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Ecotourism: the Promise and Perils of
Environmentally-Oriented Travel

(Released February 2003)

  by Heather E. Lindsay  


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  1. The limited potential of ecotourism to contribute to wildlife conservation

    Isaacs, JC

    Wildlife Society Bulletin [Wildl. Soc. Bull.]. Vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 61-69. 2000.

    Ecotourism has been proposed as a viable economic activity that can minimize negative human impacts on wildlife habitat and provide an incentive to preserve natural areas. The potential of ecotourism as a wildlife conservation strategy is limited by its inability to insure the long-term protection of environmental assets and by its tendency to contribute directly to environmental degradation. Ecotourism is a proxy market designed to align consumers' preferences for recreation with the protection of environmental assets. Because it does not necessarily address the direct protection of those assets, it is prone to market failure. Pressures on governments and firms involved in providing ecotourism services will impair their ability to minimize detrimental effects of human economic behavior. Ethical appeals to minimize harmful practices face serious obstacles. Promoting ecotourism may actually distract from more appropriate means of environmental protection.

  2. Ecotourism: a means to safeguard biodiversity and ecosystem functions?

    Goessling, S

    Ecological Economics [Ecol. Econ.]. Vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 303-320. May 1999.

    This paper argues that, at present, ecotourism can contribute to safeguard biodiversity and ecosystem functions in developing countries, even though meeting the requirements for ecotourism is extremely difficult. A cost-benefit analysis of those ecosystems richest in species diversity, i.e. tropical rainforests, leads to the conclusion that non-use values often outweigh the values of conventional uses (clear-cutting, pasture, etc.), but are hardly considered in development decisions. Therefore, tourism and its high direct use value can play an important role as an incentive for protection. As tourism causes significant emissions, e.g. by flying, the concept of Environmental Damage Costs is introduced and integrated into the calculations. Further, international tourism development is analyzed and related to protection goals. Visitation rates of sensitive areas need to be limited; education, management, and control measures have to be integrated; and the proportion of money captured from tourists has to be increased. In the long run, tourism needs to undergo substantial changes.

  3. Is ecotourism sustainable?

    Wall, G

    Environmental Management [ENVIRON. MANAGE.]. Vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 483-491. Jul-Aug 1997.

    It is legitimate to ask whether and in what form tourism might contribute to sustainable development. This is not the same as sustainable tourism which, as a single-sector approach to development, may overlook important linkages with other sectors. If tourism is to contribute to sustainable development, then it must be economically viable, ecologically sensitive and culturally appropriate. Ecotourism is often advocated as being a sustainable form of tourism but imprecision in terminology clouds basic issues and there are strong economic, ecological, and cultural reasons for believing that, even in its purest forms, ecotourism is likely to present substantial challenges to destination areas, particularly if it competes for scarce resources and displaces existing uses and users. Sustainable tourism and ecotourism are not synonyms, many forms of ecotourism may not be sustainable, and if ecotourism is to contribute to sustainable development, then careful planning and management will be required.

  4. In pursuit of ecotourism

    Goodwin, H

    Biodiversity and Conservation [BIODIVERS. CONSERV.], vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 277-291, 1996

    Ecotourism is expected, by the tourism industry and academics, to grow rapidly over the next 20 years. Much has been written about ecotourism, often with missionary zeal, but there is little consensus about its definition. It is argued here that conservationists and protected area managers should adopt a definition of ecotourism which contributes to the maintenance of biodiversity and an appropriate definition is suggested. Ecotourism is not merely an alternative to mass tourism, nor is it the only alternative. The literature on nature tourism and the environmental impacts of the industry dates back to the late 1970s. Tourism is now the world's largest industry and it has an increasing impact on protected areas. Our understanding of these mechanisms, their ecological impacts and our capacity to manage tourism in protected areas lags behind the growth of tourism to protected areas. A rapid growth in nature tourism and tourism to protected areas has coincided with a shift in protected area management strategies towards integrated development. Tourism is one means available to protected area managers seeking to increase the economic value of a protected area and to offer sustainable opportunities for economic development to local people. This paper argues that potentially conflicting commercial, protected area and development interests all contribute to the emergence of ecotourism and have been doing so for many years. Ecotourism needs to be tightly defined if it is to benefit conservation. Protected area managers should consider how they can take control of nature tourism to the parks they manage and convert it into ecotourism for the benefit of conservation and the livelihoods of local people.

