Ecotourism is defined as responsible travel to natural areas that protect the environment and improve the welfare of local people (International Ecotourism Society (TIES), 2005). It also follow certain principles such as minimize impact, build environmental and cultural respect, provide financial benefits to local people. Global ecotourism began in 1990, and has been growing 20-34% per year, especially in 2004, ecotourism was growing globally 3 times faster than the tourism industry as a whole; with continuous growth, and ecotourism will occupy 25% of the world travel market within six years. Ecotourism has advantages and disadvantages. It can contribute to a country’s economic development and also benefit local people. For the poor countries, tourism is the second most important source of foreign exchange, after oil. It also can bring job opportunities and increase local people’s income. However, the disadvantage cannot be neglected. Ecotourism can produce pollution and damage the environment. According to TIES (2005), there are 109 countries with coral reefs, 90 of them are being damaged by cruise ship and sewage. It also estimated that the cruise ship produce more than 70,000 tons of waste each year. The shock to local culture is also a big problem. Recently, the advantages of ecotourism are still being debated. This report is concerned with the advantages and disadvantages of ecotourism. Though the disadvantages of ecotourism caused big problems but advantages of ecotourism far outweigh its drawbacks.
1.Definition of ecotourism.
Ecotourism involves responsible traveling to fragile, pristine and mostly protected areas. This takes place for different purposes, from educating the traveler, fostering respect for different cultures to directly benefiting the economic and political empowerment of local communities. Ideally, ecotourism incorporates the following criteria; promote biological and cultural diversity, touring unspoiled natural habitats, and the main attractions being local culture, flora and fauna. In short, ecotourism operations are defined by their commitment to the environment, education, nature and culture. The main objectives of ecotourism are providing nature-based, environmental education experiences for visitors and managing this in a sustainable manner. Ecotourism offers a great opportunity for educational as well as personal growth as values of appreciation and attitude changes are instilled in participants which would lead to significant involvement in environmental and social issues in the future. Essentially, the dimension of ecotourism as an educational experience creates a new window for viewing the whole world and one’s self. It offers an opportunity to show the growth and development of various learning experiences while at the same time exploring another country or culture and going beyond one’s preconceived limitations.
Nature based tourism includes a range of tourism experiences that entail adventure tourism, cultural and rural tourism. In addition, activities such as rafting and scuba diving are forms of nature based ecotourism. On the other hand, sustainable ecotourism aims to address on the needs of visited environments to sustain them. The main focal points include sustaining the natural environment itself and contributing to help local communities understand the importance and value of their adjacent environment. Sustainability is drawn from the concept of sustainable development which is development that focuses on meeting the needs of he present generation without hindering the ability of the future generations from meeting their own needs. The basic criteria for sustainable ecotourism include; the sustainable use of ecological resources, increased environmental and cultural awareness, conservation ethos, support of local economies through increased revenue from visitors and the use of local supplies and services. It is important to note that for ecotourism to be realized the above components need to be integrated on a wholesome package.
Eco tourism entails the incorporation of nature as the main laboratory for informal learning through which attitudes and values on conservation are appreciated and instilled. For these natural resources to be available for the unforeseeable future, sustainability has to come into play. Several differences between ecotourism and other forms of tourism can be outlined. To start with, the key difference existing is that ecotourism involves learning about the environment whereas other forms of tourism such as adventure tourism only focus on personal accomplishments of successfully meeting the challenge of the natural environment. Generally, the tourism industry focuses on market demand by attempting to foster, maintain and expand the market world which mostly draws it away from focusing on maintaining the product or experience. The addition of facilities and infrastructures to cater for the demand result in the destruction of pristine environment and the indigenous experience which ecotourism attempts to reverse by reducing these impacts of tourism. Ecotourism maintains a supply oriented management perspective with primary considerations being the nature and resilience of the resource, cultural or local community preferences and interpretive conservation programs.
