Ecotourism

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Llano del Muerto waterfall in El Salvador Llano del Muerto in Perquin El Salvador.jpg
Llano del Muerto waterfall in El Salvador

Ecotourism is a form of tourism involving visiting fragile, pristine, and relatively undisturbed natural areas, intended as a low-impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial mass tourism. It means responsible travel to natural areas, conserving the environment, and improving the well-being of the local people. [1] Its purpose 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. Since the 1980s, ecotourism has been considered a critical endeavor by environmentalists, so that future generations may experience destinations relatively untouched by human intervention. [2] :33 Several university programs use this description as the working definition of ecotourism. [3]

Tourism travel for recreational or leisure purposes

Tourism is travel for pleasure or business; also the theory and practice of touring, the business of attracting, accommodating, and entertaining tourists, and the business of operating tours. Tourism may be international, or within the traveller's country. The World Tourism Organization defines tourism more generally, in terms which go "beyond the common perception of tourism as being limited to holiday activity only", as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure and not less than 24 hours, business and other purposes".

Economic development is the process by which a nation improves the economic, political, and social well-being of its people. The term has been used frequently by economists, politicians, and others in the 20th and 21st centuries. The concept, however, has been in existence in the West for centuries. "Modernization, "westernization", and especially "industrialization" are other terms often used while discussing economic development. Economic development has a direct relationship with the environment and environmental issues. Economic development is very often confused with industrial development, even in some academic sources.

Human rights Inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled

Human rights are "the basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled" Examples of rights and freedoms which are often thought of as human rights include civil and political rights, such as the right to life, liberty, and property, freedom of expression, pursuit of happiness and equality before the law; and social, cultural and economic rights, including the right to participate in science and culture, the right to work, and the right to education.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Contents

Generally, ecotourism deals with interaction with biotic components of the natural environments. [4] Ecotourism focuses on socially responsible travel, personal growth, and environmental sustainability. Ecotourism typically involves travel to destinations where flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions. Ecotourism is intended to offer tourists an insight into the impact of human beings on the environment and to foster a greater appreciation of our natural habitats.

Flora inventory of plant species in a given region

Flora is the plant life occurring in a particular region or time, generally the naturally occurring or indigenous—native plant life. The corresponding term for animal life is fauna. Flora, fauna and other forms of life such as fungi are collectively referred to as biota. Sometimes bacteria and fungi are also referred to as flora, as in the terms gut flora or skin flora.

Fauna set of animal species in any particular region and time

Fauna is all of the animal life present in a particular region or time. The corresponding term for plants is flora. Flora, fauna and other forms of life such as fungi are collectively referred to as biota. Zoologists and paleontologists use fauna to refer to a typical collection of animals found in a specific time or place, e.g. the "Sonoran Desert fauna" or the "Burgess Shale fauna". Paleontologists sometimes refer to a sequence of faunal stages, which is a series of rocks all containing similar fossils. The study of animals of a particular region is called faunistics.

Cultural heritage physical artifact or intangible attribute of a society inherited from past generations

Cultural heritage is the legacy of physical artifacts and intangible attributes of a group or society that is inherited from past generations.

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. [5] For these reasons, ecotourism often appeals to advocates of environmental and social responsibility.

Recycling process using materials into new products to prevent waste of potentially useful materials

Recycling is the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects. It is an alternative to "conventional" waste disposal that can save material and help lower greenhouse gas emissions. Recycling can prevent the waste of potentially useful materials and reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, thereby reducing: energy usage, air pollution, and water pollution.

Energy conservation reduction in energy usage

Energy conservation effort made to reduce the consumption of energy by using less of an energy service. This can be achieved either by using energy more efficiently or by reducing the amount of service used. Energy conservation is a part of the concept of eco-sufficiency. Energy conservation reduces the need for energy services and can result in increased environmental quality, national security, personal financial security and higher savings. It is at the top of the sustainable energy hierarchy. It also lowers energy costs by preventing future resource depletion.

Water conservation policies, strategies and activities to manage fresh water as a sustainable resource

Water conservation includes all the policies, strategies and activities to sustainably manage the natural resource of fresh water, to protect the hydrosphere, and to meet the current and future human demand. Population, household size, and growth and affluence all affect how much water is used. Factors such as climate change have increased pressures on natural water resources especially in manufacturing and agricultural irrigation. Many US cities have already implemented policies aimed at water conservation, with much success.

Many consider the term "ecotourism", like "sustainable tourism", an oxymoron. Like most forms of tourism, ecotourism generally depends on air transportation, which contributes to global climate change. Additionally, "the overall effect of sustainable tourism is negative where like ecotourism philanthropic aspirations mask hard-nosed immediate self-interest."[ attribution needed ] [6]

Sustainable tourism is the concept of visiting somewhere as a tourist and trying to make a positive impact on the environment, society, and economy. Tourism can involve primary transportation to the general location, local transportation, accommodations, entertainment, recreation, nourishment and shopping. It can be related to travel for leisure, business and what is called VFR. There is now broad consensus that tourism development should be sustainable; however, the question of how to achieve this remains an object of debate.

