Ecotourism Disadvantages Essay

Ecotourism is defined as tourism of exotic, endangered environments usually to support conservation efforts and research developments. Usually, the ecosystems of these places have little to no interaction with human society, providing scientists with valuable biological information and tourists with breathtaking experiences. However, some critics consider ecotourism to be unethical and more detrimental than regular tourism.

Before you book your next adventure, check out the following pros and cons to understand ecotourism's full impact on the environment and local communities.


PROS

  • Valuable biological Information: Ecotourism provides the opportunity for not only environmentalists, but also tourists to learn more about the ecosystems, biology, and geology of a specific location. Knowing the components of an ecosystem can lead to a better understanding of how to conserve different species and natural formations. Ecotourism provides an impactful firsthand experience about sustainable living and eco-friendly practices.

  • Local economic improvement: In some cases, ecotourism provides sustainable economic growth for countries. Places like Ecuador, Nepal, Madagascar, and Costa Rica rely on tourists to build their economies. Regular travel and tourism usually returns only about 20% of revenue back to local communities while ecotourism can return as much as 95%. Ecotourism isn’t only about conversing environments; it’s also about sustaining communities.

    For example, Madagascar’s government has started promoting its tourism as an economic strategy to shrink its 81% poverty rate. Although it’s still in the idea phase, it’s possible that ecotourism could be the answer to their unemployment crisis.

  • Positive impact on community culture: Not only does ecotourism create jobs for locals, it also promotes and preserves traditional practices. Locally grown food and crafted goods creates a direct economic and cultural connection between the tourist and citizen. Ecotourism promotes these cultural traditions rather than altering native customs to fit specific international norms. Some consider ecotourism to be a means to end cultural ignorance, stereotyping, and fear in the world through its ability to educate travelers.

  • Increased environmental awareness:Most ecotourism programs include educational components about environment preservation. The tourists can help spread environmental awareness by taking the information they’ve learned and apply it to their daily lives.

  • Financial benefits toward conservation: When people spend money on ecotourism, some of it goes toward conservation efforts like reforestation and endangered species repopulation projects. Essentially, the more money spent on ecotourism, the easier it will be to finance conservation projects.

  • Natural resource management: In a global economy where many businesses exploit natural resources for personal gain, ecotourism introduces the idea of natural resource management. Rather than depleting resources to meet a high demand, ecotourism suggests adapting a conscientious mindset to extract natural resources in the most efficient and sustainable way possible.

CONS

  • Threats to indigenous cultures: As a repercussion to relocating native groups, cultures and traditional practices become threatened. The lack of resources that may come from relocation isn’t the only reason locals may start to reject ancient practices in order to simply survive. The growing number of tourists also puts a strain on the freedom of cultural expression. Natives are seen as a backdrop or prop during tour guides, objectifying culture groups and encouraging stereotyping.

    In less serious cases, the interaction between tourists and locals creates a gradual shift in culture. The more often native groups are exposed to travelers, the more they learn and adapt to cultural behavior patterns of the tourists.

    • Possible solutions?

      • Know how the ecotourism organization you’re interested in impacts local culture. Does it promote or demote native customs? Does it educate or objectify? Consider choosing a program that works with native groups to educate others on their customs.

      • Be courteous of how you display your culture. Try to leave as little influence on others as possible.

  • Relocation of locals: Sometimes local groups of people are displaced from their homes in order to make way for hotels, ecotourism expansions, and natural resource excavations. For example, in East Africa about 70% of all national parks and game reserves are occupying land that was illegally taken away from a group of people called the Maasai. What’s worse is that the Maasai did not receive any financial compensation for their loss. Not to mention the new employment opportunities benefited educated professionals rather than the native people of East Africa.

    • Possible solutions?

      • Organizations have formed to help the Maasai reclaim legal and financial rights to their ancestral lands. Become aware of similar situations like this to better understand the extent of an organization impact with the local people.
      • Research an ecotourism organization’s history to learn more about their intentions and goals. If there are possible discrepancies, like with the Maasai, use your discretion to discern whether or not the organization is ethical.

  • Ecosystem degradation: Although ecotourism is specifically designed to counter environmental degradation, it can sometimes be its cause. Ecotourism specifically takes tourists to ecosystems relatively untouched by humans. Introducing a foreign element to these delicate systems can disrupt a number of factors: human presence can scare off prey and disrupt hunting patterns for predators, an increased number of travelers can lead to soil erosion and habitat loss, and higher demand of resources like food and water for travelers creates a stress on the environment in order to accommodate for more people.

    • Possible solutions?

      • Obey the regulations of the ecotourism organization exactly.

      • Research the local wildlife in order to know all possible sustainability threats to reduce the negative impacts of your excursions.

      • Refrain from overeating or wasting water whenever possible. Take what you need.

  • Travel impacts on the environment: In order to visit some of these exotic places, you have to travel long distances. Planes generate a huge amount of global pollution which can indirectly affect the local ecosystems of your travel destination. Cars and boats used for local transportation will have more direct negative effects, which can also lead to environmental degradation.

