With the growing global concern for the environment, new products, industries, and sustainable practices have emerged across a number of industries. The industry of tourism on an international and domestic scale is no different. Over the past few decades, the global tourism industry has witnessed an immense increase in travel based on environmentally sound practices, devised to be sustainable . Travellers are becoming increasingly interested in natural environments, cultures, and adventures.
For this new market segment activities such as wilderness viewing, wildlife observation and hiking/trekking opportunities have become more popular to a wider base of customers within the tourism and travel industry .
This new form of tourism, also known as ecotourism, has also become an integral part of a number of country’s environmental and economic practices . According to Rual Goueva in his article Managing the Ecotourism Industry in Latin America:Challenges and Opportunities, ecotourism is a specific kind of tourism that “fosters, promotes, and acts as a catalyst for environmental protection ”.
It is in his view that ecotourism strategies must pay a great deal of attention to the following: (1) economic development, (2) environmental protection, (3) cultural protection, (4) social development and, (5) political development. As a more sustainable form of tourism, ecotourism offers an alternative and highly effective means for developing and developed economies to blend their economies into the global economy and often “provides incentives to establish sustainable development strategies ”.
In summary, ecotourism should concentrate on efforts to maximize the benefits of tourism while minimizing the environmental, economic, political, social, and cultural impacts of tourism.
Additionally, policies have to be devised to optimize the allocation of resources from ecoturism revenues to preserve and sustain the resource base. It is, however, important to note the lack of a homogeneous definition of eco-tourism activities within the tourism industry and thus difficult to assess its impacts.
Under their functional definition, the World Tourism Organization/OMT concluded in 1998 that ecotourism represents about 2 to 4 percent of total global tourism. However, this percentage is estimated to be much larger as the industry has grown almost exponentially in the past few years and the share of ecotourism broadly defined as tourists that travel to observe and enjoy nature has been expanding steadily during the last decade.
Another source with a similar functional definition, the International Ecotourism Society (TIES), estimated that ecotourism is expanding by 20% annually, compared with 7% expansion for the tourism industry as a whole. The specific segment of ecotourism generated around USD 154 billion in revenues for the year 2000 . Continuing, TIES also estimates that between 40%-60% of travel around the world is nature-related and that between 20%-40% of tourists are specifically wildlife related tourists .
Furthermore, it should be noted that this segment of tourism can have profound affects on a nation’s economy. It has been noted that ecotourism is primarily led by supply side economics rather than demand. In other words, the quality of the ecotourism experience is positively correlated to the level of environmental protection the local ecosystem enjoys. Ecotourism is therefore classified as a normal good or service. Additionally, it is critical that eco-ventures pay specific attention to the level of environmental disturbance and disruption that ecological and social systems can sustain .
As it has been noted, any level of interaction and/or intervention with a local ecosystem may have environmental impacts, which must be minimized in order to preserve the nature being enjoyed via ecotourism . As the effects of tourism within natural and/or preserved areas can hinder or help a specific ecosystem, many policy makers around the world are paying much more attention to the regulation of natural areas. Several countries that are trying to find a compromise between economic development and environmental protection are becoming the leaders in Ecotourism.
Countries that are rich in natural resources but that are not yet implementing sustainable development strategies are being encouraged to promote activities such as ecotourism . Ecotourism must be approached as a part of a number of initiatives to protect local ecosystems. At the macro level, a nation pursuing ecotourism should include as many federal, state, and local agencies as possible. It has also been noted that ecotourism must be a part of the country overall economic development and growth as well .
This paper was intented to examine the economic, environmental and social aspects of two countries currently participating in the industry of ecotourism, Costa Rica and Brazil. However before an analysis can begin, it is necessary to review the formation of ecotourim in each country and examine how, when, and why ecotourism came about. Costa Rica is known as country with rich and robust biodiversity. However, in the past few decades, it has experienced an increase in amount of deforestation within the country . Like a number of developing countries, such as Brazil, Costa Rica has been steadily loosing its lush forests to agricultural uses.
Between 1950 and 1990, it was estimated that the country lost about half of its total forest cover due to agricultural development . Furthermore, b the early to mid 1990s, only about 6 percent of the country’s land area (not including parks and nationally recognized protected areas) remained in intact primary forest . However, this rapid decline in forest covering has slowed in recent years with the growth of an internationally renowned national park system; which has preserved over 10 percent of the country’s total primary forests .
