The term environment can be defined as all the conditions, circumstances, and influences surrounding, and affecting the development of an organism or group of organisms. In this definition both biophysical and socio-economic factors are included.
In the long term, tourism depends on the quality of the environment. Indeed, the quality of an environment, or some particular feature of it, is frequently the primary attraction for tourists. And today, tourists of all kinds are becoming more sensitive to polluted or environmentally degraded conditions at their different travel destinations. Thus in some areas that until quite recently were very popular, tourism has declined because of environmental problems. For example:
algal blooms in the Adriatic have made the water impenetrable and hence unattractive to swimmers
beaches have been closed in the UK as a result of radioactivity, and in Haiti due to sewage pollution
600 tourism lodges in Canada face closure since acid rain has led to a decline in salmon stocks and the number of tourists seeking recreational fishing
in Mexico City, air pollution levels have led to a drop in the number of international visitors.
But as these examples show, a decline in tourism is not always caused by tourism itself. Rather, it is the pattern of industrial growth, exploitation of natural resources and consumerism, in brief, the unsustainable development that characterizes contemporary Western civilization, that are to blame.
In fact, tourism may have positive effects on the environment. Since tourist operators have a vested interest in maintaining the environmental quality of tourist destinations they are becoming increasingly interested in collaborating with those who work to protect the environment. Income from tourism can also assist in the development and improvement of facilities, such as sanitation systems, for residents and tourists alike. The recent World Fair in Seville provided a good example of this. Expo-Seville, built mainly as a world tourist attraction also provided an opportunity for the city and its inhabitants to carry out a sorely needed upgrade of public services. Seville is now assured of adequate public services until at least the year 2025.
Nature tourism denotes all tourism directly dependent on the use of natural resources in a relatively undeveloped state, including scenery, topography, water features, vegetation and wildlife. Thus it includes hunting, countryside motorbiking, and white-water rafting, even if the use of the natural resources by the tourist is neither wise nor sustainable (Butler, 1992; Ceballos-Lascuráin, 1986; Healy, 1992b). Like traditional tourism, it can be negatively influenced by various external factors. This accounts for its instability as a source of income.
Nevertheless, nature-based tourism (which includes ecotourism), is a rapidly growing sector of the tourism economy. Its global value for 1988 has been estimated to have been as high as US$1 trillion (Filion et al., 1992). So it has often proved to be a powerful incentive for conservation in many parts of the world.
But at the same time, uncontrolled mass tourism has and continues to contribute to the degradation of many areas of natural and cultural significance, entailing the loss of biological and cultural diversity, as well as of important sources of income. Clearly, what is needed is an environmentally responsible approach to tourism, or "sustainable tourism".
Sustainable tourism, as defined by Travis and Ceballos-Lascuráin, is tourism that is developed and managed in such a way that all tourism activity — which in some way focuses on a heritage resource (be it natural or cultural) — can continue indefinitely. In other words it does not detract from efforts to maintain that resource in perpetuity (FNNPE, 1992). De Kadt also uses "sustainable tourism" as the broadest descriptor, employed to denote all types of tourism, whether based on natural or human-made resources, that contribute to sustainable development (1990, cited by Healy, 1992b).
In recent years a specific category of nature-based tourism has developed along these lines. "Ecological tourism", or "ecotourism" as defined by IUCN's Ecotourism Programme is "environmentally responsible travel and visitation to relatively undisturbed natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and any accompanying cultural features — both past and present) that promotes conservation, has low visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local populations" (Ceballos-Lascuráin, 1993a). The Ecotourism Society's definition is similar: "ecotourism is responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people" (Blangy and Wood, 1992). In both definitions, ecotourism denotes nature tourism with a normative element. A response to the desire to permit access to areas of natural beauty, ecotourism's underlying premise is that the enjoyment of future generations should not be affected negatively by that of today's visitors.
Farrel and Runyan (1991) distinguish between nature tourism and ecotourism by describing the latter as "more exclusively purposeful and focused on the enhancement or maintenance of natural systems". Thus we can distinguish between, for example, traditional tour operators and principled ecotourism operators. The former frequently show no commitment to conservation or natural area management, merely offering clients an opportunity to experience exotic places and people before they change or disappear. Ecotourism operators, on the other hand, have begun to form partnerships with protected area managers and local people, with the intention of contributing to the long-term protection of wildlands and local development, and in the hope of improving mutual understanding between residents and visitors (Wallace, 1992).
When Héctor Ceballos-Lascuráin coined the term "ecotourism" in 1983, it was not the only one being used to describe the new form of nature travel that was developing (Butler, 1992). Scace et al. have identified 35 terms that "may possess links to ecotourism" (1991, cited by Butler, 1992). Among the best-known of these are: nature tourism, nature-based or nature-oriented tourism, wilderness tourism, adventure tourism, green tourism, alternative tourism, sustainable tourism, appropriate tourism, nature vacations, study tourism, scientific tourism, cultural tourism, low-impact tourism, agro-tourism, rural tourism, and soft tourism. These terms share some general concepts (particularly in that they are an alternative to mass consumptive tourism), but they are not synonymous. To assume that they are would be to make ecotourism a catch-all term to be applied indiscriminately to almost any activity linking tourism and nature (Farrell and Runyan, 1991, cited by Butler, 1992).