Global warming rise in the average temperature of the Earths climate system and its related effects

Global warming is a long-term rise in the average temperature of the Earth's climate system, an aspect of climate change shown by temperature measurements and by multiple effects of the warming. Though earlier geological periods also experienced episodes of warming, the term commonly refers to the observed and continuing increase in average air and ocean temperatures since 1900 caused mainly by emissions of greenhouse gasses in the modern industrial economy. In the modern context the terms global warming and climate change are commonly used interchangeably, but climate change includes both global warming and its effects, such as changes to precipitation and impacts that differ by region. Many of the observed warming changes since the 1950s are unprecedented in the instrumental temperature record, and in historical and paleoclimate proxy records of climate change over thousands to millions of years.

Criteria

Seal watching near Malusi Islands in Estonia. Hulgevaatlus, postipaat Helge.JPG
Seal watching near Malusi Islands in Estonia.

Ecotourism is tourism which is conducted responsibly to conserve the environment and sustain the well-being of local people. [7] It...

Biodiversity Variety and variability of life forms

Biodiversity refers to the variety and variability of life on Earth. Biodiversity is typically a measure of variation at the genetic, species, and ecosystem level. Terrestrial biodiversity is usually greater near the equator, which is the result of the warm climate and high primary productivity. Biodiversity is not distributed evenly on Earth, and is richest in the tropics. These tropical forest ecosystems cover less than 10 percent of earth's surface, and contain about 90 percent of the world's species. Marine biodiversity is usually highest along coasts in the Western Pacific, where sea surface temperature is highest, and in the mid-latitudinal band in all oceans. There are latitudinal gradients in species diversity. Biodiversity generally tends to cluster in hotspots, and has been increasing through time, but will be likely to slow in the future.

Cultural diversity Quality of diverse or different cultures

Cultural diversity is the quality of diverse or different cultures, as opposed to monoculture, the global monoculture, or a homogenization of cultures, akin to cultural decay. The phrase cultural diversity can also refer to having different cultures respect each other's differences. The phrase "cultural diversity" is also sometimes used to mean the variety of human societies or cultures in a specific region, or in the world as a whole. Globalization is often said to have a negative effect on the world's cultural diversity.

Ecosystem A community of living organisms together with the nonliving components of their environment

An ecosystem is a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment, interacting as a system. These biotic and abiotic components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Energy enters the system through photosynthesis and is incorporated into plant tissue. By feeding on plants and on one-another, animals play an important role in the movement of matter and energy through the system. They also influence the quantity of plant and microbial biomass present. By breaking down dead organic matter, decomposers release carbon back to the atmosphere and facilitate nutrient cycling by converting nutrients stored in dead biomass back to a form that can be readily used by plants and other microbes.

The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of local people, and involves interpretation and education".

For many countries, ecotourism is not simply a marginal activity to finance protection of the environment, but a major industry of the national economy. For example, in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nepal, Kenya, Madagascar and territories such as Antarctica, ecotourism represents a significant portion of the gross domestic product and economic activity. [8] [10]

Ecotourism is often misinterpreted as any form of tourism that involves nature (see Jungle tourism). Self-proclaimed practitioners and hosts of ecotourism experiences assume it is achieved by simply creating destinations in natural areas. According to critics of this commonplace and assumptive practice, true ecotourism must, above all, sensitize people to the beauty and the fragility of nature. These critics condemn some operators as greenwashing their operations: using the labels of "green" and "eco-friendly”, while behaving in environmentally irresponsible ways. [11]

Although academics disagree about who can be classified as an ecotourist and there is little statistical data, some estimate that more than five million ecotourists—the majority of the ecotourist population—come from the United States, with many others from Western Europe, Canada and Australia. [8]

Currently, there are various moves to create national and international ecotourism accreditation programs, although the process is also controversial. [12] National ecotourism certification programs have been put in place in countries such as Costa Rica, Australia, Kenya, Estonia, and Sweden.[ citation needed ]

Terminology and history

A hanging bridge in ecotourism area of Thenmala, Kerala in India - India's first planned ecotourism destination HANGING BRIDGE THENMALA.JPG
A hanging bridge in ecotourism area of Thenmala, Kerala in India - India's first planned ecotourism destination

Ecotourism is a late 20th-century neologism compounded from eco- and tourism. According to the Oxford English Dictionary , ecotour was first recorded in 1973 and ecotourism, "probably after ecotour", in 1982. [13]

One source claims the terms were used earlier. Claus-Dieter (Nick) Hetzer, an academic and adventurer from Forum International in Berkeley, CA, supposedly coined ecotourism in 1965 and ran the first ecotours in the Yucatán during the early 1970s. [14]

