To the traveler, the benefits of ecotourism are substantial (exciting, adventurous trips to stunning wild areas; viewing never-before-seen wildlife); the disadvantages are minor (sometimes, less-than-deluxe transportation and accommodations that, to many ecotravellers, are actually an essential part of the experience). But what are the actual benefits of ecotourism to local economies and to helping preserve habitats and wildlife?
The pluses of ecotourism, in theory, are considerable:
1 Ecotourism benefits visited sites in a number of ways. Most importantly from the visitor's point of view, through park admission fees, guide fees, etc., ecotourism generates money locally that can be used directly to manage and protect wild areas. Ecotourism allows local people to earn livings from areas they live in or near that have been set aside for ecological protection. Allowing local participation is important because people will not want to protect the sites, and may even be hostile toward them, if they formerly used the now protected site (for farming or hunting, for instance) to support themselves but are no longer allowed such use. Finally, most ecotour destinations are in rural areas, regions that ordinarily would not warrant much attention, much less development money, from central governments for services such as road building and maintenance. But all governments realize that a popular tourist site is a valuable commodity, one that it is smart to cater to and protect.
2 Ecotourism benefits education and research. As people, both local and foreign, visit wild areas, they learn more about the sites - from books, from guides, from exhibits, and from their own observations. They come away with an enhanced appreciation of nature and ecology, an increased understanding of the need for preservation, and perhaps a greater likelihood to support conservation measures. Also, a percentage of ecotourist dollars are usually funneled into research in ecology and conservation, work that will in the future lead to more and better conservation solutions.
3 Ecotourism can also be an attractive development option for developing countries. Investment costs to develop small, relatively rustic ecotourist facilities are minor compared with the costs involved in trying to develop traditional tourist facilities, such as beach resorts. Also, it has been estimated that, at least in Central America , ecotourists spend more per person in the destination countries than any other kind of tourists.
A conscientious ecotravellers can take several steps to maximize his or her positive impact on visited areas. First and foremost, if traveling with a tour group, is to select an ecologically committed tour company. Basic guidelines for ecotourism have been established by various international conservation organizations. These are a set of ethics that tour operators should follow if they are truly concerned with conservation. Travelers wishing to adhere to ecotour ethics, before committing to a tour, should ascertain whether tour operators conform to the guidelines (or at least to some of them), and choose a company accordingly. Some tour operators in their brochures and sales pitches conspicuously trumpet their ecotour credentials and commitments. A large, glossy brochure that fails to mention how a company fulfills some of the ecotour ethics may indicate an operator that is not especially environmentally concerned. Resorts, lodges, and travel agencies that specialize in ecotourism likewise can be evaluated for their dedication to eco-ethics.
Basic ecotour guidelines, as put forth by the United Nations Environmental
Ecotourism: Travel for the Environmentally Concerned H
Programmed (UNEP), the World Conservation Union (IUCN), and the World
Resources Institute (WRI), are that tours and tour operators should:
1. Provide significant benefits for local residents; involve local communities in
tour planning and implementation.
2. Contribute to the sustainable management of natural resources.
3. Incorporate environmental education for tourists and residents.
4. Manage tours to minimize negative impacts on the environment and local
For example, tour companies could:
Make contributions to the parks or areas visited; support or sponsor small, local environmental projects.
Provide employment to local residents as tour assistants, local guides, or local naturalists.
Whenever possible, use local products, transportation, food, and locally owned lodging and other services.
5. Keep tour groups small to minimize negative impacts on visited sites; educate
ecotourists about local cultures as well as habitats and wildlife.
6. When possible, cooperate with researchers; for instance, Costa Rican researchers are now making good use of the elevated forest canopy walkways in tropical forests that several ecotourism facility operators have erected on their properties for the enjoyment and education of their guests.
Committed ecotravellers can also adhere to the ecotourism ethic by disturbing habitats and wildlife as little as possible, by staying on trails, by being informed about the historical and present conservation concerns of destination countries, by respecting local cultures and rules, and even by actions as simple as picking up litter on trails. Now, with some information on ecotourism in hand, we can move on to discuss Costa Rica .
|Copyright © 2001 - 2008. Created by Cupotico.com|
|The site is best viewed with Internet Explorer 5 (or higher)|