And as Norris (1992) points out, such activities cannot be equated with ecotourism unless they directly produce better protection. Thus, for example, although participants in wilderness or adventure travel may gain a deeper understanding of the natural places they visit, their appreciation does not necessarily help those areas, and so cannot be defined as ecotourism. Perhaps the best illustration is the Himalayas. Before 1965, fewer than 10 000 tourists a year visited Nepal. But this number has since jumped to 250 000. In the two major nature sanctuaries of Annapurna and Sagarmatha, the local treeline has risen by several hundred feet, as a result of local residents harvesting firewood to sell to trekkers and lodge operators. Ridges cloaked in rhododendron five years ago now are barren. Populations of goral, pheasant, and nag deer have declined. Trails are littered. Thus, although visitors may have considered themselves to have been nature tourists, they were not ecotourists, since their visits ultimately degraded or destroyed natural resources.
Another illustration of what ecotourism is not comes from the Khumbu area of Nepal. A survey conducted there revealed that many Western visitors consider that tourism development had enhanced the material quality of life of the local communities, but had also resulted in loss of traditional employment systems, acculturation, and social disruption (Robinson, 1992).
Thus ecotourism appears to have much in common with the concept of "alternative tourism" or "appropriate tourism" which has been discussed within the tourism industry for over a decade. For instance, it provides its greatest benefits (especially if applied at local level) through pursuit of a widespread but controlled "small is beautiful" philosophy.
However, De Kadt argues that policymakers should not simply distinguish between alternative tourism, which must meet high standards of social and environmental impact, and tourism in general, the negative impacts of which they might allow to continue. He contends that "rather than contrasting alternative and 'mass' tourism, policy-makers concerned with tourism development should strive to make the conventional more sustainable". De Kadt suggests they take a cue from the more general literature on "alternative" development, which proposes styles of development for the entire economy and which tend to be more community-responsive, smaller in scale, and ecologically sustainable than traditional modes of development (1990, cited by Healy, 1992b). As Kutay (1989) remarks, ecotourism can be seen as a model of development in which natural areas are planned as part of the tourism economic base, and biological resources and ecological processes clearly linked to social and economic sectors.
Evidently, ecotourism is a broad term, open to complex interpretation. According to Ziffer (1989), ecotourism "has eluded firm definition because it...ambitiously attempts to describe an activity, set forth a philosophy and espouse a model of development...'Nature tourism' is grounded in the behaviour and motivation of the individual [tourist] whereas 'ecotourism' is a more comprehensive concept which is based on a planned approach by a host country or region designed to achieve societal objectives beyond (but including) those of the individual." Ziffer goes on to say that the concept of ecotourism "establishes tough standards for a program or destination to qualify as ecotourism. It may seem overly complex. The needs of conservation and development, however, are inherently complex and successful approaches will need to be multi-faceted." Therefore, in this book, "nature tourism" and "nature-based tourism" are used interchangeably to denote tourism dependent on relatively undeveloped natural resources. "Ecotourism" is used to describe tourism only when an additional, normative characterisation is intended — tourism that helps society achieve sustainable development (Healy, 1992b).
The origins of nature travel are truly remote. We might say that Herodotus was one of the first nature tourists. His extensive travels included visits to the Black Sea, Egypt, southern Italy, Athens and the Aegean Sea. Inferences drawn from his remarks show that he was deeply interested not only in history, but also in geography, the natural environment and ancient monuments (such as the pyramids of Egypt). Aristotle also practised nature tourism. After he failed to become master of the Academy following Plato's death in 347 BC, he went to the island of Lesbos in the Aegean Sea where he spent his time studying marine animals. Other notable precursors of ecotourism include Pytheas, Strabo and Pliny the Elder, all of whom travelled, moved by a desire to see the natural and cultural environments of the world in which they lived.
In later times, Marco Polo, Ibn Batuta, Bernardino de Sahagún, Joseph de Acosta and Eusebio Kino have left us vivid accounts of the new lands they discovered. More recently, savants and explorers such as Charles de la Condamine, James Cook, Alexander von Humboldt, Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, Charles Darwin, John L. Stephens, Henry Bates, Alfred Russell Wallace, David Livingstone, Sven Hedin, and Carl Lumholtz dedicated themselves to travel to remote areas with the fundamental purpose of discovering, studying and describing landscapes, life forms and different cultures (Ceballos-Lascuráin, 1989).
However, the globetrotters and explorers of the past were exceptional people, endowed with formidable energy and willpower, who undertook their journeys in a highly individual manner, often experiencing many privations and difficulties. Nature travel as a popular pastime cannot be considered to have truly developed until the late 19th Century, following advances in mass travel.
Nature travel during the 19th Century was essentially a quest for spectacular and unique scenery. During this time, the national park concept was created; and while the founders of national parks wanted to protect the environment rather than provide resorts, it was the tourist who "provided the economic and political rationale needed to translate philosophy into accomplishment" (Jakle, 1985, cited by Butler, 1992). Not until the mid-20th Century did worldwide travel become possible for more than just an elite. The technological revolution in communication and transport now permits an ever-growing number of people from different parts of the world to undertake trips to remote destinations previously inaccessible to the common traveller.
