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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

Ecotourism in the Region

There has been much discussion and debate regarding the size and growth of the ecotourism market. Although supporters of ecotourism, or any other phenomenon, like to provide large estimates, others question this growth in some contexts (Blamey 1995). Estimates of market size depend on the definition used to describe the market. As noted above, the lack of a widely-accepted operational definition of ecotourism hinders estimates of the ecotourism market and prevents effective comparisons across sites. Moreover, because the sustainability component of ecotourism definitions is particularly difficult to measure, most existing estimates are based solely on the nature-based component. Therefore, most estimates of ecotourism really are estimates of nature tourism.

Keeping in mind that estimates should be treated with caution, Ceballos-Lascurin (1993) reports a WTO estimate that nature tourism generates 7% of all international travel expenditure (c.f., Lindberg 1994). Campbell (1994) reports that approximately 20% of all foreign tourists to Thailand (in 1990) visited nature tourism sites. In some countries, such as Australia, the percentage is even higher (Blamey 1995). Assuming that the Asia-Pacific region follows the global pattern, 7% might be used as an extremely rough estimate of the region’s international tourism that can be viewed as ecotourism, with several countries exhibiting higher proportions.

Lew (1997) divides ecotourism in the region into three zones: 1) South and Southeast Asia, which together comprise the major international destination region, 2) Australia and New Zealand, which have substantial domestic ecotourism industries, as well as a secondary international market, and 3) the peripheral ecotourism areas, including China and Japan to the north, and the Pacific islands to the east.

A thorough evaluation of ecotourism offerings and experiences across the region’s countries was not possible given limited project resources. However, one ecotourism operator with many years of experience in Southeast Asia ranks countries in the following decreasing order in terms of ecotourism experiences: Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines. Several other countries are not ranked and do not play major ecotourism roles, including: Laos, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, and Vietnam.

Currently, most nature tourists at some sites and for some activities are foreigners, typically from North America, Europe, and Australia/New Zealand. For example, Chudintra (1993) reports that 90% of Thailand’s jungle tour clients are foreigners. However, domestic visitation predominates at many sites. For example, Campbell (1994) reports that about 90% of visitors to Indonesia’s national parks are domestic tourists, while Chudintra reports that the percentage of such visitors in Thailand increased from 58% in 1986 to 85% in 1990. Further information on adventure and ecotourism source markets is provided in Aderhold (1996) and Wight (1996a; 1996b).

The characteristics of ecotourists and ecotourism vary widely across sites in the region. Nonetheless, Taman Negara in Malaysia illustrates some of these characteristics (DWNP 1996a, 1996b; Stecker 1996). From 1984 to 1993, visitor numbers increased 360%, from 8,200 to 30,000, respectively. Numbers have continued to increase, reaching 36,924 in 1994 and 43,491 in 1995 (an 18% growth rate from 1994 to 1995). Of the 1995 visitors, 48% were Malaysian, 8% Singaporean, 7% British, and 7% German.

The majority of the visitors were male (58%), young (89% under 40 years old), university educated (71%) and of high income. Motivations for visiting the park include:

· To see and experience rain forests (45% of respondents)
· For a holiday (16%)
· To get new experience (10%)
· For relaxation and sightseeing (8%)
· To see wildlife (8%)
· For recreation and adventure (6%) and
· To enjoy the camping life (3%).

Activities undertaken by visitors include (in decreasing order of frequency) jungle trekking, birdwatching, swimming, caving, visiting indigenous forest dwellers, botany, mountain climbing, and fishing. Somewhat more than a third of the visitors were on pre-arranged package tours from Kuala Lumpur, while somewhat less than two-thirds made their own travel arrangements.