It is easy to see the positives that eco-tourism can bring to fragile environments, in mainly developing countries, and these will be discussed in this presentation.
But there are also negative points from development of these areas that can lead to people thinking that eco-tourism is a contradiction in terms.
What is eco-tourism?
In order to look at the controversy surrounding eco-tourism we first have to understand what eco-tourism actually is.
On the board are different definitions of eco-tourism but they all equally mean the same thing.
When we mix all three definitions we get an overall view of what it is- responsible travel to natural areas to conserve the environment whilst uniting conservation, communities and sustainable travel.
There are many principles of eco-tourism, most of which can be seen on the mind map.
1. Conscientious, low-impact visitor behaviour
2. Sensitivity towards, and appreciation of, local cultures and biodiversity
3. Support for local conservation efforts
4. Sustainable benefits to local communities
5. Local participation in decision-making
6. Educational components for both the traveller and local communities
LINKS IN WITH Millennium Development Goals: The International Ecotourism Society states that ‘The practice of ecotourism and sustainable tourism has the potential to assist in conserving natural areas, alleviating poverty, empowering women, enhancing education, and improving the health and well-being of local communities.’
I think it’s important to mention both the positives and the negative of ecotourism in order to generate a non-bias view. And so, although this presentation is about contradictions of eco-tourism, briefly here are a few positives…
u Creates significant opportunities for both conservation and local communities.
u Can provide much-needed revenues for the protection of national parks and other natural areas.
u Re-casting the environment as a way for local communities to look after themselves therefore encourages them to take care of it.
u Can provide a viable economic development alternative.
u Ecotourism can increase the level of education and activism among travellers.
Only $5 of every $10 spent by tourists in the developing world stays there, according to The United Nations Environment Programme. The involvement of local people in ecotourism helps prevent this "leakage" of tourist income out of the host country through international hotel chains and tour operators.
A contradiction in terms?
Despite the positives discussed before there is a lot of controversy that surrounds eco-tourism and there are negatives to mixing conservation and tourism. Ultimately, eco-tourism brings tourists, hotels, restaurants etc. to completely natural areas and so obviously there will be debates over whether ecotourism is a contradiction in terms.
· Capitalising on the trend: Nowadays many people are becoming more concerned with the environment and their own impact. For this reason eco-tourism is becoming ever more popular. It is the tourism industry's fastest growing subsector, with an estimated world-wide annual growth of 10-15%. Where is data from? With this new demand being created many companies take the opportunity and create eco-tourism attractions, not for environmental conservation reasons, but in order to generate a profit. This often means that the needs of the local people and the ecosystem are ignored.
· Placing land under government protection, the typical route toward an ecotourism industry, may also incur the resentment of locals if access and use are restricted. Some worry also about the exploitation of indigenous cultures and wildlife, and damage to natural habitats caused through overuse, in the face of growing tourist attention.
· Eco-terrorism: Anita Pleumarom uses the term eco terrorism when describing the mega-resorts established in nature reserves that claim to be eco-friendly. Such projects build completely artificial landscapes, tending to wipe out plant and wildlife species - even entire eco-systems;
– – Rosanne Duffy ‘Eco tourists are not so concerned about their own interaction with the environment, or about mitigating the negative effects of their vacation choices. Instead, they are more concerned with journeys of self-development; their decisions to deny themselves the luxuries of other forms of tourism just reflect the roles they play within their peer groups.’
– Eco tourists have the same needs as conventional tourists- a place to stay, eat- meaning that further development of the area often follows when setting up an ‘ecotourism’ area. ‘ The effects of establishing a small-scale hotel or food outlet in remote areas can still have a big effect- similar to building a big hotel in a city.
-Impact on wildlife- one study in a Costa Rican national park found that wild monkeys turned into garbage feeders, becoming familiar with the presence of Eco tourists and eating the food and rubbish left behind.
– Jim Butcher of Canterbury Christ Church University in England believes that ecotourism's focus on preserving "nature" damages local people's ability to develop sustainably and lift themselves out of poverty. The environment is effectively prioritized above the needs of local people.
– The increase of visitors to ecologically sensitive areas can lead to significant environmental degradation. Likewise, local communities and indigenous cultures can be harmed in numerous ways by an influx of foreign visitors and wealth. Additionally, fluctuations in climate, currency exchange rates, and political and social conditions can make over-dependence upon tourism a risky business.
– Environment is prioritised over local people which can be seen in the case study.
Ecotourism in Bwindi
· In 1992, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the Mgahinga forest reserves in Uganda were upgraded to national parks.
· Two years later. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park was declared a World Heritage site.
· There has been a negative impact on tribes living locally,since they were excluded from the government’s decision making process and some were evicted from their homes.
· The traditional tribe Batwa Pygamies were removed from their tropical equatorial forest homes in 2002. Misunderstood, the Batwa have now been forced to settle on the fringes of existing settlements . They were unprepared for modern life and without their land they were forced to find jobs locally to allow them to buy food.
Before researching this topic I believed that all forms of eco-tourism were positive and struggled to see how any negatives could outweigh the positives.
Since completing this presentation I can now see how eco-tourism can be considered controversial and can have impacts on the natural environment. Laws and limits may need to be put in place due to the increasing popularity of these types of holidays but despite the controversy, I believe that ecotourism is more positive.
The conservation, education and money it provides to these areas are very important in lifting these areas out of poverty and creating a world awareness about environmental conservation.