The first tours organized around some special interest began to appear in the Twenties, especially in Europe. Castles, cathedrals, museums, gardens, mountainous areas, and gastronomy became popular foci for such tours.
After World War II, the tourism industry exploded worldwide. But as the numbers increased, the image of tourism deteriorated. In the Fifties and Sixties, Americans were ridiculed for their insensitive and boorish behaviour when touring in foreign countries; they became the "Ugly Tourist". For some time it was thought that this was just a result of particular American traits. However, in the Seventies it was the turn of the Germans to be seen as the Ugly Tourist in Europe and East Africa and in the Nineties, the Japanese. The Ugly Tourist phenomenon is not based on actual personality traits, but rather is a result of the feeling of invasion by people who are different from the host community. It does not even require different ethnic groups. (Residents of Banff, Canada, often view travellers from Edmonton — less than six hours away by car — as Ugly Tourists.) It is part of the nature of mass tourism (or is it simply human nature?). And it has been accompanied by over-development and local disruption of cultural values and economies such that tourism has developed a very bad name indeed (Butler, 1992).
As mass tourism exploded in the 20th Century, another type of tourist emerged — in a smaller way — but with a different reputation. During the Sixties, public concern (mainly in industrialized countries) about the environment increased. Conservation organizations were formed to lobby governments to set aside land not just for tourists or for certain animals, but to preserve the natural integrity of whole ecosystems. The whale-watching industry in the USA developed at this time in response to a concern about the worldwide depletion in whale populations. By 1966, publicity from these activities and from scientists created enough public pressure that the Humpback whale was made a wholly protected species, followed by protection of the Blue whale in 1967. This period marks the birth of the ecotourist (Butler, 1992).
Support for conservation activities was of course stronger if people had experienced an area or endangered species at first hand. A protected area, for example, needs a constituency of supporters who appreciate and understand it if its long-term survival is to be assured. Ironically, though, increased interest in nature and nature travel can lead to problems of overuse and disruption. Indeed, overuse, resulting in degradation of the environment, loss of economic benefits due to damage to the resource or the local community, and disruption of local cultures and/or values, are often cited as drawbacks to ecotourism. But if tourism is damaging a natural resource (whether it be a species or a protected area), then it is not ecotourism. True ecotourism can in fact be one of the most powerful tools for protecting the environment.
A wide variety of natural and cultural features attract ecotourists: zebras and wildebeests, Ngorongoro World Heritage Site, Tanzania (3); the isolation and rural setting of the Romanesque hermitage church of Eunate, Navarre, Spain (4); and marine iguanas at the Galápagos World Heritage Site, Ecuador (5).
During recent years the popularity of ecotourism has increased greatly as evidenced by the coverage it has received in a variety of publications. Even the New York Times Sunday travel section has devoted entire issues to ecotourism (q.v. February 21, 1993).
Swanson (1992) uses social paradigms to explain this popularity. In the 1950s and 1960s the dominant social paradigm of the day held that progress and prosperity were more important than nature, considered risk acceptable if it might lead to the attainment of wealth, recognized no limits to growth, believed that the then existing society was superior to all societies that had preceded it, and exhibited a heavy reliance on experts and marketplace development and expansion.
Swanson then goes on to describe a new environmental paradigm, that emerged in the 1970s, largely in reaction to the disappointments and failures engendered by the 1950s and 1960s paradigm. It focuses on five major constructs:
valuing nature for its own sake
planning and acting to control risk, both personal and universal
recognizing real limits to growth
believing in the needs of a new society
encouraging the participation of individuals who are not necessarily involved in the marketplace or government.
Swanson believes that ecotourism has the potential to embody the new environmental paradigm. In particular, by recognizing and involving four groups — ecotourism operators, opponents to ecotourism, the ecotourists themselves and protected area managers — ecotourism could become an important force for responsible conservation and development.
For example, it could be a useful component of locally directed and participatory rural development and protection of natural resources. Nevertheless, Swanson recognizes that ecotourism can only be one element of the manifold conservation/development scene (Swanson, 1992). It cannot be a panacea.
Despite the general lack of attention paid to environmental management of tourism, it is rare to see a national tourism brochure or magazine advertisement that does not include photographs or other references to natural areas. Nevertheless, until very recently, advertising campaigns that built explicitly on nature tourism were uncommon. Exceptions included Costa Rica, Kenya, New Zealand, and Australia. The Commonwealth of Dominica, which is blessed with abundant forests but which has comparatively poor quality beaches, has compensated for the latter by promoting itself as the "Nature Island of the Caribbean". Costa Rica, with an internationally acclaimed national park system and many ecotourism entrepreneurs, has used the advertising slogans "Costa Rica: It's Only Natural", "Costa Rica, a Natural Museum" and "Costa Rica, Naturally Thrilling".
But more and more governments are now actively promoting tourism to areas that are the best examples — usually protected areas — of their countries' biological and cultural riches. And in the USA, for example, it is not only the federal government that is committed to fostering tourism in protected areas. Alaska, the largest state in the Union — with 60% of the USA's national park acreage and 30% of all state-managed protected areas — lists both recreation and tourism along with protection of significant natural and cultural areas as the objectives of its state park system (Johannsen, 1992).
