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close this bookEcotourism and other Services Derived from Forests in the Asia- Pacific Region: Outlook to 2010. (FAO - Forestry, 1997)
close this folder3. ECOTOURISM
close this folder3.3 Overview of Tourism and Ecotourism in the Asia-Pacific Region
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View the documentTourism in the Region
View the documentFuture Growth in Tourism in the Region
View the documentEcotourism in the Region
View the documentPast and Future Ecotourism Growth in the Region

Past and Future Ecotourism Growth in the Region

Though estimates of ecotourism’s growth are rare, due to the definitional problem, most observers feel that ecotourism has grown faster than tourism generally during the past several years. Based on a survey of ecotourism operators in the region, Lew (1997) found that average annual growth rates have been steady at 10% to 25% over the past few years, and many are projecting higher growth in coming years.

There are various explanations for ecotourism’s growth, including:

· increasing environmental awareness and interest, including the desire to be perceived by others as environmentally sensitive;

· increased media exposure to natural areas around the world;

· related to the above two, a desire to see natural areas before they disappear;

· increasing dissatisfaction with traditional tourism destinations and products, and a desire for more educative and challenging vacations;

· desire to go to novel destinations, sometimes as a way to “outdo” others (e.g., to be the first person one knows who has been to Antarctica); and

· easier access to remote ecotourism destinations through development of air routes, roads, and other infrastructure.

Insofar as the increased motivations to experience and preserve natural environments stem in part from more fundamental changes in societal values (Blamey 1995; Inglehart 1990), the continuation of these fundamental changes, particularly in developing countries, should lead to continued growth in demand for ecotourism. Many observers believe that the growth rate for ecotourism will be higher than for tourism generally. Thus, assuming an increase in the proportion of tourism represented by ecotourism from 7% to 10% and assuming that the WTO forecast of 229 million international arrivals by 2010 is accurate, an extremely rough estimate of the region’s international ecotourism arrivals for 2010 would be 22.9 million. To this, one must add the substantial number of domestic visitors to natural areas.

The ecotourism market is expected to evolve over time. Much of the ecotourism growth probably will stem from intraregional travel (Choegyal 1996; Shukla 1996; WTO 1996; Wylie 1994). As noted above, growth in intraregional travel is expected for tourism generally as incomes rise and infrastructure improves. Moreover, intraregional ecotourism in particular is expected to grow as regional population centres become increasingly crowded and polluted, and as increased wealth and education lead to greater knowledge of, and interest in, the natural environment.

As noted in Section 4, growth in Asian ecotourism source markets will affect the type of experience sought by visitors. In general, it is expected that Asian ecotourists will travel in larger groups and will demand a higher degree of comfort than is the case for western ecotourists. They also may be more interested in ecotourism day trips while lodging and dining in comfortable resorts. An example of this is the Juldis Khao Yai resort and golf course on the border of Khao Yai National Park in Thailand. Asian visitors (mostly Japanese) flock to see the park, play golf, and stay in luxury in the middle of jungle surroundings.

Evolution probably also will result from demographic changes occurring in society. For example, in source countries the “babyboomer” population is ageing, which will increase leisure time amongst this group. However, the group may require ecotourism experiences that are less physically demanding, more easily accessible, and with more comfortable facilities.

In addition, various factors affect the types of ecotourism experiences sought. For example, substantial media attention has been focused on the loss of tropical rainforests, and many tourists wish to visit them partly out of a concern that they may be lost entirely. Future interest in forest visitation may depend on continued media coverage and public concern about forest issues.

Other trends, such as the increased popularity of SCUBA diving, may affect forest-related ecotourism to varying degrees, depending on individual site characteristics. For example, forest areas near dive sites may benefit from add-on trips to the forest by divers. On the other hand, some forest areas may lose visitation as potential visitors choose diving-oriented trips rather than terrestrial-oriented trips. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to identify future trends of this sort.

Several other factors, many of them external, may affect demand at individual sites and countries (Brandon 1996; Laarman and Durst 1993; Lindberg and Huber 1993). For example, political or economic instability may cause strong decreases in visitation, an event that has at times affected tourism demand for many countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

In summary, historic data, trends, and expectations indicate that:

· tourism makes a substantial contribution to the region’s economy;

· tourism has experienced rapid growth in the region (though less so in South Asia), and this growth is expected to continue;

· ecotourism in the region and globally has grown faster than tourism generally, and this probably will continue over the next several years;

· domestic and intraregional visitors are an important component of the region’s ecotourism, and this importance is expected to increase in the future; and

· ecotourism demand will evolve over time, and the region’s ecotourism sites will need to adapt to these changes.