Soft ecotourism is found in a few very limited areas in a small number of public and private protected areas. Hard ecotourism is dispersed within and among protected areas (Weaver, 2001). The fundamental challenge for land managers is to protect the ecological or socio-cultural integrity of protected areas. There are no current standards for defining “sustainable” practice. A key requirement for any ecotourism operation is that of “sustainability.” Misrepresentation of Ecotourism
When any business or activity is referred to as “ecotourism,” it must meet the core criteria listed below. Four core criteria of ecotourism.
1) A form of tourism. The most common reason for travel is visiting friends and relatives (VFR). A “tourist” will also travel outside of their normal residence and spend a specific amount of time at a destination.
2) Basis in nature. Attractions are based primarily on a natural environment (ecosystem) or some component of that environment. It also may have a cultural component associated with the natural environment.
3) Learning. Visitors are motivated by the opportunity to gain knowledge or appreciation of a natural area or culture.
4) Sustainability. Sustainable is a critical factor in any ecotourism definition. It is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (WCED, 1987, p. 43). Deliberate misrepresentation of a business or activity that does not meet these criteria is using ecotourism to promote business, this is “greenwashing” or “eco-selling.” Unfortunately, too many individuals and companies inappropriately use the ecotourism label to market their product or services. This misrepresentation harms the entire ecotourism industry. Ecological Benefits
Incentive to protect natural areas: With the increase in world population and the increasing demand and consumption of natural resources as a result of population growth. Incentive to rehabilitate modified environments: ecotourism creates a desire to enhance modified natural areas to create new economic opportunities. Providing funds to manage and expand protected areas: ectourism businesses and organizations are providing funds for protecting and managing protected areas. Many ecotourists are willing to assist with habitat maintenance and enhancement through volunteering for local conservation projects and direct donations. Ecotourists serve as environmental watchdogs. They are more willing to intervene or correct others’ behaviors that are detrimental to the environment. Indirect Benefits
Exposure to ecotourism fosters environmentalism.
Areas protected for ecotourism provide environmental benefits.
Direct CostsEven with reasonable efforts to avoid negative environmental and socio-cultural impacts and remediation efforts relating to these types of impacts, negative impacts will occur. Three categories of negative impacts are: 1. Impact of building and generation of waste. 2. Impact of tourists activities (wildlife observation, hiking/diving, introduction of exotic species)Indirect Costs 1. Effects of induced building. 2. Exposure to less benign forms of tourism. 3. Transit effects 4. Problems of economic valuation of nature.
Impact Management Strategies
Ecotourism Priority: to minimize the ecological costs of ecotourism and maximize the benefits. Hard and soft ecotourism: critical mass favors soft ecotourists while hard ecotourists participate in activities in remote areas not often monitored. Both hard and soft ecotourism activities need to be effectively managed based on the mixture and distribution of ecotourism for a particular protected area. Flexible and fixed carrying capacities: carrying capacity is the amount of activity that can be accommodated in an area without incurring unsustainable impact (Borrie, McCool & Stankey, 1998). Spatial and temporal concentrations of tourism in protected areas assume 95% of tourists is confined to 5% of space in a heavily visited protected area. While the remaining 5% of tourists spend time in the remaining 95% of the space. Zoning: is defined as “regulations that demarcate specific areas for different types of land use and the development standards to be applied within each land use zone” (Inskeep, 1991, p. 432).
Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS)
First developed in North America, it is useful method for considering the opportunities for recreation in parks it involves looking at the various settings for recreation that result from the characteristics and management of a park. Settings can be expressed in terms of factors such as degree of vehicle access, amount of development, use levels and time taken to get to a location.
The fundamental premise behind the ROS is that visitors to parks seek certain types of settings and experiences. These expectations by visitors can be identified and managed. In many parks people can have a variety of quality recreation experiences. Possible combinations of activities, settings and experiences can be arranged along a continuum from very natural areas, remote from vehicle access and development, to intensively managed recreation sites which cater for large numbers of people in small areas.
The actual number of ROS classes is not as important as the idea that different recreation opportunities require different settings, and that the widest possible range of settings should be available to park visitors and the general community.
ROS Class or setting Characteristics and possible experiences Class 1
Remote Essentially unmodified environments of large size where interaction between users is very low and evidence of other users is minimal. Evidence of restrictions and controls is absent. Motorized access by the public is not permitted. The recreation emphasis is on self-reliance, independence, closeness to nature and tranquility. Such areas offer a high degree of challenge and risk opportunities.
Semi-remote Predominantly natural or natural-looking environments of moderate to large size. Interaction between users is low, but there may be evidence of other users. Minimum on-site controls and restrictions are obvious. Limited vehicle tracks; some access by public is permitted. High to moderate probability of experiencing isolation from the sights and sounds of people, independence, closeness to nature, tranquility and self reliance. Such areas offer a moderate degree of challenge and risk. Class 3
Roaded – natural Natural-looking environments with moderate evidence of the sights and sounds of people. Interaction between users may be low to moderate, but evidence of other users is prevalent. Opportunities for both motorized and non-motorized forms of recreation are available with a high degree of interaction with the natural environment. Overall, impressions of nature are not dominated by modifications and recreation facilities.
Semi – developed
Substantially modified natural environments. Sights and sounds of people are readily evident, and interaction between users is often moderate to high. Includes facilities designed for use by large numbers of people and those provided for special activities.
Substantially urbanized environments, although the background may have natural looking elements. Vegetative cover is often exotic and usually heavily managed. Sights and sounds of people are predominant and large numbers of users can be expected. Opportunities for competitive and spectator sports and for passive uses are common.
Site hardening and softening: site hardening is construction to allow an area to increase its carrying capacity. Site softening includes post construction efforts such as soil replacement and re-planting native vegetation. Sustainable design and environmental management systems: these practices include use of recycled building materials; energy efficient windows, lighting and insulation; composting and other recycling systems; cogeneration (using the same heat engine or power station to simultaneously generate both electricity and useful heat) and using local vernacular architecture. Visitation quotas and fees: this is a complimentary strategy used with site hardening and zoning to limit overall numbers of visitors. Wildlife viewing and access restrictions: Thresholds response distance/flushing distance/approach distance/tolerance distance. Visitor education: can increase carrying capacities by positively influencing visitor behavior. The basis of visitor education are often using Codes of Conduct and Persuasion.