The US Department of the Interior, through its National Park Service (NPS), is also assigning a high priority to nature tourism. For nearly 75 years, the NPS has been trying to ensure that US parks could be enjoyed by the public, and at the same time preserved for the equal enjoyment of future visitors. This is no small task. Yellowstone National Park for instance has been seen as a "pleasure ground" for the enjoyment of the travelling public ever since its creation in 1872. Annual recreation visits to the national park system exceeded 400 million in 1989 (making it the USA's biggest tourist attraction). Annual expenditure for operations, construction and land acquisition exceed US$1 billion each year. Recognizing the importance of tourism, the NPS therefore created a Tourism Department in 1981, the activities of which largely concern park manager training, communications and marketing (Milne, 1990). The NPS has also recognized the need for strengthening partnerships with the private sector.
In Australia, the Tourism Commission of New South Wales is very much aware of the importance that national parks, state recreation areas and historic sites have as major tourist attractions. Its role is primarily to promote tourism in that state and to coordinate development of tourism-related ventures. But it is very mindful of the need to balance development of tourist assets with conservation of the very values that attract visitors. In 1989, the Commission reviewed its marketing operations. Rather than promoting regions such as the Golden West, the North West Country, or the South Coast, a product-oriented approach was adopted. This involved identifying those products of value to the consumer (through research), and then marketing them. One of the major product lines to be promoted was the "national parks experience" (Crombie, 1989).
Tourism in protected areas is also becoming a particularly important component of government policy in many developing countries, since it has tremendous potential as a mechanism for helping to conserve the natural and cultural heritage. For example, in practically every Central American country, National Ecotourism Councils (NECs) have been set up to establish specific ecotourism policies and guidelines. NECs are made up of representatives of the various sectors involved in the ecotourism process: government (especially the tourism and environment boards), private sector, NGOs, university and research organizations, and local communities. The Councils provide these sectors with the opportunity to work together and take decisions jointly on tourism issues. In particular, the tourism and environmental bureaux, which prior to this, were in direct opposition, are now often able to harmonize their different objectives. It is quite likely that many other Latin American and other developing countries will also establish NECs.
The Central American countries (with the assistance of WTO, UNDP and IUCN) also recently drew up a regional ecotourism strategy, for the entire Central American isthmus, as well as Mexico and the Caribbean. This strategy incorporates marketing, planning and regulation and is a sign of the trend towards regional approaches to trade. Tourism (including ecotourism) cannot ignore this trend and must explore international linkages and regional promotional strategies. In Central America, three projects of international scope with important ecotourism components have recently been carried out: Paseo Pantera, Mundo Maya and the WTO/UNDP Ecotourism Strategy for Central America (Ceballos-Lascuráin, 1993b).
Generally, a country's prime areas of natural and cultural interest have been assigned protected area status at national and sometimes also international level. Therefore, much tourism, and particularly ecotourism, involves visits to protected areas.
IUCN (1991) defines a protected area as an area dedicated primarily to the protection and enjoyment of natural or cultural heritage, to maintenance of biodiversity, and/or to maintenance of ecological life-support services. The creation of such an area is now the most universally adopted means of conserving a natural ecosystem and/or relevant cultural heritage for a broad range of human values. Over 130 nations have established some 6,900 major legally protected areas, covering nearly 5% of the planet's land surface (roughly equivalent to twice the area of India) (McNeely, 1992). However, if other areas that do not have legal protection status but that are nevertheless under some form of conservation management procedure are included, the number of protected areas rises to more than 30,000 worldwide, covering nearly 10% of the earth's land surface, in nearly all countries (Thorsell, 1992). Evidently these areas are not of equal value. Some are but small remnants of once-extensive areas of habitat, others are not big enough to contribute substantially to conservation, many exist only on paper, and relatively few are sufficiently well managed to achieve their conservation objectives.
Traditionally, the national park has been the most common and well-known type of protected area. But national parks can be complemented by other categories of protected area. And in practice, most countries find it advantageous to have several categories of protected area, covering a range of management objectives and levels of use and manipulation. Such a range of options can increase the level of protection for strictly protected categories by in effect transferring human pressures to those areas which can sustain heavier use. This means, therefore, that the creation of a protected area system should be seen as an important element of comprehensive land use planning, to be undertaken systematically and balancing such divergent factors as protection of endangered species, watershed conservation, provision of recreational opportunities, and generation of tourism income (Heyman, 1992a). Recognizing the level of expertise required for such planning, some developing countries now request donor agencies to provide technical and/or financial assistance in preparing protected area plans.
IUCN's Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas (CNPPA) serves as the principal source of technical advice on all aspects of the selection, planning and management of protected areas around the world. CNPPA is also specifically responsible for promoting the establishment of a worldwide network of effectively managed terrestrial and marine protected areas. It recognizes that while there is a bewildering number of different names describing protected areas in different countries, there are relatively few basic objectives for which areas are established and managed. Accordingly, IUCN has defined 6 management categories, according to management objectives (see Box 4).
Three examples of protected areas: Category I: Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary, Sierra de Chincua, Michoacán, Mexico (6); Category II: Teide National Park, Canary Islands, Spain (7); Category IV: Golfito Wildlife Refuge, Costa Rica (8).
