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Effective Environmental Impact Management through Ecotourism

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Introduction

Environmental Impact Management through Ecotourism Abstract The world has seen the growth of tourism increase dramatically in the past fifty years and with this growth comes a concern for the cultural and environmental impacts associated with it. Ecotourism is the new breed of tourism based around the concept of nature and cultural appreciation, espoused by many to bring significant economic benefits to the host countries as well as being a sustainable alternative to mass tourism. The aim of this paper is to review the literature that focuses on the environmental impacts of ecotourism. This will be achieved through the discussion of five key areas. First, the multitude of definitions surrounding ecotourism will be examined with a view to identifying the core concepts. Second, the key players involved in the ecotourism industry will be identified. Third, the positive and negative impacts associated with ecotourism will be discussed. Fourth, the contributing factors that determine the level of environmental impact. Fifth, the future of ecotourism and how it can be managed. Finally, conclusions and recommendations for future research. Introduction World tourism is growing in terms of number of travellers as well as in economic expansion (World Tourism Organisation (W.T.O), 1997) and as the worlds largest industry (Nelson, 1993) it earns approximately $US 2.5 trillion annually (Dearden, 1993). Tourism takes on many different guises and nature-tourism is one of these, which, in it's most sustainable form has been labelled ecotourism. Within the worldwide tourism industry ecotourism is one of the fastest growing sectors (Eagles, 1995) and according to a 2001 W.T.O and United Nations Environment Programme study ecotourism may represent between two and four percent of global tourism (W.T.O, 1997). ...read more.

Middle

research which takes a much more phenomenological approach and segments eco-tourists into 'shallow' and 'deep' groups. Shallow eco-tourists are of an anthropocentric frame of mind in that they view humans as separate from nature and that nature is an instrument that serves human ends. 'Deep' eco-tourists adopt a much more holistic view of the world and view humans to be intrinsically linked with the environment. Burton (1998) identifies these differing types as 'casual' and 'dedicated' eco-tourists with 'dedicated' ones having higher expectations in terms of the quality of the ecotourism experience. Eco-tourism as a product is delivered by the ecotour operators and companies (Thomlinson, 1996). They characteristically have the parent business located in the base country (predominantly western) who prepare nature tour packages and then co-ordinate with the other half of their business in the destination country (Higgins, 1996). The majority are small-scale operations (Blamey, 1995; McArthur, 1994). This enables the operators to practice environmentally responsible practices and to ensure high quality experiences for the tourists (Burton 1998; Thomlinson, 1996). In compliance with the definition of ecotourism ecotour operators ideally should act in an environmentally responsible manner yet many researchers suggest that they are masquerading as ecotour companies and use the term ecotourism as a marketing tool (Nianyong, 2001; Thomlinson, 1996; Beaumont, 2001; Burton, 1998). With respect to government agencies involvement and attitudes towards ecotourism the content analysis study conducted by Edwards et al. (1998) provides the most comprehensive insight into their agenda's. As well as this empirical study the literature identifies them as playing an important role in the management of the ecotourism industry with them being the creators of the policies which control the exploitation of natural areas (Nianyong, 2001; Chin et al., 2000; Beaumont, 2001; Burton, 1998). ...read more.

Conclusion

Nianyong (2001) also illustrates that governments should be instrumental in helping to develop environmentally responsible policies within their country as well as providing funds for research. Yet in the case of Nianyongs' research which was a survey conducted in China, he points out that a lot of ecotourism destinations are in the third world, this is can be seen in the way that most of the case studies on ecotourism are based in the third world. These host countries can't afford to provide funds for appropriate ecotourism development, a point corroborated by Chin et al. (2000) whose study was based in Malaysia. Yet paradoxically authorities were responsible for increasing the number of eco-tourists to the Bako national park in 1988 through tourism promotion. Chin et al. (2000) suggests that this was driven by economic interests. The next area of discussion focuses on how eco-tour operators affect the level of environmental impact that ecotourism destinations experience. As previously mentioned it is suggested that eco-tour operators are simply exploiting the concept of ecotourism by using it as a marketing tool. Burton (1998) cites a number of researchers who suggest that surveys indicate that a large number of eco-tour operators cannot be considered to act in an environmentally responsible manner (Botrill and Pearce, 1995; Weiler, 1992; Holden & Kealy, 1996; Jones, 1993). This obviously has serious implications for the level of environmental impact and in Belize supposedly ecotourism companies have destroyed large swaths of mangrove swamps in order to develop luxury bungalows (Thomlinson, 1996). Also although most eco-tour operators are small businesses there are so many of them they can negatively impact the environment through a cumulative effect (Thomlinson, 1996; Beaumont, 2001). ...read more.

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