Improving sustainability

Principles

Ecotourism in both terrestrial and marine ecosystems can benefit conservation, provided the complexities of history, culture, and ecology in the affected regions are successfully navigated. [15] Catherine Macdonald and colleagues identify the factors which determine conservation outcome, namely whether: animals and their habits are sufficiently protected; conflict between people and wildlife is avoided or at least suitably mitigated; there is good outreach and education of the local population into the benefits of ecotourism; there is effective collaboration with stakeholders in the area; and there is proper use of the money generated by ecotourism to conserve the local ecology. [15] They conclude that ecotourism works best to conserve predators when the tourism industry is supported both politically and by the public, and when it is monitored and controlled at local, national, and international levels. [15]

Regulation and accreditation

Because the regulation of ecotourism may be poorly implemented, ecologically destructive greenwashed operations like underwater hotels, helicopter tours, and wildlife theme parks can be categorized as ecotourism along with canoeing, camping, photography, and wildlife observation. The failure to acknowledge responsible, low-impact ecotourism puts legitimate ecotourism companies at a competitive disadvantage.

Many environmentalists have argued for a global standard of accreditation, differentiating ecotourism companies based on their level of environmental commitment, creating a standard to follow. A national or international regulatory board would enforce accreditation procedures, with representation from various groups including governments, hotels, tour operators, travel agents, guides, airlines, local authorities, conservation organizations, and non-governmental organizations. [16] The decisions of the board would be sanctioned by governments, so that non-compliant companies would be legally required to disassociate themselves from the use of the ecotourism brand.

Crinion suggests a Green Stars System, based on criteria including a management plan, benefit for the local community, small group interaction, education value and staff training. [12] Ecotourists who consider their choices would be confident of a genuine ecotourism experience when they see the higher star rating.

Environmental impact assessments could also be used as a form of accreditation. Feasibility is evaluated from a scientific basis, and recommendations could be made to optimally plan infrastructure, set tourist capacity, and manage the ecology. This form of accreditation is more sensitive to site specific conditions.

Some countries have their own certification programs for ecotourism. Costa Rica, for example, runs the Certification of Sustainable Tourism (CST) program, which is intended to balance the effect that business has on the local environment. The CST program focuses on a company's interaction with natural and cultural resources, the improvement of quality of life within local communities, and the economic contribution to other programs of national development. CST uses a rating system that categorizes a company based upon how sustainable its operations are. CST evaluates the interaction between the company and the surrounding habitat; the management policies and operation systems within the company; how the company encourages its clients to become an active contributor towards sustainable policies; and the interaction between the company and local communities/the overall population. Based upon these criteria, the company is evaluated for the strength of its sustainability. The measurement index goes from 0 to 5, with 0 being the worst and 5 being the best. [17] [18]

Guidelines and education

Ecotour guide stands on a kayak spotting dolphins and manatees, around Lido Key 2017 Sarasota Adventure Kayak Guided Tour Cormorant among the Fleet 04 FRD 9405.jpg
Ecotour guide stands on a kayak spotting dolphins and manatees, around Lido Key

An environmental protection strategy must address the issue of ecotourists removed from the cause-and-effect of their actions on the environment. More initiatives should be carried out to improve their awareness, sensitize them to environmental issues, and care about the places they visit. [8]

Tour guides are an obvious and direct medium to communicate awareness. With the confidence of ecotourists and intimate knowledge of the environment, tour guides can actively discuss conservation issues. Informing ecotourists about how their actions on the trip can negatively impact their environment and the local people. A tour guide training program in Costa Rica's Tortuguero National Park has helped mitigate negative environmental impacts by providing information and regulating tourists on the parks' beaches used by nesting endangered sea turtles. [19] [20]

Small scale, slow growth and local control

The underdevelopment theory of tourism describes a new form of imperialism by multinational corporations that control ecotourism resources. These corporations finance and profit from the development of large scale ecotourism that causes excessive environmental degradation, loss of traditional culture and way of life, and exploitation of local labor. In Zimbabwe and Nepal's Annapurna region, where underdevelopment is taking place, more than 90 percent of ecotourism revenues are expatriated to the parent countries, and less than 5 percent go into local communities. [21]

The lack of sustainability highlights the need for small scale, slow growth, and locally based ecotourism. Local peoples have a vested interest in the well-being of their community, and are therefore more accountable to environmental protection than multinational corporations, though they receive very little of the profits. The lack of control, westernization, adverse impacts to the environment, loss of culture and traditions outweigh the benefits of establishing large scale ecotourism. Additionally, culture loss can be attributed to cultural commodification, in which local cultures are commodified in order to make a profit [22] .