These categories provide the basis for incorporating conservation into development. Each category should in principle relate to one or several of the major components of a nation's development plan: nutrition, education, housing, water, science, technology, tourism, defence, and national identity. Viewed in this way, protected area categories become means for sustainable development.
While Categories I (strict nature reserve) and II (national park) are well known and broadly applied, some of the other categories are not so well understood. Ideally, objectives and activities should be related to environmental protection and to socio-economic development, whatever the category applied. Each category has a different role to play. Thus protected areas of each category are required if national and global resource management needs are to be met.
The prime areas for nature-based tourism — including ecotourism — are evidently those that are legally protected, since they offer the best guarantee for maintaining their attractions in the long term. The most commonly used category for tourism purposes around the world is the national park.
A special mention should be made of World Heritage Sites, which do not constitute a management category but are internationally recognized as "of outstanding universal significance". Accordingly, they have enormous ecotourism potential. There are currently 358 World Heritage Sites; this number includes sites listed for either natural and/or cultural reasons. Such sites should be models of effective management and conservation. Unfortunately, the high standards expected of these unique areas are not always attainable under current conditions. But strictly controlled and environmentally responsible visitation and tourism to these sites could provide much-needed funding for many of them, and contribute to their long-term preservation.
A selection of World Heritage Sites: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Australia (9); Machu Picchu, Peru (10); Meteora, Greece (11).
With the rate of environmental change increasing rapidly in the remaining years of the 20th Century, the maintenance of biological and cultural diversity assumes greater and greater urgency. Genetic, species and ecosystem diversity provide the raw materials for adaptation to changing conditions. Yet erosion of the planet's life-support systems is likely to continue until humankind manages to bring its aspirations into line with nature's resource capacities. This means that conservation problems can no longer be separated from the larger issues of socioeconomic development.
Growing public concern about the environment is convincing politicians and other decision-makers that the issue is not whether conservation is a good idea, but rather how it can be implemented within current social, economic, and political constraints. We are at a crossroads in the history of human civilization. Our actions over the next few years will determine whether we move towards a chaotic future characterized by over-exploitation and abuse of our natural resources, or towards maintenance of diversity and sustainable use of renewable resources (IUCN, 1992).
In February 1992 the IV World Congress on National Parks and Protected Areas (IV WC), organized by IUCN, was held in order to promote effective management of representative samples of the world's natural habitats for the sustainable benefit of both people and nature. (See Appendices II to V for details of the IV Worlds Park Congress.)
A glance at the programme contents of the IV WC, reveals the wide range of issues linking national parks and protected areas and human sustainable development. Issues dealt with included the following:
Social, economic and political issues such as:
community-based management of protected areas
indigenous attitudes towards protected areas
protected areas, war, and civil strife
drug production and protected areas
protected areas and the arts
international legal instruments in protected area management
building a new partnership between business interests and protected areas
the role of tourism in expanding support for protected areas
protected areas and foreign debt.
Scientific issues such as:
monitoring and research in protected areas
reintroduction of displaced species
problems with introduced ("exotic") species
managing endangered species and small populations of wildlife in protected areas
impacts of environmental change and pollution on protected areas.
Regional planning and development issues such as:
protected areas and the coastal zone
protected area management by private organizations
forestry and protected areas
legal strategies for integrating ecosystem conservation into land-use planning
protected area systems plans
expanding the world's network of protected areas
corridors, transition zones, and buffer zones
transboundary protected areas
data management for planning
biosphere reserves of UNESCO.
Management issues ("the challenge within") such as:
an international review system for protected areas
training of park managers
architecture in protected areas
marine protected area management tools
management for conservation of genetic resources
managing tourism in protected areas
managing sustainable utilization in protected areas
interpretation in protected areas
hunting and fishing in protected areas
institutional options for management
revenue enhancement and cost recovery
the role of universities
historical and cultural heritage in protected areas
environmental impact assessment in protected areas.
Ever since the origins of tourism, travellers have been moved by, and drawn to, nature. Protected areas are obviously among the prime natural attractions for tourists.
The first English travellers who started visiting Europe in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries were as interested in obtaining a first-hand knowledge of the cultural features of "the Continent" (its towns and villages, architecture and people) as of its natural ones, including "romantic" landscapes, preferably with high mountains (since these are conspicuously absent from the British scene) and lush forests. The Alps proved to be one of the most popular natural destinations. The Swiss, aware of the growing numbers of Englishmen visiting their country, as part of their "Grand Tour", began to offer the first modern tourism facilities in natural settings (chalets, hotels, restaurants, even narrow-gauge railways in the more scenic localities). Soon tourism (mostly nature-based, but also with a significant number of folkloric attractions) became one of Switzerland's most important economic activities. In order to ensure that their integrity was maintained and hence their attractiveness to tourists assured, natural areas became protected areas. This ensured that they were maintained. In fact, ever since Yellowstone National Park in the USA was created, one of the chief motivations for establishing protected areas has been to provide the public with opportunities for recreation and inspiration in an attractive setting.
