of sustainable development in which tourism is later phased out [Prosser.177]: “There is the question of who actually gains from the construction of parks. There are important reasons for local involvement other than a moral obligation to incorporate the people tourism will affect. ecotourism is a type of tourism that “maximizes the early and longterm participation of local people in the decision making process that determines the kind and amount of tourism that should occur” [p. 1968.sustainable” [Wall. and the question of who actually benefits from the designation of protected areas is addressed by Mowforth and Munt [1998. 1997]. It is widely agreed that the host population should receive economic benefits from ecotourism. 1998]. part of the answer seems to be found in the removal of local rights and a loss or denial of ownership. indeed. Ecotourism and local participation Great importance is attached to the need for local participation in ecotourism. see also Bird. p. As was noted earlier.

helping managers to avoid or plan for decisions that might otherwise cause conflict with the local population. p. p. The degree of power wielded by the local community in relation to tourism activities is crucial to its long-term prospects and sustainability. They are also more likely to ensure that traditions and lifestyles will be respected. Cater [1994. Wight [1994. the time perspective of the local population is longer than that of outside entrepreneurs concerned with early profits. . p.84] points out that: “In terms of conserving the natural and socio-cultural resource base. as Mowforth & Munt [1998. if the local community are actively participating in and empowered through ecotourism. 1998]. “the push for local participation comes from a position of power.240] note.134] notes further advantages of involving the local community in ecotourism projects: “Local participation functions as an early warning system. Their empowerment might go some way to counter the claim that tourism. Drake [1991.” Tourism that includes indigenous communities as part of the tourist attraction is often accused of being a process of zooification which leads to a position of powerlessness for the local people. The key to avoiding such situations is local control of and participation in the tourism activity [Mowforth & Munt. and ecotourism in particular. Their co-operation is also a vital factor in reducing infringements of conservation regulations such as poaching and indiscriminate tree-felling”. including a participation program in the design stage of a project provides the opportunity for the local community to become educated about the purpose and benefits of the project. is a form of neo-colonialism.40] asserts that ecotourism “should involve education among all parties – local communities. the First World” Ecotourism and education The final principle to which ecotourism should adhere is that of education. Also. thereby increasing support for the effort. p.

81]. when the United Nations celebrated the "International Year of Ecotourism". by providing jobs to local populations sharing of socio-economical benefits with local communities and indigenous people by having their informed consent and participation in management of ecotourism business. Ecotourism essentially means ecological tourism. The tourism industry defines it as being "environmentally responsible travel to relatively undisturbed areas. and aid agencies favor ecotourism as a vehicle to sustainable development. to enjoy and appreciate nature and accompanying cultural features and to become aware of the need for preserving natural capital and cultural capital. during and after the trip)”.government. Guides should therefore have been taught conservation issues and the tourists should be told about local conservation efforts and why they are deemed important. where ecological has both environmental and social connotations. industry and tourists (before. new movement and there are various definitions. Ideally. through ecosystems protection promotion of sustainable use of biodiversity. ecotourism is not so much seen as a marginal activity intended to finance protection of the environment than as a major sector of national economy and as a means of . Born in its current form in the late 1980s." However. Tourists should be made aware of the damaging potential of their stay and should be properly informed on “ecotourism etiquette” and how to behave to reduce any negative impacts they might have [Cater. non-governmental organizations. Ecotourism must satisfy several criteria. Ecotourism came of age in 2002. p. Many global environmental organizations. such as • conservation (and justification for conservation) of biological diversity and cultural diversity. increase of environmental & cultural knowledge minimisation of tourism's own environmental impact affordability and lack of waste in the form of luxury • • • • • For many countries. It is defined both as a concept / tourism movement and as a tourism sector.. 1994. this is a vibrant. Ecotourism should have low visitor impact and should contribute to the well-being of local populations.

Critics claim that ecotourism as practiced and abused often consists in placing a hotel in a splendid landscape. Countries where Ecotourism has been championed by the government include Costa Rica and Australia. ecotourism represents a significant chunk of foreign revenue. in countries such as Kenya. ecotourism must above all sensitize people with the beauty and the fragility of nature. although the process is causing controversy. According to them. with other ecotourists coming from Europe. They condemn some operators as "green-washing" their operations--that is. some estimate that more than five million ecotourists--the majority of the worldwide population--come from the United States. to the detriment of the ecosystem. Ecuador. Although academics argue about who can be classified as an ecotourist. and there is precious little statistical data. Nepal. while behaving in environmentally irresponsible ways. Canada and Australia.getting currencies. . Costa Rica and Madagascar. Currently there are various moves to create national and international Ecotourism certification programs. For example. using the label of "ecotourism" and "green-friendly".

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