|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: Though regional ecotourism visitation levels are expected to increase, competition for these visitors also is expected to increase as new destinations are developed and as visitors become more sophisticated and discriminating in their choice of destinations. On the supply side, various countries in the region, such as Mongolia, have begun developing their ecotourism potential. On the demand side, many visitors are seeking more than a generic visit to a rainforest. They may search for specialized itineraries, trips involving significant contact with local communities, and high-quality interpretive programmes (discussed in Section 4.9) (Wood 1997). Increased sophistication and expectations have been noted for westerners, but also will be increasingly true for Asian visitors in the future.
Thus, sites not only have to attract visitors in the face of increased supply, but they also have to provide a high quality experience once the visitors arrive, thereby helping to attract future visitors through word-of-mouth referrals.
Options: One innovative option for reaching potential visitors in a competitive marketplace is the World-wide Web (WWW). Though the Web offers small ecotourism companies the opportunity to reach visitors around the world, Web marketing must be done well to be effective and should not be viewed as a panacea for attracting visitors (Johnson 1996). Numerous ecotourism operators and government agencies already are on the Web. For example, Samoan ecotour operators can be found at http://public-www.pi.se/~orbit/samoa/eco-oper.html while the Tasmania (Australia) Parks and Wildlife Service is at http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/. National parks and hill resorts are contained in the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board site at: http://tourism.gov.my/. Marketing efforts generally, and Web marketing in particular, provide excellent opportunities for public-private partnerships.
In addition, destinations can maintain and enhance the quality of the visitor experience and offer the visitor something different than other sites and/or what the same site offered previously. Some sites have a natural advantage with respect to offering unique experiences. For example, only China can offer giant pandas in their native habitat. However, other sites can develop competitive advantages through, for example, enhancing access or predictability, enhancing trip quality through improved interpretation, developing or linking with complementary attractions, and so on.
Increased competition, increased expectations on the part of visitors, and the apparent trend for ecotourists to be less likely than sun and sand tourists to make repeat visits presents substantial challenges to natural areas. A flexible, business-oriented approach to marketing and trip quality can help ensure continued visitation and visitor satisfaction. If sufficient action is not taken, traditional ecotourism destinations in the region may lose their market share to new destinations as they are developed. For example, Choegyal (1996) states that Nepal has lost market share to regional competitors.