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Ecotourism – What is ecotourism? Ecotourism in different countries

Updated on November 14, 2012

What is ecotourism

Ecotourism is a travel undertaken to witness places sites or regions of unique natural or ecologic quality, or it is the provision of services to facilitate such travel. Ecotourism or ecological tourism can be defined as a concept-tourism movement (which is specifically sustainable). Even though evolved in 1980, ecotourism really came to exist in 2002 as the UN celebrated the ‘International Year of Ecotourism’. Ecotourism mainly concentrates on local cultures, wilderness adventures, and other ways leading to personal growth and learning that bring out many novel ways to lead better life in this world. Ecotourism is the travel to the places where flora, fauna and cultural heritage are the leading source of attraction. Ecotourism involves various initiatives that reduce the negative impacts that traditional tourism impose on the environment, and improves the unity and integrity of the people residing in that area. Ecotourism involves evaluating cultural and environmental factors and promoting various initiatives taken by hospitality providers in encouraging recycling, water re-use and so forth. It is a vibrant new movement that also includes promoting methods that use energy efficiently, and helps local communities who are an inherent part of ecotourism. Global environmental organizations and other aid agencies support ecotourism and consider it as an important contributor of sustainable development.

How should ecotourism be implemented

Ecotourism is supposed to meet various criteria wherever it is implemented. Ecotourism should conserve the biological and cultural diversity of the areas through ecosystems protection. Ecotourism should provide jobs to the local population and should encourage the sustainable use of biodiversity. Ecotourism projects must share its socio-economic gains with the people of that area (indigenous communities) and should ensure their informed participation and complete involvement in various initiatives and management of ecotourism enterprises. There are certain projects are implemented in environmentally irresponsible ways using the label of ecotourism and ‘green friendly’ labels. Ecotourism must contribute for the increase of cultural and environmental knowledge. Ecotourism also must reduce the negative environmental impacts of tourism. It should ensure the affordability and must reduce the waste in the form of luxury.

Ecotourism in different countries

For some countries, ecotourism is a major income generating sector of national economy (by attracting maximum number of tourists). It is not just an activity which is intended to maintain and improve the environment. In countries like Kenya, Nepal, Ecuador and Costa Rica, ecotourism contributes much to the gross domestic product. But there are areas where ecotourism is considered just as a marketing tool to support tourism that is related to nature. Ecotourism should sensitize people with the beauty and delicacy of nature. There are around five million eco-tourists around the world with the majority from United States.

Ecotourism and environment

Ecotourism is found to be a healthy and successful way to preserve the environment. There is a big difference between nature-based tourism and Ecotourism. Nature-based tourism is just visiting a natural site for amenity or recreational purpose, whereas, ecotourism involves various aspects of conservation as well as education that contributes towards environmental enhancement. According to estimation in 1993, ecotourism is growing at very fast rates of eight to ten percent a year. In short, ecotourism generates improved and increased ecotourism, good means of living for the locals and increased habitat protection. Ecotourism has the potential to renovate an endangered land in to a successful economic venture. Through ecotourism tourists can learn more about the environment and explore the natural beauty of the environment bringing a divine sense of peace and inspiration. Ecotourism with an aim of education is very useful to children as they will cultivate a nature-conscience lifestyle and learn protect their environment. Ecotourism has attracted big attention in recent years as an alternative of mass tourism and as a means of economic development and environmental conservation. The rapid growth of ecotourism has gained popularity among communities and people of low-income countries. For example, in the areas of Ecuadorian Amazon, the indigenous Quichua communities are adopting ecotourism as an alternative to the flourished commercial agriculture.

Ecotourism in British Columbia

The introduction of ecotourism industry in British Columbia opened a way for the province to expose its wonderful scenery to the world and cancel various other industries that seldom brought any economical and environmental advantage. Majority of the province was untouched and was found useful for establishing ecotourism industry in the area. British Columbia is blessed with wide variety of destinations and activities that attracts eco-tourists to the province. Ecotourism industry has witnessed amazing growth in the last few years in British Columbia. Ecotourism industry is highly recognized as a reliable career choice for the residence of the province and as a feasible travel destination for global as well as domestic markets.

Ecotourism and development

Ecotourism promotes sustainable development by launching a durable productive base that helps eco-tourist service providers as well as the local residents to upgrade to rising standards of living. Eco-tourist projects should successfully incorporate social dimensions of environmental preservation and productive organization. Remembering the incidents of the over wintering reserves of the Monarch Butterfly in the areas of west-central Mexico, it is suggested that ecotourism should actively incorporate the local society into service planning and provision and should initiate various programs to satisfy the requirements of the people in the respective region.

The community of Piedra Blanca in Ecuador addressed its economic problems by developing an ecotourism project. The project was launched with the help of a local NGO (CRACYP), Global Routes (USA) and Challenges Worldwide (UK). The ecotourism initiative helped the community by providing an alternative source of income and necessary economic help for local conservation and reforestation. The community utilizes the ecotourism enterprise to properly distribute the benefits of the tourism widely and evenly.

