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close this bookEcotourism and other Services Derived from Forests in the Asia- Pacific Region: Outlook to 2010. (FAO - Forestry, 1997)
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Open this folder and view contents4.1 Preserving Services Derived from the Forest: Protected Area and Social Forestry Approaches
View the document4.2 Need for Increased Research and Utilization of Results
View the document4.3 Importance of Social Issues in Management
View the document4.4 Continued Funding Difficulties in Natural Areas
View the document4.5 Ecotourism Management: Low Level of Funding and Reliance on Simplistic Strategies Like Carrying Capacity
View the document4.6 Growth in International and Domestic Visitation
View the document4.7 Change in the Visitor Market
View the document4.8 Continued or Increased Competition, Particularly for International Visitors
View the document4.9 Importance of Interpretation
View the document4.10 Importance of Partnerships Among Ecotourism Actors
View the document4.11 Greater Private Sector Roles in Management of Natural Areas
View the document4.12 Pressure to Use Natural Areas for Activities that are Not Nature-Dependent
View the document4.13 Professionalization of Operators and Desire to Exclude Those Not Meeting Professional Criteria
View the document4.14 Tendency for Dominance by Larger Operators and Those Located in Regional or National Centres
View the document4.15 Summary of Issues, Trends, Implications, and Options

4.6 Growth in International and Domestic Visitation

Issue/trend: As noted in Section 3.3, the expected trend to 2010 is for continued ecotourism growth within the region. This growth can lead to increased impacts, both positive and negative, on natural areas.

Options: Strengthen visitor management in natural areas in order to achieve ecotourism objectives. Several strategies for doing so are provided below.

Much has been written about the management of tourists, particularly in natural areas (Cole, Petersen, and Lucas 1987; Hammitt and Cole 1987; Harroun and Boo 1996; Knight and Gutzwiller 1995; WTO and UNEP 1992). On-site management options include:

· Site hardening, such as building boardwalks.

· Selective marketing and restrictions on activities, such as marketing non-motorized uses (e.g., trekking/hiking/bushwalking rather than Four-Wheel Drive use) and restricting motorized use.

· Managing behaviour, such as through education and persuasive communication (including use of visitor guidelines) - everything from keeping appropriate distances from animals to carrying out rubbish.

· Overall limitations on use, such as a maximum number of visitors per period (e.g., day or year) for the site.

· Selective limitations on use, including:

* Refuge zoning, such as permanently prohibiting visitation in certain geographic areas.

* Buffer zones, such as prohibiting visitation within X meters of active bird nests or within Y meters of whales while whale watching.

* Temporal limitation, such as limiting visitation by season or time of day.

Of course, a combination of these strategies might be used. For example, visitors might be allowed within 50 m of bird groups during non-nesting periods, but only within 150 m during nesting periods. In addition, management of behaviour and spatial limitations can be achieved passively through trail/track and infrastructure design and layout rather than solely through more intrusive visitor guidelines. Though user fees typically are promoted as a way to generate revenue, they are also a potential management tool insofar as they can be used to limit use overall or distribute use spatially or temporally (e.g., high fees during peak visitation seasons).

Much attention recently has been directed at low impact design, construction, and management of visitor-related infrastructure in natural areas (CDOT 1995; Hawkins, Wood and Bittman 1995; US NPS 1993). Significant potential exists for the indirect environmental impacts of tourism to be reduced through utilization of alternate energy sources, the implementation of recycling programmes, and so on. The substitution of kerosene for firewood in Nepal is a widely-cited example of reducing such indirect impacts.

For both experiential and social reasons, it is recommended that buildings be designed in harmony with the local architecture and use traditional construction materials. Unfortunately, in many ecotourism areas, such as in Namche Bazaar in the Everest region of Nepal, lodges have been constructed of cement, which is unattractive to many western visitors.

Governments can play important roles in managing the environmental impacts of tourism infrastructure and operations through regulation and incentives. For example, in Malaysia the government has granted various incentives, such as pioneer status and income tax exemptions, to promote tourism investment. These incentives could be used to encourage environmentally sensitive practices, such as energy and waste minimization.

Strategies for managing environmental impacts also can be used to manage experiential impacts. For example, conflict often is caused by visitor behaviour, in which case there may be opportunities to manage conflict by managing behaviour through visitor education and guidelines. At the most general level, crowding can be managed by limiting the number of visitors.

A site might disperse and spatially limit certain activities to reduce crowding or conflict. For example, motorized activities might be allowed in some areas, but only non-motorized activities in other areas. If the area is of limited size, managers may need to determine the most appropriate or desirable activity, and then market and manage for that activity. The strategy of dispersal illustrates the potential for conflict between strategies to manage environmental versus experiential impacts. It may be sensible to concentrate use to minimize the real extent of environmental impacts, but it may be sensible to disperse use to minimize experiential impacts.

With respect to increasing positive economic impacts, the issue of user fees and natural area finance is discussed in Section 4.4. With respect to increasing jobs and other economic benefits, the traditional approach is to increase the number of visitors. Given that negative impacts (environmental, experiential, sociocultural, and economic) correspond, to varying degrees, to visitor numbers, generally it will be preferable to increase local benefits by:

· increasing spending per visitor;
· increasing backward linkages (reducing leakages); or
· increasing local participation in the industry.

Spending per visitor can be increased through, for example, provision of handicrafts where such provision does not currently exist (Healy 1994). Backward linkages can be increased through greater use of local agricultural and other products (Lindberg and Enriquez 1994; Telfer and Wall 1996).

Though visitor management traditionally focuses on environmental and experiential impacts and, to a lesser degree, economic impacts, social impacts on local communities may have at least as great an effect on sustainability as do these other impacts. As one ecotourism operator put it, “ecotourism cannot be achieved if development is opposed by the community” (Jarvie 1993:55).

Probably the best way to minimize negative social impacts and enhance local economic benefits is to ensure local involvement in, and control over, tourism development (Brandon 1993, 1996; Brohman 1996). There are obstacles to local involvement, including local factionalism and a tendency toward centralized government planning. Moreover, this involvement may make tourism development slower and more expensive. However, it also probably makes it more sustainable. As noted by Brandon (1996), local residents can (and should) decide what level of tourism they want, what cultural practices they wish to share, and where tourists will be allowed to go. Several different levels of community involvement are possible, from full local development of facilities to partnerships or joint ventures with industry, to delegation of rights in exchange for fees. The Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) in Nepal is a commonly-cited example of effective local development of ecotourism.

The local involvement process should include education about probable tourism impacts so that residents can make an informed decision regarding the desirability of tourism. Lastly, development should keep in mind the impacts listed in Section 3.4/Sociocultural Dimension and should pursue opportunities for minimizing costs and maximizing benefits. For example, reduced access to resident recreational areas (e.g., beaches) is a commonly-cited cost of tourism, so continued resident access to these areas should be preserved.

Future increases in visitation can bring important economic and other benefits. However, it also can generate increased negative impacts. If effective visitor management is implemented, the benefits can be enhanced while the negative impacts are minimized. Indeed, in some cases it may be possible, through effective management, to reduce negative impacts from current levels despite an increase in visitation. On the other hand, if visitor management is not strengthened, increased visitation may severely jeopardize resource management and other objectives.