Lessons >>> Lesson 11
Though there are many definitions of ecotourism, the term is most commonly used to describe any recreation in natural surroundings. The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as: "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people".
Worldwide, tourism generates annual revenues of nearly 3 trillion dollars and contributes nearly 11% of the global GNP (Gross National Product), making it the world's largest industry. Although the events of September 11th rocked the tourism industry and made it difficult to predict long-term trends, ecotourism is a growing component of the larger tourism industry, and several factors indicate that it is likely to thrive over time. These factors include increased awareness of environmental problems among tourist populations, willingness of tourists to engage in socially-aware travel, and interest in visiting lesser-known countries like Thailand and Belize rather than traditional vacation getaways.
In 1993 the World Tourism Organization (WTO) estimated nature tourism generated 7 per cent of all international travel expenditure. More recent research reveals this is now much higher, accounting for 20 per cent of international travel in the Asia-Pacific region and some areas, such as South Africa, experiencing a massive growth in visitors of over 100 per cent annually.
Ecotourists tend to travel on economy and to use clean but private 2 or 3 star accommodation. They typically stay with local families, or at small, environmentally-friendly hotels called ecolodges. These opportunities for personal contact with members of the host community facilitate cross-cultural exchange and add greatly to the value of ecotourism experiences for some people.
Ecotourists are articulate, assertive and well educated. They demand quality experiences. When they are planning their trips ecotourists have many questions. They want to be informed on the best times to visit any particular site and what are the trade-offs going there at other times.
Amongst international ecotourists, most come from northern Europe and North America rather than from southern Europe or Latin America. Many Australians are also keen to experience ecotourism.
Practically speaking, ecotourism includes activities in which visitors enjoy hands-on experiences, such as bird-watching in the Brazilian rainforest, hiking in the mountains of Nepal, participating in a traditional village celebration, or taking a canoe trip down a river.
The following are just some of the many topics which interest ecotourists: local flora and fauna, geology (people are interested in soils and what makes them different), spectacular features (waterfalls, lakes, grand forests, rocky headlands, coral reefs), history and culture. The aspects ecotourists find very interesting are: customs and rituals, religion, traditional art and crafts (such as weaving), ceremonies (the Balinese attract many hundreds of people to their cremation ceremonies), traditional music and dance, traditional architecture and building, traditional lifestyle generally from the forms of agriculture to the diet and style of cooking.
There are many factors which attract ecotourists. Apart from the destinations providing quality information is the key factor to ecotourism. Ecotourists are prepared to endure a great deal of discomfort to explore areas if the subjects can be made interesting.
The more that it explained and the better the explanations, the more time they will spend exploring. Ecotourists don't want to be rushed. They prefer fewer stops with more quality time at each. They want to watch the sunsets. They want to be assured that they will get adequate, well planned quality-time.
Ecotourism has the capacity to deliver a lot of
economic benefits to traditional cultures. However whether those benefits
are realized depends on how ell the ecotourism is managed. Having a good resource
to attract ecotourists is a good start but to get the greatest local benefits
requires careful management to maximize the time which they spend locally.
Test it out!
Fill the gaps in the sentences, using the phrases below:
accommodation, to endure, annual revenues, hands-on experiences, recreation, to deliver, ecolodges, assertive, want to be assured, improves the welfare, travel expenditure, to thrive
Domestic and international travelers made nearly 287 million recreation visits to the 378 recreation areas administered by the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) in 1998 compared to the 275 million visits in 1997 This is an increase of 4.4% (Travel Industry Association of America, 2000).
Travel to the United States National Parks Service areas generated direct and indirect economic impact for local communities of US$14.2 billion and supported almost 300,000 tourist-related jobs during 1996. It is unknown what portion of these visitors represented participation in ecotourism activities (Tourism Works for America, 1997).
The Annapurna area is the most popular trekking destination in Nepal. Since 1989 the number of trekkers coming to the area has increased at an annual rate of approximately 18%. In 1997, 50,708 international trekkers visited the area. Out these 12,000 visited the Annapurna sanctuary (Gurung, no date).
In 1999 49.4% of 172.292 tourists to Belize
visited Mayan sites, 12.8% visited Parks and reserves. Important reasons for
visiting Belize are: to observe scenic beauty, to be in a natural setting
and to observe wildlife (Higgins, 2000). Cayes and Barrier reefs were visited
by 87% of visitors. 82% of visitors to Belize were in the age group of 18
to 50 years old and 65% were college graduates (Higgins, 2000)
Galapagos nature tourism has grown steadily since the pioneering days of the 1970’s, to the present level of over 60,000 visitors a year, making a $100 million-plus contribution to the Ecuadorian economy (estimates vary) (Charles Darwin Research Station, 2001)
From 1983 to 1993 visitor arrivals to Kenya grew by 45% (372,000 to 826,000). The Kenya Wildlife Service (1995) estimates that 80% of Kenya’s tourist market is drawn by wildlife and that the tourism industry generates one-third of the country’s foreign exchange earnings. Revenue from Kenya’s wildlife parks increased to Ksh. 711 million in 1995. (In 1997 US$1=60KS).
There are an estimated 600 ecotourism operators in Australia today, approximately 85% of these employ fewer than 20 staff. Ecotourism businesses are estimated to have an annual turnover of some $250 million and to employ a total staff of around 6500, the equivalent of 4500 full-time staff (Sport and Tourism Division Australian government, 1999).
In Australia, recent research found ecotourists
to represent nearly 30% of domestic travellers (ecotrends 1999, cited by Wight,
An estimated 10.3% of tourists that visit Peru prefer to go birdwatching in natural areas (Proyecto PRA, 2000). According to studies carried out by PromPeru (2000) 47% of foreign tourists to Peru visited natural zones. Of this number, 44% combined visiting natural zones with visiting cultural attractions and 3% came only to visit natural zones.
Five million visitors came to Brazil in 1999, five times as many as in 1991.Brazil has more than 150 conservation areas, of which 40 National Parks. An estimated number of 3.5 million visitors went to these National Parks in 1998. Especially the last two years the number of foreign ecotourists has grown, it had 600,000 Brazilian ecotourists and attracted 200,000 foreign ecotourists in 1998 (Janer, 2000).
In the period of 1986 until 1998 the number of visitors to game and nature reserves in South Africa has grown by 108% annually. In 1986 the number of visitors to the reserves was 454,428, in 1998 this number has grown to 5,898,000 visitors. Game and nature reserves are the number one activity for visitors to the country in 1997 (60%), rising by 2% over the previous year (South African Tourism Board, 1998).
Research conducted by MORI for ABTA indicated that 85% of UK holidaymakers believed that it is important not to damage the environment, 77% think that it is important that their visits include experience of local culture and food and 71% feel that tourism should benefit the people of the destination visited, through jobs and business opportunities. 52% said they would be interested in finding out more about local issues (environmental and social) in their chosen resort before they booked their holiday.
Ecotourism Statistical Fact Sheet
Signs in English(?) From Around The World...
A sign posted in Germany’s Black Forest: It is strictly forbidden on our black forest camping site that people of different sex, for instance, men and women, live together in one tent unless they are married with each other for that purpose.
In a Zurich hotel: Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for this purpose.
In an advertisement by a Hong Kong dentist: Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists.
In a Czechoslovakian tourist agency: Take one of our horse-driven city tours - we guarantee no miscarriages.
In a Swiss mountain inn: Special today -- no ice cream.
In a Bangkok temple: It is forbidden to enter a woman even a foreigner if dressed as a man.
In a Copenhagen airline ticket office: We take your bags and send
them in all directions.
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