Lindberg also explained that the impact of ecotourism is more evident and more positive in remote regions where more jobs and income are enjoyed by residents especially in areas where there is limited access to lesser alternatives for income generation. The industry of ecotourism has accumulated millions of dollars for different local governments and as such has been one of the healthiest industries worldwide. In fact the International Ecotourism Society reported that that it has been growing at a 300 percent rate compared to the whole industry of tourism (Mellgren, Doug 2007).
Like any other industry, ecotourism entails costs and benefits that practitioners have to carefully weigh. What is distinct with this industry is that its costs heavily depend on natural resources and the management of them. With such feature, the resources of the industry are very limited and is hardly impossible if not completely impossible to manually or even with technology to proliferate. For example, we cannot make another forest once a forest area has already been damaged. We cannot dig another beach or ocean once the other has already been severely exploited.
The industry therefore requires extra careful management. Ecotourism is an enlightening nature travel experience that contributes to conservation of the ecosystem, while respecting the integrity of host communities (Canadian Environmental Advisory Council 1992). This definition of ecotourism suggests several principles that should be involved in the industry (Wight, Pamela 1993): 1. There should be environmentally sound development which requires that there be no degradation of the natural resources by all means; 2.
There should be proper education availed by the participants in the industry which include the government, the NGOs, the tourists and the community; 3. There should be a respect of the environment and its intrinsic value which extends to the recognition of its limits; 4. The industry should encourage the partnership of all the players; 5. The partnership of the players should promote ethical, cultural and social responsibilities of each; 6. There should be a serious consideration of the long-term benefits and impacts, both economic and non-economic, in the industry and the community and;
7. There must be a responsible conservation practices to the internal and external operations of the industry. The industry of ecotourism can be the operation of nature sports like skiing, surfing, and recreational boating. It may also involve the exploration of the highlands like hiking and trekking. The industry may also involve the operation of maintaining or developing ecoparks in the forests, in the ocean and the highlands. In any of these, the industry involves a great deal of economic, environmental, cultural and social responsibilities. ECOTOURISM AND SUSTAINABILITY
The general issue that is faced by the industry of ecotourism is sustainability. Because a great deal of natural resources is directly involved in the operation, experts in the industry, operators and practitioners are being challenged to weigh the cost and benefits of getting into the business of sports and recreation involving nature. Sustainability dictates that the benefits should outweigh the cost of using natural resources. Sustainability therefore entails the consideration of the short-term and long-term effects of exploring the environment.
In the industry of ecotourism, the alteration or use and even the disturbance of the ecosystem and biodiversity are a necessity. Any slight or serious effect of any of these means a sacrifice on the part of the living organisms in a certain ecosystem. Sustainability requires the industry professionals to carefully calculate and if possible to have an assurance that the costs of sacrificing the natural resources will be exceeded by the benefits that can be derived from it. It is to be stressed that the calculation should include the long-term effects of doing the business.
Therefore profitability does not ensure sustainability nor does economic development entail sustainable development. ISSUES ASSOCIATED WITH ECOTOURISM A. The business of Ecotourism has placed profit motivation of higher importance than environmental conservation We cannot deny the fact that the promotion and development of ecotourism have been products of profit motivation for Ecopark developers and investors. The business of establishing and maintaining tourist spots require a considerable sum of money, knowledge and skills and therefore it is but fair for investors to claim the economic benefits of such investment.
The market of ecotourism has been undoubtedly growing and gaining popularity like the United State, Australia and Thailand. In fact the World Tourism Organization estimates that there have been 500 million annual tourist trips conducted worldwide (World Tourism Organization, 1994). In the United States, the industry of ecotourism is dominated by private owners although are also government owned and managed tourist spots (U. S. Department of State, 2003).
The economic benefits of the healthy market of ecotourism is overwhelming that tourism and recreation have actually contributed to 3. 3% to 4. 1% of the United States Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1997 according to the US Department of State report. The leisure of nature traveling since 195 was reported to have been growing at an annual rate of 15% to 30% according to World Resources Institute. The attractive economic benefits of ecotourism industry can plainly explain the sudden proliferation of such privately owned parks and recreation centers.
What is however alarming is the fact that there seem to have been outweigh of economic benefits over the cost of environmental degradation not to mention the negative cultural impacts. In Thailand for example, the government has been blinded by the 53 million baht yield of the trekking in Northern Thailand from about 100 thousand trekkers per year. The over-visitation and commercialization of the hill tribe villages have considerably damaged nature through the construction of permanent huts to accommodate trekkers and littering due to the availability of foodstuffs.
The worse scenario is the transfer of such businesses to other mountain areas thereby destroying more of the natural habitat in the mountains of Thailand (Tourism Authority of Thailand 1996). In response to this issue, the government and non-government bodies have been organized to serve as guardians and monitoring eyes of the environment while maintaining the business of ecotourism. It is held important for recreation professionals, especially those engaged in ecotourism to coordinate or work in partnership with these environmental groups and authorities.
In Thailand for example, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has regulated the tourism visits in the area for study, to enjoy the scenery and for cultural studies. In California, the local government assigned the California Trade and Commerce Agencys Division of Tourism in the responsibility of taking over the business of looking into the sustainability of ecotourism in the area. Partnership with these agencies, especially when professionals are into private business, will help in the drafting of programs for business development.
For example, if recreation professionals are well informed with the affairs and regulations of the local government agencies, future or possible conflict of interest will be avoided. Even if professionals are faced with the impression that they are reaping the economic benefits of ecotourism, partnership with the local environmental agencies will help ease the issue. This of course entails that professionals has to really account and seriously consider the environmental impacts of every activity in order for the business to last long rather than exploring another area when the former has already been damaged.
Primarily, environmental and social responsibilities are major considerations in the practice of any profession. B. There has been observations that larger companies tend to be environmentally conscious than smaller counterparts. Watercraft, recreational boating, shark chumming, wind and water surfing are the sports and recreational activities that are active in California. Whether these activities are engaged for fun or for serious water sports, the facilities involved in the said activities necessitates considerable amount of dollars.
It is therefore but logical that those who can afford to spend much for the proper maintenance of their own facilities are bigger companies. However, this is not the case in Malaysia as golf course development has been one of the major environmental issues faced by the concerned professionals. Golf course development or golf course tourism, being a sport enjoyed by the wealthy people is a multi-billion dollar industry. Forest degradation, water and land pollution issues are embraced by the tourism industry.
An analysis made by an economist revealed that an 18-hole golf course consumes 5,000 cubic meters of water everyday costing Malaysian government $7. 5 million for the pipelines that feed water to the golf course resort in Redand Island (Chatterjee, Pratap 1993). Agrochemicals averaging to 1,500 every year are being used annually in such gold courses, 90 percent of which contribute to air pollution. Pesticides and fertilizers account for the massive destruction of marine life aside from the deforestation and soil erosion caused by the establishment of such recreational and tourism sites.
The challenge therefore is not the accumulation of much economic resources in order to support proper maintenance of their facilities but the challenge of taking social and environmental responsibility. The burden of immediate action against these environmental problems is placed primarily in the hands of the government who has always the supreme power to draft and pass laws that will regulate such activities. The involvement of the government in ecotourism will ensure that everything and everybody will work together for a well balanced ecosystem.
This writer believes that banning environmental recreation and tourism will help solve the existing environmental degradation. Ecotourism, whether owned and managed by the government, small and large companies, professionals are faced with the challenge of ensuring that every business endeavor is environment friendly regardless of the economic benefits it contributes to the locality. Rules and regulations must be implemented and everyone is compelled to obey.