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Research method paper: impact of tourism on local communities Essay

Impact of Ecotourism on Local Communities

Table of Contents

Table of Figures

Section1: Introduction

With the main objective of promoting responsible travel to natural areas, the well-being of communities and the environmental conservation, ecotourism is presented as an alternative type of tourism which is growing incredibly fast (Scheyvens, 1999). One of the objectives of ecotourism is to bring benefits to local communities. The important relationship between ecotourism and local communities could be explained by the fact that traditional homelands of indigenous people are usually the most natural and least developed areas of the world (Coria & Calfucura, 2012) The paper is first reviewing the different impacts that ecotourism can have on local communities. The development of ecotourism can have an important economic impact and can generate income, employment and business opportunities (Yacob, Shuib, & Radam, 2008).

Thus, several developing countries have adopted ecotourism with the hope to improve their economy in an environmentally sustainable manner (Coria & Calfucura, 2012). In the second part, a deep analysis of the methodology of three articles about the impact of ecotourism on local communities has been done. The analysis shows both strengths and weaknesses of each types of methodologies that were used and help then to determine which one would be the most suitable when writing an undergraduate dissertation with similar aim. Concerning the methodology that was used for this project, the information was mainly taken from university databases, academic journals and reports as well as the research methods books to help the analyze of the methodologies.

Section 2: Literature Review
Ecotourism is being proposed as a strategy that will help to resolve social and economic issues encountered by local communities, and as an adequate and effective way of of conserving the environment (Garrod, 2003). Thus, this concept has been adopted by many developing countries with the hope that it will bring them economic benefits (Coria & Calfucura, 2012). However, several authors wondered whether local communities are really beneficiating from those benefits (Jones, 2005). Sheyvens (1999) also agree on the fact that to ensure the process of ecotourism will be a success only if they are sharing the benefits of it. The reasons why local communities should consider the ecotourism include becoming aware of natural attractions value, understanding the necessity for sustainable tourism and the environment conservation. Also, several benefits should be taken into consideration such as the additional revenues that it could generate for any local types of business as well as the increase in employment opportunities and the enhancement of their culture. Unfortunately, even though ecotourism is bringing benefits, some drawbacks have to be taken into consideration.

For instance, host communities do not participate a lot in decision making; they are also sometimes exploited for the resources without receiving any benefits, it can damage their community cohesion and the rapid tourism growth can precipitate important socio-cultural changes (Wearing & Neil, 2009). Belsky truly encourages local community to participate into conservation and ecotourism but he mentions that they will not do so unless communities benefit from tourism (as cited in Stronza & Gordillo, 2008). Ecotourism is certainly bringing many economic benefits but is also improving many different aspects of the communities’ livelihood. Garrod (2003) explains that by involving them in the ecotourism project, they will obtain bigger control over their resources and over the decisions concerning the use of such resources that affect the way they live. However, some negative aspects of ecotourism should be considered. Only few local communities, engaged in ecotourism or really close to tourism operations and preserved areas, have realized real benefits from it. Several tour operators have been unenthusiastic with the fact that they had to share the possible returns with local communities (Stronza & Gordillo, 2008). In the same way, Lima and d’Hauteserre (2011) stated that tour operators do not help the communities in the way they should. Also, even though ecotourism is generating new revenues, it is increasing the gap between the richer and the poorer.

Earnings are most of the time unequal and conflicts are emerging which are breaking the social cohesion of local communities. Information retrieved from different interviews, it appeared clearly that the profits received were not sufficient and could not support everyone (Stronza & Gordillo, 2008). Retrieved from other interviews with other communities, the same idea was shared concerning the fact that economic benefits could generate new conflicts within the community such as disputes between the members, misunderstanding concerning the revenues distribution and tasks allocations, which could then lead to a more important problem if people do not collaborate a right way (Lima & d’ Hauteserre, 2011) Some of the interviewees testified that ecotourism was not the solution to fix economic issues but agreed on the fact that it could bring more opportunities such as establishing a good network, developing new skills and better self-esteem (Stronza & Gordillo, 2008).