The increased contributions of communities to locally managed ecotourism create viable economic opportunities, including high-level management positions, and reduce environmental issues associated with poverty and unemployment. Because the ecotourism experience is marketed to a different lifestyle from large scale ecotourism, the development of facilities and infrastructure does not need to conform to corporate Western tourism standards, and can be much simpler and less expensive. [23] There is a greater multiplier effect on the economy, because local products, materials, and labor are used. Profits accrue locally and import leakages are reduced. [24] The Great Barrier Reef Park in Australia reported over half of a billion dollars of indirect income in the area and added thousands of indirect jobs between 2004 and 2005. [20] However, even this form of tourism may require foreign investment for promotion or start up. When such investments are required, it is crucial for communities to find a company or non-governmental organization that reflects the philosophy of ecotourism; sensitive to their concerns and willing to cooperate at the expense of profit. The basic assumption of the multiplier effect is that the economy starts off with unused resources, for example, that many workers are cyclically unemployed and much of industrial capacity is sitting idle or incompletely utilized. By increasing demand in the economy, it is then possible to boost production. If the economy was already at full employment, with only structural, frictional, or other supply-side types of unemployment, any attempt to boost demand would only lead to inflation. For various laissez-faire schools of economics which embrace Say's Law and deny the possibility of Keynesian inefficiency and under-employment of resources, therefore, the multiplier concept is irrelevant or wrong-headed.

As an example, consider the government increasing its expenditure on roads by $1 million, without a corresponding increase in taxation. This sum would go to the road builders, who would hire more workers and distribute the money as wages and profits. The households receiving these incomes will save part of the money and spend the rest on consumer goods. These expenditures, in turn, will generate more jobs, wages, and profits, and so on with the income and spending circulating around the economy.

The multiplier effect arises because of the induced increases in consumer spending which occur due to the increased incomes — and because of the feedback into increasing business revenues, jobs, and income again. This process does not lead to an economic explosion not only because of the supply-side barriers at potential output (full employment) but because at each "round", the increase in consumer spending is less than the increase in consumer incomes. That is, the marginal propensity to consume (MPC) is less than one, so that each round some extra income goes into saving, leaking out of the cumulative process. Each increase in spending is thus smaller than that of the previous round, preventing an explosion.

Efforts to preserve ecosystems at risk

Some of the world's most exceptional biodiversity is located in the Galapagos Islands. These islands were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979, then added to UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger in 2007. IGTOA is a non-profit dedicated to preserving this unique living laboratory against the challenges of invasive species, human impact, and tourism. [25] For travelers who want to be mindful of the environment and the impact of tourism, it is recommended to utilize an operator that is endorsed by a reputable ecotourism organization. In the case of the Galapagos, IGTOA has a list [26] of the world’s premiere Galapagos Islands tour companies dedicated to the lasting protection and preservation of the destination.

Natural resource management

Natural resource management can be utilized as a specialized tool for the development of ecotourism. There are several places throughout the world where a number of natural resources are abundant. But, with human encroachment and habitats, these resources are depleting. Without the sustainable use of certain resources, they are destroyed, and floral and faunal species are becoming extinct. Ecotourism programs can be introduced for the conservation of these resources. Several plans and proper management programs can be introduced so that these resources remain untouched. Several organizations, NGO's, and scientists are working on this field.

Natural resources of hill areas like Kurseong in West Bengal are plenty in number with various flora and fauna, but tourism for business purpose poised the situation. Researchers' from Jadavpur University are presently working in this area for the development of ecotourism to be used as a tool for natural resource management.

In Southeast Asia government and nongovernmental organizations are working together with academics and industry operators to spread the economic benefits of tourism into the kampungs and villages of the region. A recently formed alliance, the South-East Asian Tourism Organisation (SEATO), is bringing together these diverse players to discuss resource management concerns.

A 2002 summit held in Quebec led to the 2008 Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria, a collaborative effort between the UN Foundation and other advocacy groups. The criteria, which are voluntary, involve the following standards: "effective sustainability planning, maximum social and economic benefits for local communities, minimum negative impacts on cultural heritage, and minimum negative impacts on the environment." [27] [ full citation needed ]There is no enforcing agency or system of punishments.for summit.

Criticism

Definition

In the continuum of tourism activities that stretch from conventional tourism to ecotourism, there has been a lot of contention to the limit at which biodiversity preservation, local social-economic benefits, and environmental impact can be considered "ecotourism". For this reason, environmentalists, special interest groups, and governments define ecotourism differently. Environmental organizations have generally insisted that ecotourism is nature-based, sustainably managed, conservation supporting, and environmentally educated. [8] [28] The tourist industry and governments, however, focus more on the product aspect, treating ecotourism as equivalent to any sort of tourism based in nature. [8] As a further complication, many terms are used under the rubric of ecotourism. [8] Nature tourism, low impact tourism, green tourism, bio-tourism, ecologically responsible tourism, and others have been used in literature and marketing, although they are not necessarily synonymous with ecotourism. [8]

The problems associated with defining ecotourism have often led to confusion among tourists and academics. Many problems are also subject of considerable public controversy and concern because of green washing, a trend towards the commercialization of tourism schemes disguised as sustainable, nature based, and environmentally friendly ecotourism. [8] According to McLaren, [8] these schemes are environmentally destructive, economically exploitative, and culturally insensitive at its worst. They are also morally disconcerting because they mislead tourists and manipulate their concerns for the environment. [29] The development and success of such large scale, energy intensive, and ecologically unsustainable schemes are a testament to the tremendous profits associated with being labeled as ecotourism.