Ecotourism in Sikkim in India

Biodiversity and ecotourism project in the northern eastern state Sikkim, in India, is a collaborative attempt undertaken to conserve the natural resources and to improve the economic livelihood opportunities such as ecotourism. The project involves innovative participatory approach which would strengthen the ability of organizations and local people to link enterprise operations with various works to conserve the unique natural and cultural heritage of Sikkim. The Sikkim ecotourism project work with the private and government sector to increase the community and private sector conservation, to improve the economic returns from various ecotourism services as well as enterprises. The project also contributes to different policies that help to achieve ecotourism and conservation goals.

Ecotourism in Kerala

Ecotourism is wonderfully implemented in the state of Kerala in South India. The tourism products of this area are classified as backwaters, beaches, wild life sanctuaries and hill stations. The ecotourism initiatives of this province aim to upgrade the quality of these products improving the infrastructure facilities. The total tourism inflow to the region is really high and government is working out new strategies to improve the sector mainly by developing new ways to increase the foreign tourist inflow. The Western Ghats of Kerala bestowed with the tropical forest ecosystem offers a natural advantage for the ecotourism development of the region. The rich biological diversity is an added advantage for the area and various ecotourism activities like mountaineering, bird watching and trekking are also very popular.

Ecotourism implementation

The initiatives develop and adopt standards for sustainable practices and increase the professionalism of the peopleworking within the tourism industry. Another important approach is, streamlining various policies and strategies that were inapplicable to certain areas. The approach involved helping operators to improve the standard of interpretation given from the places that are visited. Financial viability and position of the operators who adopt sustainable practices are also improved. The strategy also contributes for various conservation solutions and projects that provide certain benefits to the local communities. The approach also involves marketing the principles of sustainability to generate awareness in the whole tourism industry.

Historical, cultural and biological conservation are some of the sectors that are closely related to ecotourism. In the field of travel and tourism, various data and variables linked with the individual’s behaviour have been explored for the sake of consumer behaviour studies and other research. Variables like destination image, service perception, motivation for travel and environmental awareness are generally used to analyze and predict destination selections and travel behaviour. Healthy living is found to be positively associated with travel behaviour. Also in the highly saturated market place, the attainment of good market destinations should be on the basis of thorough study of tourist motivation and its interaction with tourist satisfaction and loyalty.

Importance of ecotourism

Motivation theories say that people like to travel as they are ‘pushed’ into taking decisions by psychological or internal forces and are ‘pulled’ by the external forces of the destination attributes. Similarly, satisfaction associated with travel experiences, based on the pull and push forces leads to this destination loyalty. The degree of tourist loyalty to a particular place is evident from their plans to visit the place and from their recommendations to others. Travellers (tourists) have their own internal as well as external reasons for travelling. But one or both of the motivation can have positive or negative relation with travel satisfaction. Travel satisfaction is the commonly used assessment tool for the evaluation of travel experiences. Positive opinion of tourists on various products, services and other resources given by the tourist destinations is the most important factor which increases the popularity of that particular destination. Such satisfied customers also will recommend the destination to their relatives and friends. The most reliable and valuable information for potential tourists about the place is the recommendations given by the previous visitors.

Motivation can be explained as psychological or biological factors including integral forces that generate, direct and integrate the behaviour and activity of a person. In sociology as well as psychology, explanation of motivation is directed towards emotional and cognitive motives or internal and external motives. Internal motive is related to drives, feelings and instincts whereas external motive includes mental representation like belief and knowledge. Tourists are actually motivated to break away from the tiresome routine of life, seeking authentic and pleasure-giving experiences, according to an anthropological point of view.

Motivation of travellers

Motivation concept can be divided into two forces that explain that people wish to travel as they are pushed and pulled to travel by some forces or factors. These forces describe how people are pushed by the motivation variables for making travel decisions and the way they are attracted or pulled by various destination attributes. In short, push motivations are associated with tourist’s desire and pull motivations are related to the attributes of the destination choices. Push motivations are mainly associated with internal or emotional aspects whereas pull motivations are related to external, situational or cognitive aspects. Push motivations are the desire for change, rest and relaxation, adventure and interaction, health and fitness, family togetherness and various excitements. People travel in order to escape from the tiring routine and to explore authentic experiences. Pull motivations, but, are inspired by destination attractiveness, for example, cultural attractions, beaches, recreation facilities, natural scenery, parks and shopping centres. The specialties of these destinations will stimulate the inherent push motivation in a person.

Growth of ecotourism industry

Individuals consider leisure activity as a potential satisfaction-producer because of two reasons. First, the activity may generate some intrinsic rewards like feeling of mastery and competence and also will provide a break away from the routine environment. Tourists are motivated from going away from something rather than going towards something. Push and pull motivations are the primary theories in tourist behaviour and travel policies. People who are living in cities are motivated to travel towards quiet places or wilderness since they desperately need an escape from their artificial, monotonous living place. They require a place that provides them special environment and facilities that are not available in his or her, own place of residence. Maximizing travel satisfaction is the most important factor for a successful business in tourism destination management. The quality of the physical and infrastructural facilities and the psychological interpretation of the destination product are the crucial most factors for human decisions. Tourist satisfaction in mandatory for successful destination marketing as it reflects in the destination choice, product and service usage and returning decision. This satisfaction will accelerate the growth of ecotourism industry and increases its demand.


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