As of today, Costa Rica has secured land throughout the country for over 25 national parks, reserves, and wildlife refuges for endangered species (as shown in Figure 1. 1, adopted from SOURCE). Along with the government’s formal protection of the land, ecotourism has been said to hinder the rate of deforestation as well. Ecotourism in Costa Rica began in the mid-1980s as a way to stop the deforestation and to generate needed foreign exchange for the economy. Tourism in general in Costa Rica has been one of the most dynamic sectors of the economy.
In 1992 tourism earnings totaled $421 million, making it the second largest foreign exchange earner after bananas. Moreover, ecotourism has been rapidly expanding as well accounting for 36 percent of net tourism earnings in 1989. In sum, according to Stacy Small, Production Editor of Caribbean Travel and Life Magazine, “Costa Rica’s tourism industry has been increasing in size for many years now, and one reason for this upsurge is the appeal of and demand for ecotourism” . Costa Rica has been promoting and expanding its ecotourism industry.
The Environmental Secretariat and the Costa Rican Tourism Institute have become largely responsible for the development and coordination of ecotourism policies in the country . Due to a high level of governmental involvement and the formation of societal institutions such as The Environmental Secretariat, Costa Rica has become the primary example of country in Latin America with a successful ecotourism industry. Their rich ecosystem, accounting for an outstanding 5% of the world’s biodiversity, offers the country a natural competitive advantage in the industry .
Additionally, ecotourism has become the main motivation for tourists within the country. In the early 1980s, an estimated 370,000 tourists traveled to the country of Costa Rica. By 2002, about 1. 1 million tourists arrived in Costa Rica, with the vast majority, 830,000 people, being ecotourists or individuals participating in nature related travel . The ectourism sector of Costa Rica has become quite diverse, from bird watching to volcano climbing and kayaking. To date, Costa Rica has approximately 25% of its territory under governmental protection, 1. million hectares, with 12% of its territory composed of national parks and privately owned reserves . It should also be noted that the private reserves of Costa Rica utilized for ecotourism are the areas that develop and generate the most income. Take for example the Monteverde Biological Preserve, the habitat of the exotic golden toad, has become famous worldwide and is internationally recognized as one of the best areas of ecotourism in Latin America. Over the last two decades, the Monteverde reserve has earned more income than all other national parks combined with its main source of financing coming from admission fees and grants .
Rara Avis is another private reserve that has turned to ecotourism. Rara Avis was opened in 1983, and contains 3,000 acres of primary and secondary forest. It borders on the Braulio Cariilo National Park and the Zona Protetora La Selva, a research station. Private banks financed Rara Avis, and it was the first of its kind in the country. Rara Avis has shown that ecotourism can become a profitable way to manage tropical forest resources. However, in more recent years, Costa Rica has witnessed detrimental side effects of overcrowding in its forest reserves as a result of increased ecotourism.
Take for instance the increasingly popular Manuel Antonio Park. Heavy interest in this area has led developers to overbuild, which has threatened the diverse monkey population and other wildlife in the park. On the other hand, ecotourism has been a successful strategy for Cost Rica. Due to its consistency in approach, Costa Rica has successfully promoted an environmentally sound ecotourism industry over the past few decades. Additionally, ecotourism has had an inclusive macroeconomic strategy that benefits local communities, generates jobs as well as revenues, and has inspired further research in the areas of ecology and biodiversity.
As a whole, Costa Rica offers a panoramic and pristine view of exactly how ecotourism can benefit a soceity, local communities, and the environment. Beginning of ecotourism in Brazil Ecotourism was first introduced in Brazil, on the governamental level, in 1985, when the Brazilian Institute of Tourism (Embratur) started its Ecological Tourism project. The first intention to put things in order was made in 1987 by creating the National Technical Commission, consisting of experts from both the Brazilian Institute for the Enviroment and Renovable Natural Resources (Ibama) and Embratur.
The main goal of the commission was to monitor the Ecological Tourism project, as a reaction on ecotourism observed at that time, which was little organized and not at all sustainable. Although, the efforts made by govermnent were not sufficient to end with barriers between theory and practice of ecotourism. The principal problem was the lack of a unified concept of a segment, i. e. no existing criteria, regulation and incentives that would direct firms and investors and the government itself to promote and use effectively the natural assets of a country, and to protect them at the same time.