Negative impact

Ecotourism has become one of the fastest-growing sectors of the tourism industry, growing annually by 10–15% worldwide. [30] [ full citation needed ] One definition of ecotourism is "the practice of low-impact, educational, ecologically and culturally sensitive travel that benefits local communities and host countries". [2] :71 Many of the ecotourism projects are not meeting these standards. Even if some of the guidelines are being executed, the local communities are still facing many of the negative impacts. South Africa is one of the countries that is reaping significant economic benefits from ecotourism, but the negative effects far outweigh the positive—including forcing people to leave their homes, gross violations of fundamental rights, and environmental hazards—far outweigh the medium-term economic benefits. [30] [ full citation needed ] A tremendous amount of money and human resources continue to be used for ecotourism despite unsuccessful outcomes, and even more, money is put into public relation campaigns to dilute the effects of criticism. Ecotourism channels resources away from other projects that could contribute more sustainable and realistic solutions to pressing social and environmental problems. "The money tourism can generate often ties parks and managements to ecotourism". [31] But there is a tension in this relationship because ecotourism often causes conflict and changes in land-use rights, fails to deliver promises of community-level benefits, damages environments, and has many other social impacts. Indeed, many argue repeatedly that ecotourism is neither ecologically nor socially beneficial, yet it persists as a strategy for conservation and development, [32] due to the large profits. While several studies are being done on ways to improve the ecotourism structure, some argue that these examples provide a rationale for stopping it altogether. However, there are some positive examples, among them the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) and the Virunga National Park, as judged by WWF. [33]

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 overexploitation of agriculture. [34] At the local level, ecotourism has become a source of conflict over control of land, resources, and tourism profits. In this case, ecotourism has harmed the environment and local people and has led to conflicts over profit distribution. In a perfect world, more efforts would be made towards educating tourists of the environmental and social effects of their travels. Very few regulations or laws stand in place as boundaries for the investors in ecotourism. These should be implemented to prohibit the promotion of unsustainable ecotourism projects and materials which project false images of destinations, demeaning local and indigenous culture.

Though conservation efforts in East Africa are indisputably serving the interests of tourism in the region it is important to make the distinction between conservation acts and the tourism industry. [35] Eastern African communities are not the only of developing regions to experience economic and social harms from conservation efforts. Conservation in the Northwest Yunnan Region of China has similarly brought drastic changes to traditional land use in the region. Prior to logging restrictions imposed by the Chinese Government the industry made up 80 percent of the regions revenue. Following a complete ban on commercial logging the indigenous people of the Yunnan region now see little opportunity for economic development. [36] Ecotourism may provide solutions to the economic hardships suffered from the loss of industry to conservation in the Yunnan in the same way that it may serve to remedy the difficulties faced by the Maasai. As stated, the ecotourism structure must be improved to direct more money into host communities by reducing leakages for the industry to be successful in alleviating poverty in developing regions, but it provides a promising opportunity. [37]

Direct environmental impacts

Ecotourism operations occasionally fail to live up to conservation ideals. It is sometimes overlooked that ecotourism is a highly consumer-centered activity, and that environmental conservation is a means to further economic growth. [38]

Although ecotourism is intended for small groups, even a modest increase in population, however temporary, puts extra pressure on the local environment and necessitates the development of additional infrastructure and amenities. The construction of water treatment plants, sanitation facilities, and lodges come with the exploitation of non-renewable energy sources and the utilization of already limited local resources. [39] The conversion of natural land to such tourist infrastructure is implicated in deforestation and habitat deterioration of butterflies in Mexico and squirrel monkeys in Costa Rica. [40] In other cases, the environment suffers because local communities are unable to meet the infrastructure demands of ecotourism. The lack of adequate sanitation facilities in many East African parks results in the disposal of campsite sewage in rivers, contaminating the wildlife, livestock, and people who draw drinking water from it. [8]

Aside from environmental degradation with tourist infrastructure, population pressures from ecotourism also leaves behind garbage and pollution associated with the Western lifestyle. [41] Although ecotourists claim to be educationally sophisticated and environmentally concerned, they rarely understand the ecological consequences of their visits and how their day-to-day activities append physical impacts on the environment. As one scientist observes, they "rarely acknowledge how the meals they eat, the toilets they flush, the water they drink, and so on, are all part of broader regional economic and ecological systems they are helping to reconfigure with their very activities." [8] Nor do ecotourists recognize the great consumption of non-renewable energy required to arrive at their destination, which is typically more remote than conventional tourism destinations. For instance, an exotic journey to a place 10,000 kilometers away consumes about 700 liters of fuel per person. [42]

