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Ecotourism: One Means of Attempting to Achieve Sustainability? ENVS 2: International Environmental Issues Thursday, 17 February 2005 Tom Hudspeth.

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Presentation on theme: "Ecotourism: One Means of Attempting to Achieve Sustainability? ENVS 2: International Environmental Issues Thursday, 17 February 2005 Tom Hudspeth."— Presentation transcript:

1 Ecotourism: One Means of Attempting to Achieve Sustainability? ENVS 2: International Environmental Issues Thursday, 17 February 2005 Tom Hudspeth

2 The World Commission on Environment and Development (Brundtland Commission) in Our Common Future (l987) offered a definition of sustainability: “ meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

3 Ecotourism  Technology transfer and diffusion of innovation from Global South to Global North  Much to learn and draw from success stories in developing countries

4 “Nature tourism involves travel to unspoiled places to experience and enjoy nature. It usually involves moderate and safe forms of exercise such as hiking, biking, sailing, and camping. “Wildlife tourism involves travel to observe animals (sic), birds, and fish in their native habitats. “Adventure tourism is nature tourism with a kick: it requires physical skill and endurance (rope-climbing, deep-sea diving, bicycling, or kayaking) and involves a degree of risk-taking, often in little-chartered terrain.

5 Ecotourism  Defined by its benefits to both conservation and people in the host country, as well by the recreational activities of the tourist  More than travel to enjoy or appreciate nature  Goes further than nature tourism, by striving to respect and benefit protected areas as well as the people living around or on these lands

6 Definition of Ecotourism: “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” -The International Ecotourism Society or TIES (2003)

7 Definition of Ecotourism: “Ecotourism is travel to fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas that strives to be low impact and (usually) small scale. It helps educate the traveler; provides funds for conservation; directly benefits the economic development and political empowerment of local communities; and fosters respect for different cultures and for human rights.” -Honey (1999, p. 25)

8 Characteristics of Genuine or Authentic Ecotourism: 1.Involves travel to natural destinations 2.Minimizes impact 3.Builds environmental awareness 4.Provides direct financial benefits for conservation 5.Provides financial benefits and empowerment for local people 6.Respects local culture 7.Supports human rights and democratic movements.” -Honey, 1999, p. 22-24

9 Standards that Characterize Ecotourism: 1.Tourism activity in relatively undisturbed natural settings 2.Minimal negative impacts on the environment 3.Conservation of natural and cultural heritage 4.Active involvement with and benefit to local community 5.Tourism-generated profits contribute to sustainable development 6.Educational experience for visitors that incorporates both natural and cultural heritage -Ceballos-Lascuráin


11 Problems with Conventional Mass Tourism (which has become synonymous with the four S’s: sun, sea, sand, and sex):  igh infrastructure costs  verdevelopment and uneven development  dverse social effects, invasion by culturally insensitive and economically disruptive foreigners  dverse environmental effects, pollution  Meager economic benefits because of leakage, whereby most of the profits do not stay in the host countries

12 Negative Sides of Conventional Tourism's Economic Boom:  Often the only benefit to the local community is found in low- paying, menial service-level employment as maids, waiters, and drivers  In most all-inclusive package tours, more than 80 percent of travelers' fees go to the airlines, hotels and other international companies, not to local businesses or workers.  Large hotel chain restaurants often import food products to satisfy foreign visitors and rarely employ local staff for senior management positions, preventing local farmers and workers from reaping the benefit of their presence.  Resorts and hotels often over-consume natural resources like water and power, forcing utility prices up and causing blackouts and water shortages for locals.

13 Negative Sides of Conventional Tourism's Economic Boom (continued):  Hotel shops often import or buy mass-produced gift items instead of those produced by local craftspeople and artisans.  Many tourists never leave the hotel grounds or cruise ship, reducing the possibility of tourist income for local businesses.  Faced with limited economic prospects, locals lose the incentive to preserve and conserve their natural and cultural resources.” -Honey (1999, p. 9), TIES (2003)

14 Evolution of Ecotourism 1.Scientific, conservation, and nongovernmental organization circles 2.Multilateral aid institutions 3.Developing countries 4.The travel industry and traveling public

15 Tourism  Since the 1990’s, vies with oil as the world’s largest legitimate business.  Worldwide, tourism generates annual revenues of nearly 3 trillion dollars and contributes nearly 11% of the global GNP, making it the world's largest industry.  World’s number one employer, accounting for 10 per cent of jobs globally.

16 Tourism Ecotourism has become the most rapidly growing and most dynamic sector of the tourism market. 1.>one-third of the U.S. traveling public had taken at least one ecotour by the mid-1990’s. 2.Prior to September 11, ecotourism grew by 30 per cent annual increase, compared to a 4 percent growth rate in the U.S. travel industry.

17 Factors Indicating Ecotourism Is Likely to Thrive Over Time: 1. Increased awareness of environmental problems among tourist populations, 2. Willingness of tourists to engage in socially-aware travel, and 3. Interest in visiting lesser-known countries like Thailand and Belize rather than traditional vacation getaways” to places like Cancun and the Canary Islands. - Lindsay (2003)

18 Profile of Ecotourists: 1.Most are between 31 and 50 years of age, equally divided by gender, and physically active. 2.They tend to be better-educated professionals or businesspeople, often from dual-income families with a combined income of $50,00 or more who have a genuine interest in learning something about nature. 3.They are discriminating, and they recognize quality and are willing to pay for it. 4.Many belong to environmental organizations or profess an interest in conservation. 5.Many are also socially-minded and interested in the culture, history, and people in developing countries.