On the other hand, tourism is vitally important for protected areas. The opportunity that they provide to see, touch and experience the natural world frequently "converts" their visitors into faithful and active supporters. This is a benefit in addition to that of tourism revenue (from entrance fees, concessions for tourism services, selling of souvenirs, guidebooks, etc.). The latter, if handled correctly, can be channelled into maintenance of the protected area, and used to pay the salaries of rangers, for road and trail maintenance, for interpretation, to fund research, build appropriate tourism facilities, and so on. Tourism can also serve to preserve and strengthen indigenous cultural identity, while at the same time making a positive contribution to economic development.
Unfortunately, tourism also poses an implicit threat to the areas under protection, particularly if these are very fragile. Unfortunately too, some communities or countries turn to tourism to generate economic benefits as a last resort, after other options have been exhausted, and without adequate planning.
In short, tourists need protected areas, protected areas need the revenue tourism generates and the exposure tourists bring: but both must be managed if serious adverse impacts are to be avoided.
In the 50 years following the creation of Yellowstone, the USA's (and the world's) first national park, the jewels of the country's present-day national park system were set aside: Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Crater Lake, and Glacier National Parks. Forty parks were established in all — but received little funding, and had no administrative system, management plans, or personnel.
Millions of people visit protected areas each year. Among the many subjects of interest are: grey kangaroos, Yanchep National Park, Western Australia (12); giant cardon cacti, El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, Baja California, Mexico (13); ancient Roman ruins, Volubilis, Morocco (14); and the fumaroles of Poás Volcano, Costa Rica (15).
US Congress mandated from the beginning that US parks should serve as "pleasure grounds" for visitors and travellers. Thus the US national parks "grew up" with tourism (Wood, 1992). Early Western settlers perceived matters differently, however. For them the parks represented rich timber and ore resources, ready for plundering. No single, centralized federal agency had the power to protect the national parks against such encroachment or abuse. And since the parks were far removed (at that time) from existing centres of population, it was relatively easy for miners, poachers and squatters to exploit the newly designated public lands with impunity. No funds were available to help reverse this situation, which was soon out of control. Cavalrymen were sent into Yellowstone to protect that particular park from rampant poaching, and loggers prohibited from carrying out any further logging in the area. But to little avail.
Then in 1911 Congressional hearings concerning the establishment of a national park service began, although it was not until 1916 that the US National Park Service Act was passed. Much of the campaign to get the bill through Congress was financed by the railroad companies. No less than 17 of the western railroads contributed US$43,000 in 1916 towards publication of the National Parks Portfolio, a stunning publicity volume that was sent to every Senator. At last, in August 1916, the US National Park Service Act was signed into law.
Research has shown that the transcontinental rail lines played a key role in expanding support for the protection of US national parks at the turn of the century (Runte, 1990, cited by Wood, 1992). Thus Yellowstone National Park began to gain popularity (and public support) only after the Northern Pacific Railroad had built a series of hotels in the area, close to the park's primary attractions, and offered convenient transport to the park's gateway. Illustrated guidebooks were prepared for Yellowstone by the Northern Pacific as early as 1885. By 1893 the Northern Pacific was identifying itself as The Yellowstone National Park Line.
Soon most of the railroad companies were involved in establishing tourism services in the parks (including Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Glacier); a legacy that remains to this day. As a result, railroads put park conservation on the agenda for national policy makers. The railroads' campaign was nothing more than enlightened self-interest. But as the popularity of railroad travel grew, tourism provided the parks with a solid economic justification for their existence. "No argument was more vital in a nation still unwilling to pursue scenic preservation at the cost of business achievement" (ibid.).
However, even after they had been created, the areas contained within national parks were not "safe". Hetch Hetchy Valley, for example, located in the heart of Yosemite National Park, was destroyed in 1913, during the construction of a dam. Proponents of the dam were able to show that only a few hundred "nature lovers" enjoyed the valley each year, while half a million thirsty San Francisco residents needed water. Conservationists concluded therefore that only if more Americans could be induced to visit these scenic treasure houses would the public come to appreciate their value and stand firmly in their defence. Thus tourism came to be seen by conservationists as "the most dignified exploitation of the national parks" (ibid.)
A three-toed sloth in Canaima National Park, Venezuela (16); features of the Parc des Volcans d'Auvergne, France (17); and coastal palm trees in the Dominican Republic (18) all provide reasons for nature lovers to travel far and wide.
Tourism to protected areas brings significant economic benefits to many countries, as in the case of Fiordland National Park, New Zealand (19); Tikal World Heritage Site, Guatemala (20); and Galápagos World Heritage Site, Ecuador (21).
The marriage of tourism and the US national park system is a classic example of how tourism works to define the value of land designated for protection. By the late 1980s, US protected areas had become the country's number one tourist attraction. In 1991 they hosted some 260 million tourists. Revenues generated by tourism for the US national park system totalled US$3 billion for the same year (Norris, 1992).
National parks are also important components of the tourism trade elsewhere. Parks in Kenya are the principal reason why 750,000 tourists travel there each year. Costa Rica too has become an important tourist destination largely on the basis of its excellent park system. This is not to say that all protected areas are intended to be tourist destinations. In the USA, many protected areas are assigned other functions. For example, some are set aside as timber reserves, others as wildlife habitats and yet others for protection of watersheds. And of course, many protected areas have several functions, only one of which may be to encourage tourism.