Ecotourism activities are, in and of themselves, issues in environmental impact because they may disturb fauna and flora. Ecotourists believe that because they are only taking pictures and leaving footprints, they keep ecotourism sites pristine, but even harmless-sounding activities such as nature hikes can be ecologically destructive. In the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, ecotourists have worn down the marked trails and created alternate routes, contributing to soil impaction, erosion, and plant damage. [8] Where the ecotourism activity involves wildlife viewing, it can scare away animals, disrupt their feeding and nesting sites, [8] or acclimate them to the presence of people. [8] In Kenya, wildlife-observer disruption drives cheetahs off their reserves, increasing the risk of inbreeding and further endangering the species. [8]

Environmental hazards

The industrialization, urbanization and agricultural practices of human society are having a serious impact on the environment. Ecotourism is now also considered to be playing a role in environmental depletion including deforestation, disruption of ecological life systems and various forms of pollution, all of which contribute to environmental degradation. For example, the number of motor vehicles crossing a park increases as tour drivers search for rare species. The number of roads disrupts the grass cover, which has serious consequences on plant and animal species. These areas also have a higher rate of disturbances and invasive species due to increasing traffic off of the beaten path into new, undiscovered areas. [34] Ecotourism also has an effect on species through the value placed on them. "Certain species have gone from being little known or valued by local people to being highly valued commodities. The commodification of plants may erase their social value and lead to overproduction within protected areas. Local people and their images can also be turned into commodities". [32] Kamuaro points out the relatively obvious contradiction that any commercial venture into unspoiled, pristine land inevitably means a higher pressure on the environment. [34]

Local people

Most forms of ecotourism are owned by foreign investors and corporations that provide few benefits to the local people. An overwhelming majority of profits are put into the pockets of investors instead of reinvestment into the local economy or environmental protection leading to further environmental degradation. The limited numbers of local people who are employed in the economy enter at its lowest level and are unable to live in tourist areas because of meager wages and a two-market system. [8]

In some cases, the resentment by local people results in environmental degradation. As a highly publicized case, the Maasai nomads in Kenya killed wildlife in national parks but are now helping the national park to save the wildlife to show aversion to unfair compensation terms and displacement from traditional lands. [24] The lack of economic opportunities for local people also constrains them to degrade the environment as a means of sustenance. [8] The presence of affluent ecotourists encourage the development of destructive markets in wildlife souvenirs, such as the sale of coral trinkets on tropical islands and animal products in Asia, contributing to illegal harvesting and poaching from the environment. In Suriname, sea turtle reserves use a very large portion of their budget to guard against these destructive activities.

Displacement of people

One of the worst examples of communities being moved in order to create a park is the story of the Maasai. About 70% of national parks and game reserves in East Africa are on Maasai land. [34] The first negative impact of tourism was the land lost from the Maasai culture. Local and national governments took advantage of the Maasai’s ignorance on the situation and robbed them of huge chunks of grazing land, putting to risk their only socio-economic livelihood. In Kenya, the Maasai also have not gained any economic benefits. Despite the loss of their land, employment favors better-educated workers. Furthermore, the investors in this area are not local and have not put any profits back into the local economy. In some cases, game reserves can be created without informing or consulting the local people. The only find out when an eviction notice is delivered. [34] Another source of resentment is the manipulation of the local people by their government. "Eco-tourism works to create simplistic images of local people and their uses and understandings of their surroundings. Through the lens of these simplified images, officials direct policies and projects towards the local people and the local people are blamed if the projects fail" (West, 2006). Clearly, tourism as a trade is not empowering the local people who make it rich and satisfying. Instead, ecotourism exploits and depletes, particularly in African Maasai tribes. It has to be reoriented if it is to be useful to local communities and to become sustainable. [34]

Threats to indigenous cultures

Ecotourism often claims that it preserves and "enhances" local cultures. Evidence shows that with the establishment of protected areas local people have illegally lost their homes, and mostly with no compensation. [34] Pushing people onto marginal lands with harsh climates, poor soils, lack of water, and infested with livestock and disease does little to enhance livelihoods even when a proportion of ecotourism profits are directed back into the community. The establishment of parks can create harsh survival realities and deprive the people of their traditional use of land and natural resources. Ethnic groups are increasingly being seen as a "backdrop" to the scenery and wildlife. The local people struggle for cultural survival and freedom of cultural expression while being "observed" by tourists. Local indigenous people also have a strong resentment towards the change, "Tourism has been allowed to develop with virtually no controls. Too many lodges have been built, too much firewood is being used and no limits are being placed on tourism vehicles. They regularly drive off-track and harass the wildlife. Their vehicle tracks criss-cross the entire Masai Mara. Inevitably the bush is becoming eroded and degraded". [34]

Mismanagement

While governments are typically entrusted with the administration and enforcement of environmental protection, they often lack the commitment or capability to manage ecotourism sites. The regulations for environmental protection may be vaguely defined, costly to implement, hard to enforce, and uncertain in effectiveness. [43] Government regulatory agencies, are susceptible to making decisions that spend on politically beneficial but environmentally unproductive projects. Because of prestige and conspicuousness, the construction of an attractive visitor's center at an ecotourism site may take precedence over more pressing environmental concerns like acquiring habitat, protecting endemic species, and removing invasive ones. [8] Finally, influential groups can pressure, and sway the interests of the government to their favor. The government and its regulators can become vested in the benefits of the ecotourism industry which they are supposed to regulate, causing restrictive environmental regulations and enforcement to become more lenient.