19 Authentic/Genuine Ecotourism Versus “Ecotourism Light” “Greenwashing by superficial, feel-good rhetoric and minor cost- saving modifications that do not transform tourism into a tool that protects the environment, benefits local communities, and educates the tourist

20 Pressing Issues and Challenges Which Must be Addressed in Order to Fully Implement Ecotourism’s Principles:  Local communities, sustainable development, and empowerment  Free trade versus local control  Role of the state  Leakage  Visitors: how many and what kind?  Effects on local cultures  Boom and bust  Standards, monitoring, and evaluation: by whom? -Need for standards and independent third party certification like sustainable forestry, fair trade coffee and tea and cocoa, etc.  Ecotourism in its national context” -Honey (1999, p. 84-94)

21 Critics and Detractors of Ecotourism  Biggest criticism: ecotourism plays a role in destroying the culture and lifestyles of indigenous peoples which it claims it is seeking to protect.  TIES has been working on developing “Rights and Responsibilities: Codes of Conduct for Tourism & Indigenous and Local Communities.”  Setting standards for the interaction between the tourism industry and local communities, particularly indigenous peoples, remains one of the most complex and difficult issues within the ecotourism field.

22 Strategies to Achieve the Principles of Ecotourism: 1.Keep the enterprise to a manageable scale. Small-scale grass-roots development that incorporates the desires and opinions of local people tends to be the best policy. Sustainable development does not imply absolute limits on the number of visitors, but limits based on present technology and organization and on the capacity of the (environment) to absorb present forms of damage. 2.Ensure that construction and maintenance of ecolodges follow environmental protocols to avoid degrading the very areas that tourists value for their pristine qualities. 3.Demonstrate an upfront commitment to environmental objectives, provide quality leadership, and exploit small market niches where personalized service and unique experiences are favored over large-scale operations.

23 Strategies to Achieve the Principles of Ecotourism: 4. Education for host communities and for the tourists who plan to visit them is key to providing both with a good experience. 5. Prioritize conservation over short-term profit. 6. Gain local enthusiasm by doing as much as possible to ensure that benefits are shared fairly and that no one shoulders a disproportionate share of the cost. 7. Develop an economy that does not rely on tourism as the sole source of income for the community.

24 Strategies to Achieve the Principles of Ecotourism: 8. Follow principles of common sense. 9. Gain necessary government support to provide financial backing for rural and indigenous people who lack the resources to acquire education or start up business initiatives, to provide organization and coordination of ecotourism efforts, to give small communities access to knowledge about sustainable development, and to prevent abuses. But do not allow government control to overshadow local interests. 10. Strive for local ownership and 80% local staffing.

25 What YOU (as a Responsible Ecotourist) Can Do!  Choose locally-owned and operated lodges, hotels, tour guides. Take advantage of local taxis, buses and car rental agencies.  Support local and international tour companies and accommodations that employ local people and purchase locally- grown foodstuffs.  Eat in local restaurants and shop in local markets.  Purchase souvenirs from local shops and artisans.  When paying locals for goods or services, make every effort to offer a fair price.  Pay access fees to protected sites, even when voluntary. Your money supports local efforts to conserve those areas.  Frequent local cultural events. Your money helps local artists and performers and encourages preservation of cultural heritage.” -TIES (2003)

26 Summary 1. Ecotourism offers an opportunity for communities and individuals that possess interesting natural and cultural resources “to develop sustainable economic strategies, instead of pursuing environmentally-damaging patterns of resource use. 2. Finding a compromise between preservation and development is often challenging, and ecotourism can generate additional environmental problems for the very regions it is intended to protect. 3.Ecotourism can live up to its promise if it follows the principles of wise development, adequately monitors and protects its resources, and ensures fair distribution of profits within the host community; and avoids the pitfalls of unsustainable or unregulated tourism that damages the resources we all value. 4.While not a panacea or silver bullet, it does offer great promise.

27 UVM Travel-Study Courses to Latin America Studying Ecotourism  Focus: all address sustainability, ecotourism, and environmental interpretation  Starting point is one of humility, recognizing that we have more to learn from them than they from us when it comes to living sustainably  Venues: -Brazil or Honduras during January break -Belize over extended spring break -Galapagos Islands & Amazon rainforest in Ecuador, or Costa Rica during summer session  First-hand knowledge about tropical forest ecosystems (as well as coral reef ecosystems, in the case of Belize)  Emphasis on community-based sustainable development/conservation/ protection of biodiversity/ecotourism

28 Community-Based Conservation  Members of the community cooperate in protecting the biodiversity of their natural communities and offer ecotourism efforts from which they benefit financially far more than they would if they cut down the forests and engaged in slash-and-burn agriculture or ranching, killed the wildlife, etc.  Sharp contrast with the North American tradition of practicing conservation by setting aside tracts of land as parks or other protected areas

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