Few studies have estimated the economic value of either tourism in specific protected areas, or ecotourism, let alone the overall economic value of protected areas around the world. This is partly because data on ecotourism are not collected systematically by the private sector, governments, or the UN-WTO. This in turn is attributable to the fact that ecotourism is a relatively recent phenomenon. Moreover, a universally accepted and quantifiable definition of ecotourism is lacking. To overcome these problems, Filion et al., (1992) devised a three-step procedure which would allow the creation of estimators (or ratios) which could be applied to existing tourism data. The steps are:
examination of regional studies on nature-related tourism
generation of actual ecotourism estimators
application of these estimators to the United Nations-World Tourism Organization (UN-WTO) database on global tourism.
Filion et al. (1992) concluded that the following estimators could be applied to the UN-WTO data to determine the approximate magnitude of global ecotourism:
depending on the region, ecotourism appears to account for approximately 40–60% of international tourism
depending on the region, wildlife-related tourism appears to account for approximately 20–40% of international tourism.
In short, ecotourism and wildlife-related tourism are big business. It is estimated, for instance, that in 1988 there were between 157 and 236 million international ecotourists world-wide. It is also estimated that between 79 and 157 million people could be considered wildlife-oriented.
If the above estimators and multipliers are applied to the UN-WTO data, the results suggest that ecotourism contributed between US$93 and US$233 billion to the national income of various countries in 1988. It is further estimated that wildlife-oriented tourism generated revenue ranging from US$47 to US$155 billion. More specifically, bird-related tourism may have attracted as many as 78 million travellers with economic impacts as high as US$78 billion for the economies of the countries they visited (Filion et al., 1992).
Local populations benefit economically through direct participation in ecotourism, as exemplified by tours around Shoalwater Bay, Western Australia (22); and handcraft sales in Tepoztlán, Morelos, Mexico (23).
Moreover, high as the above international figures may seem, Filion et al. emphasize that they do not reflect the true magnitude of ecotourism. In fact, the actual figures may be five or seven times as large as those given above. They argue that the reason for this underestimation is that international tourism accounts for only 9% of global tourism receipts, whereas domestic tourism accounts for 91% (Travel Industry World Yearbook, 1990, cited by Filion et al., 1992).
But even with these data, it is difficult to determine what portion of domestic tourism world-wide corresponds to ecotourism. Based on some related research in Canada, Filion et al. believe that the wildlife component of tourism may account for as much as one-quarter of the total amount spent domestically by tourists. If this estimator is applied to domestic tourism in other countries, it could be argued that the generated revenue resulting from global ecotourism (i.e. domestic and international ecotourism) ranges from US$660 to US$1.2 trillion depending upon the percentage range and multipliers used.
Canadian federal and provincial governments receive US$1.7 billion in tax revenue annually from domestic wildlife-related tourism. These tax revenues are considerably larger than the US$300 million that these governments spend on wildlife conservation programmes annually. The approximate revenue/cost ratio of 5 to 1 may be even larger in many developing countries. If this hypothesis is true, then quantifying the socioeconomic importance of ecotourism would provide powerful arguments when attempting to persuade governments and businesses to increase their conservation efforts (Filion et al., 1992).
The UN-WTO data also reveal a tourism shift that has occurred in the last 20 years and that favours developing countries. Namely, those countries with the most diverse flora, fauna and ecosystems, and therefore the greatest potential for ecotourism, are increasingly preferred by tourists. This trend is likely to continue and those regions which are politically stable will benefit most.
Ecotour operators are encouraged to use techniques that minimize impacts on the environment, as shown by an example from the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. A low-impact means of transportation is used to carry luggage from the airstrip to the tent camp, while tourists walk the distance (24).
At a more detailed level, a study of Amboseli National Park in Kenya, for example, showed that one lion was worth US$27,000 per year in tourist revenue in the early 1980s. A live, fully grown maned lion in Amboseli National Park is now worth over US$500,000 to Kenya's economy (Durrell, 1986, cited by Butler et al., 1992). In a classic study by Thresher (1981), it was estimated that one maned lion for tourist viewing would draw US$15,000 in foreign exchange over its lifetime, compared to only US$8,500 if the lion were used as a resource for sport hunting, and between US$960 and US$1,325 if used for other commercial purposes.
Western (1982) estimated that the financial value of the park (arising principally from tourism) was about US$40 per hectare in its protected state. If the park was to be used for agriculture, however, its financial value — even using the most optimistic predictions — would fall to less than US$0.80 per hectare (Western, 1982). Western also estimated that the elephant herd in Amboseli was worth US$610,000 per year.
Bird watching, or birding, is one of the fastest growing wildlife recreation activities in North America, involving between 20 and 30 million people annually (Jacquemot and Filion, 1987), and maybe as many as 40 million (Roger Tory Peterson, pers. comm. to author, 1989). Bird watching results in substantial economic expenditures, conservatively estimated at over US$20 billion each year in North America (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 1982). In addition, many North American birders are now taking trips to faraway places. In Costa Rica, tourism values associated with visits by bird watchers to observe the resplendent quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) have led to the creation of local incentives to protect the vanishing cloud forests of Monteverde. Yet contributions to the economy arising from bird watching are often under-rated.