  5. Ecotourism and commodification: Protecting people and places

    King, DA; Stewart, WP

    Biodiversity and Conservation [BIODIVERS. CONSERV.], vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 293-305, 1996

    The ability of ecotourism to protect both people and places is an unresolved, and growing, concern. Commodification of host culture and environment is a widely reported social impact of tourism and spawns an array of implications regarding indigenous people's view of their places and themselves. The degree of impact from ecotourism development is related to the degree of market development within the indigenous community and their state of decline regarding natural resource scarcity. Pre-existing power differentials between local people and other groups may be exacerbated by ecotourism development. To protect both people and their places, native people's claim to control should be legitimized by conservation and government authorities, particularly indigenous people's role in technical management of the protected area. Regional and national government controls are relevant at the inception of ecotourism development, but ultimately should be reduced to one of infrastructure planning and coordination.

  6. Tourism and the environment

    Goodwin, H

    Biologist, vol. 42, no. 3, pp. 129-133, 1995

    Sun and sand, forests and mountains, flora and fauna, rivers and lakes all constitute a major part of the product marketed by the tourist industry. Increasingly, tour operators are recognising that a clean and healthy environment is essential to the maintenance of that product and the growth of the industry. Many holiday-makers seek untouched natural environments. However, in the process of experiencing them and spreading the word, they contribute to their destruction. Tourism inflicts pollution, unbridled development and environmental degradation on the natural areas, historic cities and resorts upon which the tourist industry descends. Enlightened self-interest has 'greened' the product, but how cosmetic are the changes?

  7. The spread of ecotourism: Some planning implications

    Nelson, JG

    Environmental Conservation [ENVIRON. CONSERV.], vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 248-255, 1994

    The idea of ecotourism is being promoted and supported, by growing numbers of people and groups in different parts of the world, as a major means of dealing with the damaging effects of tourism. Yet the meaning of the term varies among different people, projects, and places. Evidence from national parks, where this type of tourism has been promoted for many years, shows that such tourism can cause substantial long-term cumulative changes in environment. Concepts such as ecotourism, green tourism, and sustainable tourism development, are general in their nature and have to be described, planned, and assessed, in detail on the ground in terms of the socio-economic and environmental conditions applying in different places. In this respect, careful planning and management procedures are needed not only for ecotourism but indeed for all forms of tourism. These procedures and conditions required for tourism planning include: 1) setting of goals and objectives; 2) research to provide a good understanding of relevant ecological and socio-economic systems; 3) concern for efficiency; 4) environmental education; 5) employee involvement; 6) codes of ethics; and 7) monitoring and assessment procedures. A basic principle is the involvement of all affected parties throughout the life-cycle of ecotourism or other tourism projects. This involvement can be aided by paying more explicit attention than hitherto to means of facilitating more comprehensive decision-making and especially to key processes such as understanding, communicating, assessing, planning, implementing, monitoring, and adapting to change. All concerned parties need to recognize such key steps or processes in decision-making in order to be prepared to participate efficiently and effectively along with other interested persons and groups.

  8. Accommodating ecotourism in multiple use planning of coastal and marine protected areas.

    Agardy, MT

    Ocean & Coastal Management [OCEAN COAST. MANAGE.], vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 219-239, 1993

    Coastal and marine areas the world over provide food, transportation, recreation, and energy resources to increasing numbers of people each year. As demands for these resources rise, the potential for user conflicts is radically heightened. This situation can be avoided or counteracted by instigating proactive multiple use planning. Multiple use zoning plans can only exist in a concrete management framework: marine and coastal protected areas provide just such a foundation. Nature-based or ecotourism can be encouraged in coastal protected areas aimed at achieving sustainability. Well-planned tourism provides economic and political incentives for management and for conservation, and may bring additional benefits to local communities and regional economies. Examples where nature-based tourism has been or is becoming successfully integrated into multiple use planning can be found in Quintana Roo, Mexico; the Lesser Antilles; and Australia, among other areas.

  9. The rise of coastal and marine tourism.

    Miller, ML

    Ocean & Coastal Management [OCEAN COAST. MANAGE.], vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 181-199, 1993

    Marine tourism has surfaced as a pressing topic in the field of ocean and coastal management. Neither necessarily good, nor bad, this tourism is inherently controversial. Today, demand for travel exhibits greater variation and magnitude than ever in history. In response, the tourism industry has become the largest business on earth. This, coupled with the respect people profess for marine environments and local peoples, creates feelings of ambivalence for the tourist. Sociologically, the activity of tourism may be studied as a symbolic interaction fostering social solidarity. Ecotourism, a recent phenomenon attuned to the ideal of sustainable development, is suggested to emerge through the social construction processes of restoration and enhancement. The papers in this theme volume add fuel to the proposition that the resolution of tourism problems in the coastal zone will require the scientific study of environmental and social conditions, policy analyses, planning, and public education.

