This article aims to explore the views of those individuals who believe that ecotourism imposes a positive impact on the environment, as oppose to the views of those who claim that it has a negative influence.
In 1990 ‘The International Ecotourism Society (TIES)’ referred to the definition and principles of ecotourism as: “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people. Ecotourism’s main purpose is not only to educate the traveler, but to provide funds for ecological conservation.
The most important aspect and ideals surrounding Ecotourism is that it should be predominantly beneficial for the environment. Nevertheless, ecotourism can also come with hazards, causing both considerable and negative impacts on the environment.
Ecotourism predominantly involves travel excursions to destinations where flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the main source of attractions. Ecotourism is aimed at introducing tourist’s valuable information and insight into the impact of how human beings can effect the environment, and to promote a more valuable understanding and appreciation of our World’s natural habitats.
The role of Ecotourism operators is to introduce relevant and-up-to-date information to travelers on how they can minimize prospective and unnecessary negative effects on the ecosystem, including – how they can contribute to protecting and preserving fragile ecosystems at the same time. Ecotourism operators encourage and teach Eco travelers how to travel with an environmentally friendly attitude and to take responsibility for their actions as visitors.
A good practice of ecotourism consists of relevant programs that promote the use of recycling, energy efficiency, water conservation, air pollution and soil erosion. Conservation or preservation projects are an essential part of Ecotourism and such programs are offered to travelers in order to give them the opportunity to participate and get involved more. One of the most important aspects of this sort of project is education. The intended outcome is that participation will not only enhance the awareness of eco travelers, but a hands-on approach such as bird watching in the rainforest of Brazil, to hiking in the Nepal mountains, will inspire them to be more concerned and aware regarding environmental issues. Ultimately – behave in a more environmentally conscious way in the future.
Income can be generated from natural environments helping to source and fund important and valuable conservation projects. Money is collected by encouraging eco travelers to visit and, during their stay, pay for extras such as entrance fees to attractions, concessions, and licenses.
Eco travelers bring money to tourist attractions and excursions, thus creating employment and income for both households and communities in and around national parks and other protected areas.
Ecotourism has a positive impact on the economy of a country as it generates income and foreign exchange from enterprises tour agencies. Guide services, hotels, and private reserves. Satellite activities, crafts industries, transportation and food services, and local Governments can then utilize this source of income to run and protect natural habitats.
Developing countries have benefited immensely on their Wildlife and natural habitats. They have become more appealing and popular among international tourists. Ecotourism is particularly flourishing in developing countries as a result of their natural environments and Ecotourist’s are selecting such countries as their favourite destinations.
Scientific research (particularly on wildlife) is more concentrated in ecotourism and projects are partially funded from the financial profits made from tourists. Scientific research is crucial to Locals as Ecotourism will gain and develop a sounder understanding of how the environment effects the habitats of wildlife, hence fundamental changes can be made to preserve and protect their environment.
Although the effects of ecotourism should serve a positive effect on the environment – there are many individuals who argue that ecotourism has negative effects.
Theoretically – ecotourism should have a positive effect on the environment, because it brings wealth to a remote countries, however – traffic and consumption, can do more damage than good to unspoiled areas. Even if travelers try and minimize their negative impact when visiting, – some negative effect on the natural environment will occur as it is impossible to prevent entirely.
Expansion of infrastructure is particularly damaging to natural environments, i.e. natural habitats are destroyed to make way for new restaurants and hotels. The problem is – is that popularity increases demands for more attractions and accommodation for visitor’s and this results in biodiversity and deforestation.
Root exposure to trees is a particular threat from trampling in built-up tourist areas. Campers may snap twigs and branches off trees to light camp fires, and tree trunks may be used as bill-boards for notices, hence damage from nails driven into them. This type of behaviour by tourists may be simply overlooked or deemed as trivial but all of these types of activities can reduce the regeneration of plants as well as the survival rate of tree seedlings.
Pollution and litter such as left-over non-biodegradable packaging left by visitors to an ecotourism destination causes contamination and disruption to natural habitats to become disrupted. The main environmentally unfriendly culprits are glass and plastic bottles, aerosol cans, batteries, and plastic bags
The feeding of wild animals by humans poses risks to both their health and mental well-being as they receive inappropriate nutrition and lose their natural fear of human beings. Some animals such as primates and bears become aggressive by the type of unhealthy food they are being fed, and in their attempts at grabbing food from tourists in picnic areas etc. Wild animals can also become ill from scavenging discarded food left by tourists or from waste disposal units.
Ecotourism can result in over-stimulated wildlife viewing, especially in inappropriate observatory facilities, thus affecting their psychological well-being, natural behavior, and disrupt mating. Excessive viewing can also lead to the disruption of normal feeding habits.
Statistics show that rare and spectacular species have declined as a result of the hunting showing of wild animals. Endangered species are at a particular high risk of being held in captivity for financial gain. They are kept illegally to encourage and increase tourism and trade by selling off their skins, teeth, and horns as souvenirs. Sometimes – whole wild animals are stuffed and sold to tourists.
From my research and discussion above – it is very apparent that there are differing opinions surrounding ecotourism. On the one hand: ecotourism can educate and increase awareness among humans regarding environmental issues, and bring in visitors for financial gain which helps to fund conservation projects and scientific research. But on the other – ecotourism can cause a negative impact on the environment by causing disruption to both the natural habitat and its wildlife.
Based on these opposing views it would be difficult to decide which impact poses greater consequences for the environment, hence – more detailed research and investigative analysis of the argument for both sides is necessary to obtain a fairer conclusion.