|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: There is a tendency, particularly for developing countries within the region, for ecotourism to be dominated by larger operators and/or those in regional or national centres. This results from economies of scale, differential access to capital, and the tendency for individuals with the necessary entrepreneurial and linguistic skills to be located in such centres.
Often, larger operators play important roles as intermediaries between consumers and small local operators. However, the dominance of larger operators can work against the goal of providing local economic benefits. Moreover, there is a common perception that large and out-of-region operators are less environmentally and socioculturally sensitive than smaller and/or local operators.
Options: Recognize the reasons for dominance by larger operators (and the important roles they can play), but implement programmes to facilitate local involvement where practical and desirable. Various options for achieving this include (see also Brandon 1993; Lindberg and Huber 1993):
· Local involvement in planning and management. This was discussed in Section 4.6.
· Local training. This training would cover a range of topics, including general overviews of the ecotourism industry, hospitality management (including hygiene), relevant language skills, interpretive material, cross-cultural considerations, and so on. Training can be based on existing tourism programmes, such as those conducted by the Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board, but should be supplemented with material specifically for ecotourism (Yong 1996). This training also is relevant to guides and businesses from outside local areas.
· Provision of local capital through microcredit and other programmes.
· Facilitation of outreach to visitors and to other sectors of the ecotourism industry, such as inbound operators. One of the key needs for local businesses is to reach potential visitors directly or through inbound operators. For many ecotourism sites, it is important to identify appropriate marketing outlets. For example, getting information into backpacker guidebooks may be more important than putting glossy brochures in tourist centres.
· Natural area requirements that local guides be used.
Opportunities for greater local benefits from ecotourism exist not only within the ecotourism industry itself (such as guides or operators), but also within related industries. For example, training and capital might be targeted at developing the type, quality, and reliability of agricultural products used by local restaurants and lodges. Various resources relating to business development, community ecotourism development, and guide training are available, including Bushnell (1994), Pedersen (1995), and Pond (1993).
Finally, innovative strategies for small operator marketing can be pursued. One strategy, that of utilizing the World-wide Web, was noted in Section 4.8. This is an important potential strategy, but its usefulness should not be overstated, as it may become more and more difficult for small operators to become noticed on the Web as the number of sites proliferates. Indeed, it is possible that the Web ultimately will favour larger operators that are able to establish and maintain a higher Web profile. Again, partnerships may play a critical role here. Groups of operators, possibly in conjunction with natural area management agencies, can pool resources for combined sites that may be more attractive and useful to consumers than would be sites for individual operators.