Management of ecotourism sites by private ecotourism companies offers an alternative to the cost of regulation and deficiency of government agencies. It is believed that these companies have a self-interest in limited environmental degradation because tourists will pay more for pristine environments, which translates to higher profit. However, theory indicates that this practice is not economically feasible and will fail to manage the environment.

The model of monopolistic competition states that distinctiveness will entail profits, but profits will promote imitation. A company that protects its ecotourism sites is able to charge a premium for the novel experience and pristine environment. But when other companies view the success of this approach, they also enter the market with similar practices, increasing competition and reducing demand. Eventually, the demand will be reduced until the economic profit is zero. A cost-benefit analysis shows that the company bears the cost of environmental protection without receiving the gains. Without economic incentive, the whole premise of self-interest through environmental protection is quashed; instead, ecotourism companies will minimize environment related expenses and maximize tourism demand. [8]

The tragedy of the commons offers another model for economic unsustainability from environmental protection, in ecotourism sites utilized by many companies. [44] Although there is a communal incentive to protect the environment, maximizing the benefits in the long run, a company will conclude that it is in their best interest to utilize the ecotourism site beyond its sustainable level. By increasing the number of ecotourists, for instance, a company gains all the economic benefit while paying only a part of the environmental cost. In the same way, a company recognizes that there is no incentive to actively protect the environment; they bear all the costs, while the benefits are shared by all other companies. The result, again, is mismanagement.

Taken together, the mobility of foreign investment and lack of economic incentive for environmental protection means that ecotourism companies are disposed to establishing themselves in new sites once their existing one is sufficiently degraded.

Case studies

The purpose of ecotourism is to engage tourists in low impact, non-consumptive and locally oriented environments in order to maintain species and habitats — especially in underdeveloped regions. While some ecotourism projects, including some found in the United States, can support such claims, many projects have failed to address some of the fundamental issues that nations face in the first place. Consequently, ecotourism may not generate the very benefits it is intended to provide to these regions and their people, and in some cases leaving economies in a state worse than before. [45]

The following case studies illustrate the rising complexity of ecotourism and its impacts, both positive and negative, on the environment and economies of various regions in the world.

See also

Related Research Articles

International Union for Conservation of Nature international organisation

The International Union for Conservation of Nature is an international organization working in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. It is involved in data gathering and analysis, research, field projects, advocacy, and education. IUCN's mission is to "influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable".

Cultural tourism

Cultural tourism is the subset of tourism concerned with a traveler's engagement with a country or region's culture, specifically the lifestyle of the people in those geographical areas, the history of those people, their art, architecture, religion(s), and other elements that helped shape their way of life.

The Royal Society for The Conservation of Nature (RSCN) is an independent voluntary organization that is devoted to the conservation of Jordan's natural resources; it was established in 1966 with the late King Hussein as Honorary President.

The Environmental Foundation for Africa (EFA) is a Sierra Leone non-governmental organization founded in 1992 that aims to protect and restore the environment in West Africa.

Geotourism

Geotourism deals with the natural and built environments.

Namibia is one of few countries in the world to specifically address habitat conservation and protection of natural resources in their constitution. Article 95 states, "The State shall actively promote and maintain the welfare of the people by adopting international policies aimed at the following: maintenance of ecosystems, essential ecological processes, and biological diversity of Namibia, and utilization of living natural resources on a sustainable basis for the benefit of all Namibians, both present and future.".

More than half the population in South Africa lives below the international established poverty line, but South Africa has used ecotourism to turn around its image and create a profitable situation for people in some areas of the nation. Ecotourism is the idea of bringing tourism into a country without affecting a nation's natural economy by promoting and supporting its biodiversity. Instead of foreign parties entering an African nation to hunt big game, the idea of a "photographic" safari is promoted to attract a more "eco-friendly" clientele. This, amongst other examples, allows a nation to bring in tourism without diminishing its ecological and natural resources while at the same time presenting a more pleasant image to the rest of the world. Ecotourism can help conserve biodiversity and alleviate poverty in South Africa through the creation of local jobs. This is most likely to occur with proper management and planning, both local and regional.

Rural tourism focuses on actively participating in a rural lifestyle. It can be a variant of ecotourism. Many villages can facilitate tourism because many villagers are hospitable and eager to welcome visitors. Agriculture is becoming highly mechanized and therefore, requires less manual labor. This trend is causing economic pressure on some villages, which in turn causes young people to move to urban areas. There is however, a segment of the urban population that is interested in visiting the rural areas and understanding the lifestyle.