Locals seem to become more aware of their own culture through the relation established between tourists and outsiders and this seems to increase the community self-esteem and beliefs (Lima & d’ Hauteserre, 2011). According to Jones, when local communities are completely involved in the ecotourism process, being directly engaged in decision making and working independently with management tasks, they become aware of the fact that new skills are required. Therefore, many people attended training sessions, sometimes organized by the government or associations. This helps them to face new realities and new habits (Lima & d’ Hauteserre, 2011). Also, ecotourism can have an impact on locals that are not directly working into the ecotourism sector. For instance, the presentation of handicrafts, folklore, tales and basically the presentation of their culture appear to reduce the inferiority feelings that some local people could feel.

It also enhances their identity and they become more aware of their culture leading to a better self-esteem (Lima & d’ Hauteserre, 2011). Thus, even if ecotourism could appear is an ideal alternative type of tourism that will help to address economic and social issues toward local communities, some negative aspects should not be neglected. To make sure that the process is working perfectly, improvements need to be done. Also, local communities should not be exploited and should receive the benefits of their involvement (Wearing & Neil, 2009).

Section 3: Comparison of methodologies

In this section, methodologies of three different articles used in the previous literature will be analyzed and compared taking into account their strengths and weaknesses and more specifically their validity, reliability and truthfulness. The three articles that will be compared are: “Community views of ecotourism” by Stronza, “Ecotourism impacts in the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica” by Almeyda, Broadbent, Wyman, and Durham, and “Community capitals and ecotourism for enhancing Amazonian forest livelihoods” by Lima and d’Hauteserre. All three articles are talking about the impact of ecotourism on local communities but they however differ by the method they used to obtain their information. To do a better comparison of the methodologies, the book “Research Methods For Business Students” wrteen by Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill was really useful.

1. Stronza, 2008 “Community views of ecotourism”.
2. Almeyda, Broadbent, Wyman, and Durham, 2010 “Ecotourism impacts in the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica”- 3. Lima, d’Hauteserre, 2011, “Community capitals and ecotourism for enhancing Amazonian forest livelihoods” Method and approach used

Quantitative and qualitative approach

Use of secondary data

In depth interviews with local households

Semi structured interviews with community leaders
Qualitative approach, use of primary data
Deductive approach (but inductive at some points)
In depth surveys, semi structured interviews
Qualitative approach: use of secondary and primary data.
Mix of inductive and deductive approach
Structured participant Observations
In-depth and semi-structured interviews
Aim and objectives of the article
Give an overview of what host communities think of the impact of ecotourism Determine the effects of the Punta Islita eco-lodge on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. Investigate how ecotourism development enhances existing capital at community level. Location

Amazone region:
Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica
Brazil, Amazonia:
Time Period
The study was done during six months in 2003 and consisted of three five-days workshop. 2008 (time of publication)
Three months fieldwork
Purposive sampling
164 households (62 from Peru,67 from Bolivia, 35 from Ecuador,represented 45%, 55% and 7% of the communities population.) One community leader from each commnity

Purposive sample with 63 households within 45 had at least a member employed in the lodge and 17 not employed by tourism industry but still receiving revenue from it Random sampling for employees in depth surveys

39 tourists filled out self-administered questionnaires
27 community inhabitants
42 local stakeholders (10 people from tour operators, 10 frim NGOs and 22 people from government environmental agencies

Interview framework
Semi-structured interview of 2-3 hours
Open ended
In depth interviews with households
Semi structured interviews with community leaders and self administred questionnaire for hotel guests In depth questionnaire –based surveys
Not specified with who they did each types of interview
Benefits and indicators of success in each site were determined by emic, or subjective rather than etic. This research may reflect a situation that might change
Sample size
Stronza, 2008
Almeyda, Broadbent, Wyman, and Durham, 2010
Coria and Calfucura, 2012
Table Comparison of methodology

The first article written by Stronza, is giving an interesting approach as an overview of the topic is first given to describe ecotourism in general as well as the possible benefits it could bring to local communities. The author then relied on a study done 5 years before which had for goals to hear the community’s opinion which used in depth interview with local households and semi structured with community leaders during workshops. As the study was done in different countries which are Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador it allows readers to think at a big scale and it is probably more reliable than a study done only in one specific area. A possible weakness would be that, as in-depth interviews are used, even though interviewers have some key questions that they need to cover, their use will depend from one interview to another interview.