As a consequence, the ecotourism in Brazil used to be an activity without any mark of order and very confused, where the main objective was to generate a profit, totally ignoring its other aspects, like socioeconomic and environmental benefits for the country. The brazilian ecotourism in the late 80s and early 90s was more likely the regular tourism which used the ecologic aspect just to sell better. Environmental experts referred to it as an “eco-opportunism“. Creating legal framework for ecotourism
In 1994, a workgroup of experts of all ministries involved (Ministry of Environment, Imdustry, Commerce and Tourism) met in Goias Velho, Goias, to create a document “Directives for National Ecotourism Policy“. With this document, they set a legal framework for ecotourism in Brazil, which was defined: Ecotourism is a segment of tourism activity which uses, in a sustainable way, natural and cultural assets, incentives their conservation and looks for a creation of an ervironmental consciousness throught the interpretation of an environment and promoting the welfare of communities involved at the same time.
This definition and all the other directives were created with favourable to a profitable tourism connected to environmental and cultural peculiarities of Brazil. The effort was made to assure growth of this particular branch of tourism all over Brazil, with the following criteria what ecotourism should do: -Provide better life conditions for communities in the areas of ecotourism. -Promote valuation of the environment -Create wealth and promote employment To make an opportunity to learn about natural and cultural assets in order to promote knowledge of new generations. Another important decision was made at the meeting – the government should start to cooperate with various NGOs and, together, educate prospective employers in the sector of ecotourism. The opinions of NGOs were often accepted by government in the process of building adequate infrastructure to promote sustainable growth of ecotourism in Brazil. Setting the principles
Last but not least, the main concerns regarding ecotourism in Brazil were defined and published as a list of actions recommended to promote the sector in the whole country. : 1. Regulation of ecotourism – The necessity of its own legal framework, harmonized with both state and federal laws. 2. Institutional Interaction – Intensification of exchanging information and experience between governamental institutions and private sector. 3. Human Resources Creation – Education and training of personnel to work in an area of ecotourism. 4.
Quality control – Creation of tools for observation, evaluation and improvement of ecotourism including both public and private sector. 5. Distribution of information – Creation of a database with the access for all national and various international institutions involved, including indicators monitoring the evolution of ecotourism. 6. Incentives to develop ecotourism – Promotion and stimulation of economic activity in the sector together with infrastructure in order to provide high quality services, especially in priority ecotourism destinations. . Information for tourists – providing the tourists knowledge about the destination they visit to make them respect the local environment. 8. Participation of communities – Make people living in major ecotourism destinations participate in the sector and modify their lifestyle to increase sustainability of the area. With the help of mentioned governamental regulation and cooperation between state institutions and many NGOs, the ecotourism grew by 15 % a year until 2000, while the tourism as a whole only grew 3 % anually.
There were created ecotourism destinations in all brazilian states and the rigorous control has contributed to a sustainability of the sector and to protection of natural assets of Brazil. Costa Rica – Present part The tourism boom in Costa Rica began in 1987 (Crist Inman, 1997) with the number of visitors up from 329,000 in 1988, through 1 million in 1999, to 1. 9 million foreign visitors in 2007, allowing the country to earn US $1. 9 billion in that year (World Tourism Barometer, 2008). By 2002, about 1. 1 million tourists arrived in Costa Rica, with about 830,000 of them being ecotourists (Saenz, 2001).
Thus, tourism in Costa Rica has since 1999 been one of Costa Rica’s most important industries exemplified by the fact that it earns more foreign exchange than traditional commodities such as pineapples, banana and coffee combined (Departamento de Estadisticas ICT (2006) (need statistics on that?? ). In 2001, ecotourism accounted for an annual growth rate of 20-30 percent (Dasenbruck, 2001). Today, being the nation’s principal industry, ecotourism contributes an estimated US $825mn to the economy annually as well as a 19 % increase in the number of tourists visiting in 2005 (“Ecotourism can be good business! , 2006). Economic impact The Travel ; Tourism industry in Costa Rica encompasses transport, accommodation, catering, recreation and services for visitors. Below are presented some macroeconomic indicators in relation to the industry. GDP The Travel ;Tourism industry is expected to contribute directly 5. 3% to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2008 (CRC778. 8 bn or US$1,466. 2 mn), rising in nominal terms to CRC2,005. 5 bn or US$2,639. 2 mn (5. 8% of total) by 2018. Additionally, according to WTTC the real growth of T;T in Costa Rica is forecasted to see a real rise of 1,2 % (US$ 3,769) in the economy GDP in 2008.
Moreover, real GDP growth is expected to grow at an average of 4,7 % per annum over the coming 10 years. Employment The T;T economy contribution to employment is expected to rise from 258. 000 jobs in 2008, which represents 13,1 % of total employment, or 1 in every 7. 6 jobs to 359. 000 representing 14,4 % of total employment or 1 in every 6. 9 jobs by 2018 (WTTC, 2008). Visitor exports Export earnings from international and visitors are expected to generate 17,1 % of total exports (US $ 2,270,8 mn) in 2008 growing, in nominal terms, to 16,8 % (US$ 4,369,3 mn) of total exports in 2018 (WTTC, 2008).