However, the financial benefits derived from nature tourism are only of value to the resources upon which they depend if used — at least in part — to maintain those resources. In the USA, revenue generated by tourism in visits to national parks amounts to about US$3 billion a year. So far, however, the proceeds have gone mainly to hoteliers, restaurateurs, and purveyors of gasoline, fishing gear and T-shirts. But this revenue could benefit the parks if those who currently receive it formed a lobby for the improved protection of the parks. Of course, the same could be said of any country. As pointed out earlier, nature tourism cannot be equated with ecotourism unless it directly produces better protection (Norris, 1992). This is one reason why the Australian government is seeking to ensure that tour operators who profit from the Great Barrier Reef contribute to its maintenance and protection (see Box 5).
Income, however, is only part of the picture (see Box 6.) And no amount of money can protect a park unless it helps resolve root causes of environmental degradation. Most threats to parks arise from the need of local populations to use the parks' natural resources for subsistence purposes. Yet traditional rural activities such as agriculture and hunting may have to be limited or prohibited precisely because of protected area development. One of the challenges facing nature-based tourism then, is to ensure that local communities earn an appropriate share of the profits derived from tourism, while at the same time conserving the natural and cultural heritage upon which these profits depend.
It can be argued that tourism is one of the major determinants of the value of protected areas. But the role of tourism in expanding public support for protected areas is a source of much debate. Conflict stems from the desire to both preserve natural settings and to allow people access to them. Some protected areas, with the addition of hotels and other facilities, now appear more focused on their extrinsic than intrinsic values. For many years debate has raged over the level and type of tourism in Yosemite Valley. Many decry the presence of hotels, motels, restaurants, shopping centres on the valley floor. Nevertheless, these same services have made the park accessible and attractive to many who would otherwise have been unable to witness the grandeur of the valley.
In some countries, serious problems of overuse are now being experienced. For example, about 3 million people now visit Spain's national parks every year. Considering that the total area of these parks is about 125,000 hectares, it is not surprising that over-visitation is already a serious problem (Aguilera Orihuel, 1992). Many other protected areas are now experiencing dramatic increases in visitation levels. Yet other protected areas, which currently do not receive many visitors, wish to actively pursue tourism, but are not staffed by people who are trained in tourism management, and do not receive any formal support for tourism from their government, local communities, conservation groups or tourism industry. Thus there is a danger that natural sites will be opened to tourists before management plans have been put in place.
Conflict concerning protected areas and tourism also revolves around the resource protection versus development debate. However, actual conflict usually occurs not within the protected area itself, but between the park and surrounding area. Community growth in areas adjacent to protected areas, in response to tourist demand for services, is often criticized by park managers as being incompatible with park values. Local populations themselves may view development associated with tourism with hostility, since for them at least, tourism is an activity for foreigners, who are seeking to invade their up until now natural areas. Some observers sympathizing with this view have labelled ecotourism, as elitist, racist, anti-democratic and ideologically biased (Machlis and Bacci, 1992).
Another issue is that of jurisdiction. Although a national park is generally administered by a single management organization and set of policies, surrounding land is often under the control of many public and private sectors and stakeholders. If a park is to be successfully planned and managed, it must be done within a regional context which gives adequate consideration to the different parties involved.
Adventure travel and nature-based travel are two of the fastest growing sectors of the tourism industry. Many people — especially from developed countries — are willing to spend considerable amounts of money and time to get away from what they see as the everyday world. Additionally, more and more domestic travellers are visiting protected areas. Ironically though, the more people seek travel opportunities to unspoiled areas, the greater the pressure on remaining pristine areas. Therefore, both considerable opportunity and need exist for developing a symbiotic relationship between protected area management and tourism.
More than 15 years ago, Budowski (1976) described three different types of relationship that may exist between those promoting nature-based tourism and those advocating nature conservation:
Tourism and nature conservation come into conflict, particularly if the tourism is detrimental to nature and its resources. Conservationists are likely to oppose such tourism with all kinds of interdictions and restrictions.
Coexistence is possible, if, for example, neither tourism nor conservation is well developed in the relevant area, or because each is ignorant concerning the other's field. However, such coexistence rarely continues indefinitely, particularly as an increase in tourism is apt to induce substantial changes. This stage may therefore be followed either by a mutually satisfactory — or even enriching — relationship (symbiosis), or by conflict.
Symbiosis may occur if tourism and conservation are organized in such a way that both derive benefits from the relationship. From the conservationist's point of view this means that natural assets are conserved as far as possible in their original condition, or evolve towards an even more satisfactory condition, while an increasing number of people derive wider benefits from nature and natural resources, be these physical, aesthetic, recreational, scientific or educational. There are economic advantages too. Such mutual support can and should contribute to the realization that conservation of nature can be a useful tool in improving the quality of life.
Unfortunately, the actual interface between tourism and conservation has often been one of coexistence moving towards conflict. This is for several reasons: inadequate management; lack of awareness on the part of both sectors concerning the other's aims and objectives; and the explosive growth of tourism on the one hand and degradation and loss of natural areas on the other. All too often, expansion in nature-based tourism has occurred without sufficient planning.
But this need not be so. A change of attitude on both sides could result in a number of benefits for a country (especially in the developing world). One of the main aims of this book is to show that a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship between those responsible for tourism and those responsible for conservation of the environment can be reached.
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