  10. Ecotourism, landscape architecture and urban planning.

    Grenier, D; Kaae, BC; Miller, ML; Mobley, RW

    Landscape and Urban Planning [LANDSCAPE URBAN PLANN.], vol. 25, no. 1-2, pp. 1-16, 1993

    Two intersecting trends of the times-the growth of the $2.75 trillion world tourism industry and the growth of environmentalism as reflected in the high level of international participation at the 1992 Earth Summit-focus attention on the ideals of sustainable development and ecotourism and create a new niche for landscape architecture and urban planning. These overlapping fields have long attended to problems of conflicting values, aesthetics, recreation, and leisure. Many of the activities and products traditionally associated with design and planning are appropriate to tourism projects. Guidelines for enhancing this framework to treat directly the special problems of ecotourism include early investigation of sociological and ecological features, involvement of broker and local populations in the planning process, and extrasensitivity to issues of site selection, design, scale, and monitoring. In responding to the ecotourism challenge, landscape architects and urban planners will need to hone their abilities to work with multidisciplinary teams and to converse productively about preservation and development ethics.

  11. Tourism Development and Dependency Theory: Mass Tourism vs. Ecotourism

    Khan, Maryam M

    Annals of Tourism Research, 1997, 24, 4, Oct, 988-991

    Analyzes different impacts of mass tourism & ecotourism on Third World countries, based on dependency theory. Modernization theorists argue that mass tourism development improves local economies & inhabitants' standard of living. Dependency theorists, however, contend that it strips precapitalist societies of their economic surplus, causes "economic leakage," leaves underdeveloped nations even more dependent on foreign imports, & ultimately destroys the sociocultural framework of host countries. In contrast, ecotourism promotes preservation of natural ecosystems & local cultures while providing more egalitarian & locally controlled opportunities for economic growth. 13 References. W. Mills.

  12. Ecotourism and sustainable development

    Wood, ME

    Industry and Environment [Ind. Environ.]. Vol. 24, no. 3-4, pp. 10-15. Jul-Dec 2001.

    The International Ecotourism Society has adopted a standardized approach to the development of ecotourism guidelines. This article presents an overview of standard-setting for ecotourism; the evolution of ecotourism as a market niche; government policies relating to ecotourism; and ways to increase benefits for local people. In general, the sustainability of the tourism industry is just beginning to be addressed at the international level. International efforts to certify ecotourism are at the earliest stages of development.Original Abstract: Pour elaborer des directives applicables a l'ecotourisme, The International Ecotourism Society a opte pour une approche normalisee. L'article traite du travail d'elaboration de normes pour l'ecotourisme, de l'evolution de l'ecotourisme en tant que debouche economique, des politiques gouvernementales en faveur de l'ecotourisme et des moyens d'accroitre les avantages qu'il peut procurer aux populations locales. Dans l'ensemble, on commence tout juste, a l'echelle internationale, a s'interesser a la compatibilite du tourisme avec le developpement durable. Les efforts internationaux pour homologuer l'ecotourisme n'en sont qu'a leurs premiers balbutiements.

  13. Ecotourism: An economic concept for ecological sustainable tourism

    Mueller, FG

    International Journal of Environmental Studies [Int. J. Environ. Stud.]. Vol. 57, no. 3, pp. 241-251. 2000.

    Ecological sustainable tourism has to be viewed as an integral part of society's policy objective of sustainable development. As reaction to real or perceived threat to environmental quality from conventional mass tourism has been to advance ecotourism as a form of sustainable tourism. This article introduces an economic concept for ecological sustainable tourism and discusses instruments to achieve this objective. Caution, however, has to be expressed that ecotourism cannot be considered as a panacea for conservation and protection of ecosystems and biodiversity, nor can it alone become an economic bonanza to liberate local communities from the pain of poverty.

  14. Regional environmental impact assessment is an effective means of sustainable tourism development

    Yu, M-Q; Tian, W; Li, W-C; Zhang, Z-C

    China Environmental Science [China Environ. Sci.]. Vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 110-113. 1999.