Tourism on the other hand, focuses on individual experiences that may overlook the relevance of in-depth learning of the natural environment and indigenous knowledge essential for changing people’s attitudes and perceptions. Nature based tourism is seen as a subcomponent of alternative tourism and ecotourism is highlighted as being part of both alternative and natural based tourism. This is because nature plays a big role in both. In addition, the interaction between natural environment and adventure travel are components of adventure tourism. This points to adventure travel with certain risky elements which when lowered become logical extensions of ecotourism. Time, a very fundamental commodity would also be used to differentiate other forms of tourism from eco tourism. The time taken to interact with nature and local communities in ecotourism is substantial due to the time taken to appreciate what the environment provides. Funds accruing from tourism activities are not absolutely used to improve the livelihoods of local populations, they may not trickle down to these communities when allocated on a national scale. Instead they form a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product of most economies.
On the other hand, funds collected from ecotourism institutions are diverted to activities aimed at improving the lives of local communities. This is because these populations play a vital role in ensuring the sustainability of the environment through proper management and protection to curb overexploitation. The subsequent impact of human activities on the environment is yet another difference between ecotourism and other forms of tourism. The fact that ecotourism addresses the values and perceptions of individuals which impact to a greater extent the appreciation of the environment thereby reducing the magnitudes of exploitation of these resources is a prime definition of ecotourism different from tourism in general. Behaviors such as the proper disposal of waste in campsites or tourist environs are emphasized in ecotourism as compared to other forms of tourism which overlook the importance of such actions. Ecotourism emphasizes on interaction based on the proximity to the natural habitat, for example, watching dolphins in their natural habitat, the ocean, while mainstream tourism does not emphasize on the natural environment such as watching dolphins in an aquarium. The levels of interactions described by Fridell (2003) are different in the two concepts. Ecotourism based activities involve a close interaction with the environment with actions such as species identity and indigenous knowledge on certain phenomena.
The level of interaction related with tourism on the other hand is perceived to be shallow as little is learnt from the environment. In some areas, excursions are conducted using vehicles making it difficult for tourists to interact closely with the environment. Despite the aforementioned differences, similarities also exist between ecotourism and other forms of tourism like sustainable tourism, adventure tourism amongst others. First of all, both recognize the environment as the main functional unit. Activities developed from both are environmentally related as it forms the main feature. Scuba diving, nature viewing, participating in eco-challenge activities are just but a few of the activities environmentally based. Secondly, as expressed by Anderson & Beasley, the human being is the main driver of both concepts. These concepts are developed and actualized by humans who also contribute to their continuous application. This is due to the fact that the human person recognizes the adjacent environment around him as it is important for his survival.
The environment is the producer of goods and services for human consumption, and equally acts as an assimilator of waste produced from human activities that process final products for his use. Without it, humans cannot survive hence the essence to conserve and protect it. The end result of both concepts is to create avenues of exposure to opportunities of the environment and its subsequent conservation. The environment offers more than just resources. It creates an aesthetic feeling as well as favorable atmospheres for relaxation both mentally and physically. Such opportunities are made available through ecotourism and tourism. Both venture in to pristine environments that are either protected by government policies or local populations. Pristine environments are less exploited or not ventured into at all and offer a great variety of species and ecosystems. Both tourism and ecotourism aim towards sustainable development. There is usually a conflict between development and environmental conservation with both extremes bringing about inadequacies in adaptation owing to the current global situations of negative environmental impacts and effects of the global village.
Ecotourism therefore attempts to meet the needs of the local people while tourism focuses on a much bigger population putting the country’s citizens in perspective. An eco- tour refers to a sightseeing excursion in physical nature. An ecotourist then refers to a tourist who joins an ecotour. With the above definition, it is worth noting that eco-tourists may fail to understand the difference between ecotourism and mainstream tourism. This occurs in circumstances where they fail to understand the roles expected of them to distinguish them from other tourists. In addition, the sites chosen for excursion purposes may determine them as tourists. An eco-tourist who accesses a tourist site such as an aquarium or mausoleum located away from its original site would fail to understand the difference between him and a tourist. In cases where tourists are given an opportunity to learn from the available environment with the help of tour guides or game rangers, they are awarded the same opportunity of acquiring knowledge just as those seeking such knowledge from ecotourism areas availed to them by local community members hence the difference between them is narrowed. A case study on the educational experience in ecotourism in Peru, The Condor Lodge Conservatory is well discussed below.