Concerning the second article written by Almeyda, Broadbent, Wyman, and Durham, it is mostly based on the collection of primary data with surveys, interviews and questionnaires that they conducted themselves in one specific eco-lodge among guests, employees and locals. The weakness of this article, even if none seem to be mentioned in it, is probably the sample size and the fact that the semi structured interviews can lead to data quality issues. Indeed, as it may be hard to standardize the different kind of interviews, this may lead to reliability problem. Also interviews are reflecting reality at the moment they were collected and therefore the results obtained from those interviews will not be automatically the same in similar interviews will be conducted in the future. In contrast with the first article, this one used mainly primary data whereas the first one used secondary data. Also, in this article, the study was undertaken only in Costa Rica, which was probably the purpose of the writers, but it narrows the research for someone reading the article. Writers could have undertaken their study to another country to compare both analysis.

The last article consists of a collection of secondary and primary data, collected through structured participant observations as well as in-depth and semi-structured interviews. The strength of this article is that, as secondary data sources, it provides data that are easy to check. Also, it allows scholars or researchers to save time and effort by providing thoughts of several authors about one specific topic. However, when using secondary data, readers have to be careful that the sources cited in one literature review were not misunderstood by the one writing the literature review and that they are reliable and valid sources. Although, a possible weakness of the last article would be that the case study do not automatically reflect what is happening in other regions.

As the study took place in Brazil, it is not a standardized model that could be applicable to another community everywhere else in the world. Also, their sample was really interesting as they interviewed people for NGOs, tour operators and governmental agencies as well as with local people. Thus once the information has been gathered it gave to the readers a better and generalized overview of the ecotourism impact of locals. Structured observations help also to do that but the main issues about it is the question of reliability as the observer must interpret something in a wrong way and therefore the observer should make sure he understood the setting very well before interpreting.

Section 4: Selection of Methodology
Out of the three articles cited in the above section, the one with the most appropriate methodology for the dissertation of an undergraduate student would be the first one. As previously analyzed, the methodology used in this article proposed first a sort of literature review which seems crucial to have an overview of the topic and then series of results obtained through in depth interview with local households and semi structured interviews with community leaders. The most interesting thing is that it is representing three different countries which are Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador, that are still close to each other in South America but representing different cultures. By providing both qualitative and quantitative data, it gives the student a better understanding of the topic.

However, the sample size was not always appropriate as it was not all the time representing the majority of the population. Special attention should be given to the size of the sampling to make the study reliable. Indeed, if the majority is not represented it can be considered as unreliable. The semi-structured and in-depth interviews are, for an undergraduate student, probably one of the best ways for a better understanding of the topic as they might adapt their questions from interview to interview. It will be really helpful to explore in depth the topic the student might be interested in.

Almeyda, A. M., Broadbent, E. N., Wyman, M. S., & Durham, W. H. (2010). Ecotourism impacts in the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica. International Journal of Tourism Research, 12(6), 803–819. doi:10.1002/jtr.797 Coria, J., & Calfucura, E. (2012). Ecotourism and the development of indigenous communities: The good, the bad, and the ugly. Ecological Economics, 73, 47–55. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2011.10.024 Garrod, B. (2003). Local Participation in the Planning and Management of Ecotourism: A Revised Model Approach.

Journal of Ecotourism, 2(1), 33–53. doi:10.1080/14724040308668132 Jones, S. (2005). Community-Based Ecotourism. Annals of Tourism Research, 32(2), 303–324. doi:10.1016/j.annals.2004.06.007 Lima, I. B., & d’ Hauteserre, A.-M. (2011). Community capitals and ecotourism for enhancing Amazonian forest livelihoods. Anatolia, 22(2), 184–203. doi:10.1080/13032917.2011.597933 Scheyvens, R. (1999). Ecotourism and the empowerment of local communities. Tourism Management, 20(2), 245–249. doi:10.1016/S0261-5177(98)00069-7 Stronza, A., & Gordillo, J. (2008). Community views of ecotourism. Annals of Tourism Research, 35(2), 448–468. doi:10.1016/j.annals.2008.01.002 Yacob, M. R., Shuib, A., & Radam, A. (2008). How Much Does Ecotourism Development Contribute to Local Communities ? An Empirical Study in a Small Island. The Icfai Journal of Environmental Economics, VI(2), 54–68. Wearing, S., & Neil, J. (2009). Ecotourism impacts, potentials and possibilities. (2nd ed., pp. 115-136). Oxford, England: Butterworth-Heinemann.

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