Tourism in Kenya

Tourism in Kenya is the second-largest source of foreign exchange revenue following agriculture. The Kenya Tourism Board is responsible for maintaining information pertaining to tourism in Kenya.

Responsible tourism is a relatively modern concept in the Kingdom of Thailand that took root in the late-1990s. It is underpinned by the belief that tourism should develop in a manner that minimizes negative impacts on local communities, and wherever possible ensure that a positive symbiosis exists between hosts and visitors. Responsible travel promotes a respect for indigenous culture, the minimization of the negative environmental impacts of tourism, active participation in volunteering to assist local communities, and the structuring of businesses to benefit the final service provider rather than an international agent.

Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre National Park is a protected area inducted as Italy's first national park in 1999. Located in the province of La Spezia, Liguria, northern Italy, it is the smallest national park in Italy at 4,300 acres, but also the densest with 5,000 permanent inhabitants among the five towns. In addition to the territory of the towns of Cinque Terre, the Cinque Terre National Park encompasses parts of the communes of Levanto and La Spezia. Cinque Terre was included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

Heritage commodification

Heritage commodification is the process by which cultural themes and expressions come to be evaluated primarily in terms of their exchange value, specifically within the context of cultural tourism. These cultural expressions and aspects of heritage become "cultural goods"; transformed into commodities to be bought, sold and profited from in the heritage tourism industry. In the context of modern globalization, complex and often contradictory layers of meaning are produced in local societies, and the marketing of one's cultural expressions can degrade a particular culture while simultaneously assisting in its integration into the global economy. The repatriation of profits, or "leakage", that occurs with the influx of tourist capital into a heritage tourist site is a crucial part of any sustainable development that can be considered beneficial to local communities. Modern heritage tourism reproduces an economic dynamic that is dependent upon capital from tourists and corporations in creating sustained viability. Tourism is often directly tied to economic development, so many populations see globalization as providing increased access to vital medical services and important commodities.

Nabq Protected Area nature reserve in Egypt

NABQ Protected Area (NPA) is a 600 km2 (230 sq mi) protected area located in the Egypt, South Sinai Governorate. It was established by the Prime Ministerial Decree no.1511/1992 and was extended by Decree 33/1996 where Dahab marine section was added to the protected area as a Dahab Environmentally Managed Area DEMA and finally having NABQ Managed Resource Protected Area which is known shortly as (NMRPA).

Ecotourism in Costa Rica

Ecotourism in Costa Rica is one of the key activities of the tourism industry in the country. By the early 1990s, Costa Rica became known as the poster child of ecotourism. The country is among many developing nations that look to ecotourism as a way of cashing in on the growing demand for this popular trend of travel.

Ecotourism in Jordan

Ecotourism in Jordan has grown tremendously due to environmental pressures and the demand for jobs outside of the cities, especially since the establishment of the Dana Biosphere in 1993, the first biosphere reserve.

Valdivia Temperate Rainforest is an area between 36 and 47° S. consisting of a majority of the country Chile and a small part of Argentina totaling about 12.7 million hectares. The Valdivian forest is one of the few forested regions in the world with climate conditions to be considered a temperate climate. Its ecological systems provide habitat for a clustering of some of the highest biodiversity in the world. Many of the species are endemic to Valdivia and are descendants of Gondwana Species. For example, Araucaria araucana or "Monkey Puzzle Tree", and Fitzroya cupressoides "Alerce". Due to the region's unique landscape and biodiversity millions of visitors come to the area annually. National Parks in the region provide opportunities for many tourism operations. In an effort to help preserve and expand conserved areas Ecotourism or Sustainable Tourism plays a vital role. The economic benefits affect not only the park areas but also the local communities. Ecotourism accounts for 4.6% of Chile's GNP.

Environmental impacts of tourism in the Caribbean

The economy in the Caribbean region is highly dependent on its tourism industry; in 2013, this industry constituted 14% of their total GDP. This region is largely appealing for the sun, sand, and sea scene. Despite the fact that tourism is very reliant on the natural environment of the region, it has negative environmental impacts. These impacts include marine pollution and degradation, as well as a high demand for water and energy resources. In particular, the degradation of coral reefs has a large impact on the environment of the Caribbean. Environmental damage affects the tourism industry; therefore, the tourism sector, along with the public sector, makes efforts to protect the environment for economic and ethical reasons. Although these efforts are not always effective, there are continuous efforts for improvement.

Impacts of tourism

The study of the effect that tourism has on environment and communities involved has been part off the tourism discourse since the 1970s, but has garnered much greater attention in recent years due to debates on overtourism. Impacts are not easily categorized, having direct and indirect components. Also tourism is often seasonal, and impacts only become apparent after time, with varying effects, and at different stages of development. There are three main categories.

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Further reading