The conservatory is located in Apurimac Canyon and is settled in a natural environment, with close proximity to the Antilla Community and surrounded by an eco-farm. Most families share sleeping space with the Kuyi, a type of guinea pigs. The area is also surrounded by gold mines and has been at the forefront of ecotourism efforts in the region. It has also created string networks with local tourist agencies, international tourists and planning small group visits that are aimed at creating a harmonious relationship with the environment. It is further characterized by undisturbed wilderness, wildlife diversity, hospitable people and a spectacular view of the Andean Condor which create an exceptional educational experience. A case study of the Campi ya Kanzi, an ecotourism site in Kenya. This site is stretched over 400 miles of African wilderness, within the Kuku Group Ranch of Southern Kenya. The area is owned by Maasai herdsmen and extends through to Mt. Kilimanjaro. This environment is well endowed with wildlife diversity of fauna and flora. The ranch also contains pools, a lake and springs. The lodge in the area has minimal impact on the environment as buildings are constructed from local material such as lava rocks, thatch and lumber obtained from a reforestation program.
The foundations of the lodge was based on protecting wildlife, the wilderness and Maasai culture as well as obtain financial support for maintaining a place where wildlife can flourish. To sum up, Campi ya Kanzi is an ecotourism lodge, built, owned and run by the local community for the benefit of the environment and local people. In conclusion, Ecotourism is an aspect that incorporates tourism but is specific in nature. There are limitless similarities that exist between ecotourism and tourism such as sustainability, nature being at the forefront in both and an offer to interact with the pristine natural environment. There are also significant differences that exist between them from the educational perspective, the natural environment to the levels of interactions. However, the impact of both tourism and ecotourism on the environment as well the changes in people’s attitudes is worth noting. The functional responsibility of both eco-tourists, soft and hard, and tourist plays a fundamental role in achieving the ultimate goals of both concepts.
3. The Advantages of Eco-tourism
Eco tourism is defined as tourism that sends people to relatively untouched parts of the world and that is sensitive to the impact to nature caused by humans. Eco tourism is an attempt to allow tourism that does not damage nature or traditional culture. It is an idea that has massive appeal as those with money can now visit places in good conscience. They can see wonderful things and feel at the same time that their money is helping the local environment and indigenous people. Since the 1980s the eco tourism sector has grown and grown. It is the fastest growing sector in tourism – growing at an annual rate of between 10% – 15%. Tourism is one of the few sectors of the world economy that continues to grow despite the ups and downs in the world economy. It has become so important that the IMF now includes stipulations about tourism as part of its preconditions for lending money to developing countries. If done rightly eco tourism has several advantages.
It is more concerned with the environment and does encourage developers to build with more consideration for the natural environment. This means that more natural habitat is preserved and that the resources for building come from sustainable sources. This is the theory anyway. Another advantage is that eco tourism provides an income for local inhabitants in an area. The argument is that if the local people can generate revenue from showing tourists around a jungle, lake, savannah etc. then it is much better than killing elephants for their ivory or capturing gorillas to sell on the black market. Moreover, showing people a rainforest rather than logging the forest is a good compromise if the forest is preserved. People in the developed world through eco tourism get to experience places of great natural significance as well as interact with local and indigenous people. It is hoped that this contact will benefit both parties, fostering better understanding of the issues on the ground, and overcoming prejudice.
3. The Disadvantages of Eco-tourism
It is felt by some environmentalists that there should be some parts of the world that are ‘off bounds’ for any tourists as any human activity will damage the eco system and disrupt the routine of the animals. Although scuba divers try to be careful, any tourist scuba business is going to have a negative impact on fragile coral marine environments. Although, people walking carefully through the forest might not do much harm, building their eco lodges does. A good example of this is the safari business in Africa. Tour jeeps going across the savannah scare off the animals that the lions rely on catching. The result is that lions can no longer hunt in parts of Kenya and Tanzania during the morning when the tour jeeps are out. They have to wait until the hottest part of the day to hunt. This is draining for them and affecting lion numbers.