Investment Travel ; Tourism Capital Investment is estimated at CRC515. 0 bn, US$969. 5 mn or 15. 1 % of total investment in year 2008. By 2018, this should reach CRC1,225. 1 bn, US$1,612. 2 mn or 15. 6 % of total (WTTC, 2008). Foreign investment has had a major role to play in the development of the Costa Rican ecotourism industry. It was both politically and financially supported by the IMF, The World Bank and USAID. For instance, in 2001 the World Bank approved a US $40 mn loan of which most of it focused on ecotourism (Dasenbruck, 2001).
Given that Costa Rica has a solid credit rating with international lenders along with international support from the abovementioned institutions gives the country a degree of financial stability in handling substantial costs in the development of the ecotourism industry. Government Government Travel ; Tourism operating expenditures in Costa Rica in 2008 are expected to total CRC122. 9 bn (US$231. 3 mn), or 6. 2% of total government spending. In 2018, this spending is forecast to total CRC396. 1 bn (US$521. 3 mn), or a 6. 4% share (WTTC, 2008). I’ll add more here about government institutions and initiatives, laws, regulations….
Ecotourism and the environment Behind ecotourism lies the idea of preserving a nation’s natural resources while profiting from them (Dasenbruck, 2001). Similarly to Brazil, ecotourism is overall considered to be beneficial to the environment compared to conventional forms of tourism e. g. mass tourism, exemplified by Cancun in Mexico with 4,000 room hotel resorts. One of the reasons that ecotourism in Costa Rica enjoys such high importance economically is because there exists a strong environmental lobby based in the “green industry” (Dasenbruck, 2001. This lobby recognizes the long-term benefits of aintaining an environmentally friendly image and therefore it supports most of the government’s conservation initiatives. Some, however, argue that ecotourism is an oxymoron, since travel at its base is detrimental to the environment. Airplane fossil fuels and the pollution coming from jet airplanes are used as examples of evidence, that international travel and environmental protection are mutually exclusive by nature (Dasenbruck, 2002). Ecotourism in Brazil Current Growth Brazilian ecotourism began to grow exponentially after the country woke up to its eco-potential during the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
Still, ecotourism in Brazil continues to grow at a rapid pace. While the tourism industry overall grows at a rate of 3% annually, ecotourism is up by 15%. Other areas such as the city of Bonito are experiencing bigger growths of 20-30%. (Planeta) Furthermore, it is estimated that by the year 2010, ecotourism could make up as much as 50% of the travel industry according to Dorival Bruni, president of the non-profit Biosphere society. Considering that one of the largest ecotourism destinations in the world is the Amazon, this estimate is considerably probable.
It is estimated by the World Tourism Organization that ecotourism may represent 2-4% of the world’s tourism. In 2000, ecotourism accounted for 10% of Brazilian tourism revenues (Bioesfera, 2001). The next three economic markers show Brazil’s travel and tourism industry’s contribution toward total GDP, employment, and exports. GDP The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) research findings reported that the Travel & Tourism industry is expected to contribute directly 2. 5% to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2008 BRL 70. 6 or US$36. 1bn), rising in nominal terms to BRL157. bn or US$53. 2bn(2. 6% of total) by 2018 (WTTC). Employment Brazil’s Travel & Tourism Economy employment is estimated at 5,500,000 jobs in 2008, 5. 9% of total employment, or 1 in every 16. 9 jobs. By 2018, this should total 7,634,000 jobs, 6. 6% of total employment, or 1 in every 15. 2 jobs (WTTC). Exports Export earnings from international visitors and tourism goods are expected to generate 5. 9% of total exports (BRL22. 5 bn or US$11. 5 bn) in 2008, growing (nominal terms) to BRL65. 4 bn or US$22. 1 bn (5. 4% of total) in 2018 (WTTC). Ecotourism and the environment
One of the core benefits of ecotourism is the sustainability of the environment thus; ecotourism is an economically productive way to protect Brazil’s natural wonders. Consequently, Brazil’s continued growth of ecotourism is also generating a positive social impact. Local skilled and semi-skilled populations are benefiting the most from this current growth. According to Joao Mireilles Filho, president of the Peabiru Ecotourism Institute and of the Brazilian Ecotourism Institute (IEB), one of the most visited regions in Brazil for ecotourism is the Pantanal region, which is a vast series of wetlands in the upper Paraguay River Basin.
