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International Ecotourism Management: Using Australia and Africa as Case Studies.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

International Ecotourism Management: Using Australia and Africa as Case Studies Nature-based tourism is a rapidly expanding portion of the world's travel market. Many of the destinations are national parks, game reserves and other types of protected areas. Nature tourism is a very important export industry throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa. The size of the industry causes impacts that require sophisticated management approaches. This paper discusses key management issues apparent world-wide: management of environmental quality, limits of acceptable change, management of tourist use, allocation of access, market specialisation, management of recreation conflict, enforcement and monitoring, consumer assurance of quality, facility design, park financial viability and community development. North American, Australian and African experiences in these areas are emphasised. Introduction In western society, travel to experience wild nature is an old and well-accepted phenomenon. Starting in 1872 in the United States with Yellowstone Park, in 1879 in Australia with Royal Park and in 1885 in Canada with Banff Park and Niagara Falls, governments set aside natural areas for protection and recreation in the form of national parks. Many African national parks originated as game reserves. The first national parks were Albert National Park, created in the Belgian Congo in 1925, and Kruger National Park, created by South Africa in 1926 (Luard, 1985). Parts of Kruger had been a game reserve since 1898. In Tanganyika, now Tanzania, the Selous Game Reserve was assembled, in 1922, from several smaller reserves (Luard, 1985). Later the Ngorongoro Highlands were made into a game reserve in 1928, soon followed by the Serengeti in 1930. In 1940 the 2 areas were combined into the Serengeti National Park (Turner, 1988). Kenya's first national park, Nairobi, was created in 1946 (Luard, 1985). These initial attempts started a trend. There is now a world-wide system of thousands of protected areas in all parts of the globe. Globally since 1970, the number of protected areas increased by 185%, to 9,932. ...read more.

Middle

An important management issue is letting potential users know about the need for advance booking and providing efficient procedures for the booking. Individuals and groups often use political power to gain preferential access. Bribery of bureaucrats or politicians occurs. The use of political power to gain access is an issue, especially if open, public decision-making is not used. Private sector tour operators, environmental groups and influential individuals have gained preferential access in the past using various aspects of political influence. Most sites use a combination of approaches. Many parks have a proportion of their recreation facilities allocated to advance registration systems and a portion to first-come first-served access on site. As use levels increase, it is necessary to continue to develop fair and open allocation procedures. Such policies should be fair to all potential users, balance individual and group access, recognise the special needs of international visitors, and be cost efficient. 6. Market Specialisation The large size and the increasing sophistication of the tourism market lead to specialisation in the product. For product development, marketing and management, specialised products provide competitive advantages. Consumers with specific interests are best served by products that relate well to those interests. Eagles (1995a) suggests that in North America there are four identifiable tourist products associated with park use: ecotourism, adventure tourism, car camping and wilderness travel. Each product has specialised equipment, information needs, environmental impacts, and consumer demands. Figure 3 shows a typical tourism product life cycle (Butler, 1980), with the park products' life cycle stage illustrated. Different product specialisations are at different levels of maturity of within the product life cycle. Eagles (1995a) suggests that ecotourism is in the early growth stage of the product cycle, with low numbers of consumers but rapid growth. Car camping has larger numbers of participants, but is declining in popularity. This pattern occurs in the North American domestic markets, and may not apply elsewhere. However, the concept of tourism market specialisation occurring at different levels of market maturity needs wider consideration. ...read more.

Conclusion

4 Culturally and economically sensitive community development is necessary. 5 Ecotourism should be designed to benefit local communities, socially, economically and ecologically. 6 High-quality information and service delivery are essential. Well educated guides are essential. 7 Planning and management capabilities are essential for long-term success. 8 Environmental protection is based upon fiscal viability of management, both public and private. 9 Ecotourism and environmental protection require the development of management structures to handle use of sensitive environments. Park management in many countries is well developed in the resource management sector. However, the visitor management sector is often weakly developed. For example, the Australian parks traditionally cater to local clientele who are hardy, independent and knowledgeable. The urbanisation of the country, the rapid growth in international visitation, and the increased social emphasis on environmental quality brings in large numbers of visitors who do not have those characteristics. As a result, the management structures are sometimes severely challenged. Environmental damage, visitor satisfaction problems, group conflicts and funding problems are symptomatic. The North American domestic nature tourism industry is mature in both resource and visitor management. Over time a balance between use and preservation has been struck. Relatively open decision structures allow for input from disaffected groups and as attitudes change. However, in North America the management of visitors is still a second class emphasis compared to resource management. With increasing emphasis being placed on the visitors as a source of funds, compared to tax sources, the visitors are becoming more important to managers. Africa has the potential to continue as a major focus for nature-based tourism growth. Unfortunately, tourism holds the seeds of its own destruction through overuse and environmental degradation of the sensitive natural environments on which it depends. However, the germination of these seeds need not occur. Management and fiscal approaches are available to ensure tourism use indefinitely. This paper has outlined a range of roles and responsibilities for both the private and public sectors in this emerging industry. Tourism in parks can be sustained indefinitely as long as management structures ensure the protection of natural environments and provide high-quality travel experiences. ...read more.

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