The Masai people in Kenya have been moved out of their traditional lands because of the demarcation of National Parks for eco tourism. They are settled on land next to the reserves. Much of the best land next to the reserves has gone to non-local people and eco tourist operators. When animals come on to this communal land any damage caused by the animals is not compensated by the government. The result is that the Masai who once co-existed with the animals of the savannah now come to regard them as pests. Another issue for the Masai and other indigenous people is that they have become ‘tourist attractions’ that are expected to pose for the cameras and perform dances etc. for money. Not only is this extremely patronizing, but it is discouraging the Masai and other indigenous people from pursuing their traditional life styles. Unwittingly the tourists are destroying the culture that they are paying to preserve. Eco-tourism seeks to go to the remotest places. These places are often not well policed.
There is nothing stopping people taking money from tourists as well as pursuing environmentally unfriendly activities. In the case of Brazil, illegal logging will not stop because of eco-tourism because the logging companies make too much money. It seems that the cons often outweigh the pros of eco tourism. It might be better to take pictures of animals rather than shoot animals, but given the choice the animals would sooner not have people around. Policing of eco tourism is another matter. Do eco tourist outfits deliver what they promise? It seems whether eco tourism should be allowed should be judged case-by-case, and that the consultation must include the local people, and not the IMF.
It sounds like the true nature lover’s dream – to visit a corner of the earth that is untouched by human hands. It’s where you can enjoy pristine nature in its true, original form. Ecotourism is a name given to the tourism industry that desires to visit pristine, fragile and undisturbed areas. This is as far different from mass tourism as you can get. Promoting ecotourism brings several potential benefits to the area being visited: Helps to provide investment funds for the preservation and conservation of the ecological system. It can be a direct benefit to the development of the economy and political systems of the surrounding community. Builds a sense of respect for a variety of cultures and for their human rights movements. Serves to educate the traveler who participates in ecotourism. It can give tourists some insight into the impact that humans have on the environment, and as a result they can develop a greater love and appreciation for the beauty of the earth and its natural habitats. Ecotourism takes place in environments where the flora and fauna are still intact in their natural, original forms. Tourism is a rapidly growing industry, and for some countries, including developing countries, ecotourism is a viable income source. Countries such as Africa with vast, open territory, huge plains and fierce wandering rivers, are popular ecotourism destinations. Canada, being one of the world’s largest countries is also home to settlements of indigenous peoples and holds a huge potential for ecotourism. There are many untouched beautiful ecotourism destinations in Canada.
With its vast landscapes and low population density, abundant natural resources and a variety of eco-activities, Canada is growing in popularity among ecotourists. Benefits for developing countries to participate in ecotourism For developing countries, ecotourism offers empowerment to local communities and a way for them to fight poverty. The combination between biodiversity and indigenous cultures is appealing to many who want to get out of the big cities and go see something in nature that they have never experienced before. During an ecotourism adventure, low impact on nature is emphasized. After all, if the ecotourism had a big impact on the pristine location, it would no longer be untouched and lose its usefulness as a destination. Tourism itself leaves an environmental footprint. A major part of the education of tourists visiting prime natural habitats is to educate them towards environmental conservation. Therefore, mass tourism to these natural habitats is not permitted.
History of responsible tourism and promoting sustainability using tourism The term ecotourism was made popular in 1983 by a man named Hector Ceballos-Lascurain. Other synonyms to the term include jungle tourism, responsible tourism and sustainable development. Hector was a conservationist who was very influential and took part in lobbying for wetland conservation in relation to the flamingo. Currently there is no standard accepted globally for regulating the ecotourism industry. Many see this as a disadvantage, because small groups claiming a big eco adventure have the potential to scam the unwary tourist from some big payments. They sign up thinking they are getting the adventure of a life time but because of the lack of accreditation and regulations; they don’t end up getting what they signed up for.