    This paper outlines good and harmful influence of tourism resources exploitation project on natural, ecological and social environment. The main points and major contents in regional environmental impact assessment(EIA) of tourism resources exploitation project are put forward, and deals with EIA's function and action in sustainable tourism development in our country, that is, provides scientific basis for feasibility of tourism resources exploitation, optimum determination of the tourism planning and tourism environmental management.

  15. A case analysis of strategies in ecotourism development

    Masberg, BA; Morales, N

    Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management [Aquat. Ecosyst. Health Manage.]. Vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 289-300. 1999.

    Ecotourism is a form of tourism which focuses on contributing to the preservation of natural and cultural resources while promoting economic contribution to local communities. Certain factors have been identified in the literature to optimize both preservation and economic contribution, but the strategies to accomplish these factors have not been defined. The purpose of this research was to identify through case analysis how each of the success factors in ecotourism development (i.e. an integrated approach, planning and a slow start, education and training, maximize local benefits, and evaluation and feedback) have been implemented in ecotourism cases. A series of ecotourism cases were analyzed. The success factors were identified and the strategies described under each factor were recorded. The data collected for all cases were pooled for each of the success factors and a matrix of five success factors with the corresponding strategies was created. Strategies that appeared as 'recommended' in the cases were not included in the analysis. The results indicated that factors and strategies differed. Within each factor there is no predominant strategy. Success factors should be re-evaluated and factors identified using an ecosystem management approach which puts the health of the environment as the foundation of tourism development. Standards need to be set and then strategies assigned to maintain standards for preservation and economic well-being.

  16. Western society and ecotourism: traveling companions?

    Ivanko, John D

    BULL SCI TECHNOL SOC, vol. 16, no. 1-2, pp. 28-34, 1996

    Ecotourism has demonstrated growth, and is growing, far in excess of the so-called mass tourism market. As such, it has both the potential to change the way people travel and to provide the means to care for the planet's diverse and rich resources. Western society cannot bring less developed countries up the western consumptive 'standard of living' without exhausting the earth's resources. Ecotourism, and the conservation ethic and ecological perspective embodied within, creates a situation where both the West and the less developed societies can converge toward the middle. It is thus conjectured that ecotourism is the elusive 'common ground' because it fundamentally changes the economic dynamics of business. Ecotourism recognizes the ecological and cultural costs of doing business as well as champions the so-called local economy.

  17. Ecotourism promotes, protects environment

    Whiteman, J

    Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy [Forum Appl. Res. Public Policy], vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 96-101, 1996

    Ecotourism is often touted as an experience that allows us a rare opportunity to have our cake and eat it too. More precisely, ecotourism allows us to enjoy wilderness experiences without allowing those experiences to compromise the overall health of the natural environment. When properly managed, ecotourism offers excellent wilderness experiences while contributing to the preservation of natural and historic places. It works this way: Controlled numbers of people pay for the opportunity to visit a sensitive environmental area. While there, they enjoy a sense of spiritual renewal. And they leave behind an intact ecosystem and increased wealth for the local community.

  18. Science and technology issues in coastal ecotourism

    Office of Technology Assessment, Washington, DC (USA), 1992, 31 pp

    Nature-based tourism, increasingly called 'ecotourism'-one of the fastest growing sectors of tourism worldwide, is fast gaining the attention of developed and developing countries as a potential means to conserve natural resources and support sustainable economic progress. The paper presents information on the ecotourism trends; identifies issues related to resource conservation, ecotourism development and management, and planning; and presents questions for possible further consideration.

  19. Managing the Other of Nature: Sustainability, Spectacle, and Global Regimes of Capital in Ecotourism

    Bandy, Joe

    Public Culture, 1996, 8, 3, spring, 539-566

    The political & economic implications of the ecotourism industry are explored. Ecotourism is both critiqued as imposing Western-centric exploitation of local cultures & touted as a possible solution to the global crisis of economic & environmental sustainability. Current ecotourist literature is reviewed; it is argued that such literature must be viewed within the context of environmentalist & political-economic organizations, movements, & ideologies. Ecotourism is described as embodying contradictory influences of, alternatively, a movement of capital, governments, & popular culture; as a potentially dangerous extension of the rationalized forces of (post)modernity into the realm of the natural; & as an opportunity for just & decentralized social-natural relations. It is argued that effective management of ecotourism is necessary if positive environmental & economic benefits are to be achieved. 51 References. B. Persky.