|Ecotourism and other Services Derived from Forests in the Asia- Pacific Region: Outlook to 2010. (FAO - Forestry, 1997)|
|4. OUTLOOK: ISSUES, TRENDS, IMPLICATIONS, AND OPTIONS|
Issue/trend: For a variety of reasons, including private sector pressure to access natural areas and lack of public sector funding for natural area management, there is a trend toward greater private sector roles in the management of natural areas. These roles vary across countries, but often involve private sector management of infrastructure and activities within parks.
The greater private sector role can increase funding for infrastructure development. Moreover, it can bring skills, including hospitality and tourism management skills, that may be lacking in natural area management staff. However, this trend also may jeopardize natural area conservation objectives. When private concessionaires lead infrastructure development, there may be a loss of economic benefit and management control. Important revenue-generating opportunities may be lost by natural area management agencies by offering crown jewels of tourism in concessions that do not reflect true financial value.
Options: The value of private sector participation should be recognized (see Section 4.10), but this participation must be balanced with conservation objectives if the latter are to be achieved. New public-private relationships need to be explored. Rather than react to lack of funding by inviting private sector leadership, other options may be pursued. One of these options is for the public sector to charge user fees and to take on a greater role in infrastructure. For example, it may be possible to follow the common hotel owner-management relationship, with public agencies investing the capital needed for infrastructure development and ownership, but with private companies hired as managers.
In simplified terms, natural area managers face three options with respect to pressure for increased private sector roles. First, the natural area can resist this pressure and retain the status quo, which limits negative impacts and loss of control, but also limits ecotourism-related benefits (e.g., additional revenue). Second, the natural area can follow a traditional concessionaire model, which may generate some additional revenue and may obviate the need for the natural area management agency to be involved in tourism itself. However, the revenue benefits may be less than their potential, and control may be lost.
Third, more creative relationships may be explored, such as the hotel model noted above. Though such an option would require some natural area agency involvement in tourism, this commitment likely would be repaid in terms of retention of control and greater financial benefits.