The capital of this region, a town called Bonito is the main launching spot for ecotourists. Socially, Bonito accounts for about 2,000 jobs in the sector out of a population of less than 20,000 people. (Planeta) Investments As ecotourism continues to grow, it will provide investment opportunities for private and foreign investors who see the value in this industry. One region of such potential is The Ribeira de Iguape River, one of the most important rivers in the Brazilian southeastern state of Sao Paulo.
The Ribeira de Iguape Valley is known for its complex geology and natural riches with a number of limestone caves and important mineral resources. Currently it is still characterized by poverty and underdevelopment however; ecotourism in the region has now a US$ 15 million financing – US$ 9 million from the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) and US$ 6 million from the government of Sao Paulo for improvement in infra-structure, training and organization. The Monetary International Fund (MIF) provided a $1. 7 million grant to improve the quality and competitiveness of small to medium sized enterprises in the tourist sector.
By the year 2010, more than 5,000 firms are in the tourist sector are expected to pursue certification. It is estimated that ecotourism will receive a considerable amount of this grant. (IDB) In February 2006, the IDB approved a loan of $9 million toward improvements in infrastructure, including highways and productive systems in the Atlantic Forest region of the state of Sao Paolo. This project will benefit six parks which will benefit by retaining their visitors and acquiring financial sustainability while protecting their natural wonders. Opportunities
One of the biggest areas of opportunity for Brazil is the Amazon region. This region is home to some 20 million people and is known for the biological diversity of its ecosystem and the great diversity of flora and fauna. It has the potential to become one of the largest ecotourism attractions in the world. As a matter of fact, it is 98 times larger than Costa Rica. Unfortunately in 2000 it only earned US400 million in exports which is less than half of Costa Rica’s total revenues during that time. This equates to a meager . 05% of the world’s ecotourism revenues in 2000.
One of the biggest challenges facing this region is the lack of infrastructure such as energy power, communication, and transportation. The government taken some steps to ameliorate the situation by launching PROECOTUR (The Program of Development of Eco-Tourism in the Amazon) with the help of the IDB to develop and improve the infrastructure of selected areas in the region. It includes surveying best practices for ecotourism, financing ecotourism projects, developing tourist infrastructure, and assisting investors with technological and financial aid (SCA).
Since deforestation has already affected large areas of the Amazon, Proecotur should bring more visitors to the region as well as sustainable revenue. Another project launched was the Poles project by the tourist and travel agency Embrateur in conjunction with the Ecotourism institute in an effort to establish guidelines for the development of ecotourism poles around the country. Brazil vs. Costa Rica Ecotourism in Brazil is still underdeveloped especially in the Amazon region which has tremendous upward potential in terms of providing a greater source of income on both a local and a national level for the Brazilian economy.
In exploring various economic, political, and social factors that influence the ability of these countries to expand their ecotourism market, Costa seems to have the better position. In terms of GDP contribution relative to each country’s national economy, Costa Rica 13. 5% doubles Brazil’s 6. 2% indicating that there is significant room for growth for Brazil due to its tremendous size. Consequently, Costa Rica’s employment as well as exports are also incrementally higher at 13. 1% vs. 5. 9% and 17. 1% and 5. 9% respectively.
On the other hand, Brazil has a much higher potential in terms of growth largely due to its untapped Amazon region. In terms of Real Growth, Brazil’s future looks bright. In 2008, Brazil is forecast to see Real Growth of 6. 7% in terms of Direct Industry GDP. Nominally, this represents an increase of US$36bn. With regards to Direct Industry Employment, an increase of 6. 4% is expected which means an additional 2,279,000 jobs will be generated. In contrast, Costa Rica is expected to see a Real Growth of -1. 5% in terms of Direct Industry GDP (in nominal terms US$1,466,000mn) and -3. 9% decrease in Direct Industry Employment.
Brazil will be able to handle such growth but will need to have a collaborative effort nationally if they want to sustain their current growth. The government certainly plays an important role in the development of ecotourism in Brazil. They must provide the overall policy environment to permit development to proceed along an orderly path, and should welcome the involvement of other sectors. Furthermore, there is a need to teach policy makers the importance of ecotourism as a viable financial profit sanctuary so that policies reflect social and environmental concerns as well as market realities.
Next, effective certification programs should be implemented to ensure adequate information of products and services is given to the public. Educating consumers and raising awareness on the importance to protect the national environment should stimulate demand for socially and environmentally friendly products that ecotourism provides. Lastly, significant improvement of Brazil’s logistic resources such as roads, electric power and infrastructure in the Amazon region will be quintessential for the sustainability of Brazil’s ecotourism industry.