    • Possible solutions?

      • Consider taking a nonstop flight. Although this might be more expensive, it uses less fuel than regular flight plans.

      • Walk or take public transportation while traveling in a country. Try renting non-motorized boats or vehicles if the need arises.

      • In some places, guided tours are offered via horses, camels, elephants, or other native animals rather than by Jeep or bus. Not only is this an incredible experience to witness amazing wildlife, it reduces the impact of your carbon footprint, literally!

  • Integrity of ecotourism organization: Ecotourism has grown in global demand by about 25% each year. Many organizations are jumping on this trend, claiming their parks and programs are “ecotouristic” despite their negligence to adhere to eco-friendly policies. Unfortunately, ecotourism has turned into a marketing ploy to entice tourists to spend their money on the organization's services.

    • Possible solutions?

      • Research the organization you’re interested in and make sure they adhere to the philosophy of the 4C’s. Continue reading for more details.

How can you be an eco-tourist?

So is ecotourism worth it? In reality, it all boils down to who you’re working through, where you go, how you get there, and what you do while traveling to reduce your negative impacts on the environment. If you’re looking to green-up your travel habits, follow these practical tips:

Choose genuine ecotourism programs:Thoroughly research your organization to make sure they meet all the expectations of the 4C’s philosophy:

  • Conservation: Is the organization safeguarding the biodiversity and integrity of ecosystems?
  • Community: Is the organization supporting basic rights of locals while enhancing the wellbeing of communities?
  • Culture: Is the organization nurturing the education of cultures to its tourists? Is it a positive experience that promotes respect and understanding?
  • Commerce: Is the organization building the local economy?

    If an organization fails to uphold one or more of these principles, it’s probably not a genuine ecotourism program.
Stay at green lodging services: Stay at hotels that implement green policies, like providing eco-friendly soap or encouraging their guests to reuse towels. 

Reduce your carbon footprint: If you can book a nonstop flight, you should do it. Also consider taking public transportation over renting a car. Always try to travel on foot or with non-motorized vehicles when possible.

Recycle always: If there are recycle services available, make an effort to implement that into your waste reduction strategy.

Bring eco-friendly toiletries: Chemicals found in common toiletry items might be hazardous to the exotic environment, depending on the country’s waste and water treatment. Purchasing eco-friendly shampoos, soaps, deodorants, cosmetics, etc. will help eliminate this potential problem.

Reuse anything you can:Towels, water jugs, plastic silverware—anything that can be reused should not be thrown away.

Adhere to regulations:If you’re on a trail that says “Do not leave marked path,” stay on the trail. If a town has a no littering policy, don’t litter. In other words, follow the established environmentally–conscious rules.

Buy local: Supporting locally–grown food reduces the need to import goods, thus creating less travel waste with boats and other modes of shipment while pouring money back into the local community.

Overview of Ecotourism (Ecological Tourism)

Before discussing the advantages and disadvantages of ecotourism, I believe it is best to come up with a clear concept and definition of what Ecotourism actually is (also commonly referred to as Ecological Tourism). There are numerous definitions surrounding 'Ecotourism' but I reckon the Collins Dictionary definition of 'Ecotourism' sums it up rather nicely: "tourism that is designed to contribute to the protection of the environment or at least minimize the damage to it, often involving travel to areas of natural interest in developing countries or participation in environment projects"[4413]. In looser words -- Ecotourism is a term used to describe the act of 'tourism' itself alongside the promotion of environmental friendliness and conservation of wildlife (i.e nature). For a more detailed overview and greater understanding of what ecotourism is really about then I highly recommend that you check out the fantastic speech from John Kasaona on 'How Poachers Became Caretakers'.

Ecotourism Case Study: Namibia - 'How Poachers became Caretakers'

Advantages of Ecotourism

1. Environmental Conservation -- A Sustainable Choice

The entire concept behind ecological tourism is for people to visit exotic landscapes and aid the protection and conservation of nature -- hence ecotourism offers an incentive for local people to help preserve and protect their environment and wildlife as it can provide them with a 'sustainable' income from tourism. This, as opposed to the exploitation of their surrounding environment for its natural resources --that can only be used to make a quick singular unsustainable gain with rather negative environmental impacts. (Such an example can be observed in the video above with the view of poachers - short term gain and caretakers - long term gain -- experienced in Namibia)

2. Benefits to Local Small Business and People

With the industry of tourism, comes an increase in the demand for local jobs and hence correspondingly an increase in employment for locals -- that are often provided through merchandise retailers, restaurants, tour guides, hotels etc. This then contributes towards boosting the local economy -- by meeting local people's economic needs as well as teaching them life-long commercial skills with the provision of experience and assistance -- therefore genuinely 'bettering' the welfare of local people and businesses. 

3. A Cultural Education 

Although most of the debate on the pros and cons of ecotourism lies around the environmental and economical aspects, it is also important to consider the cultural and social impacts also. As tourists visit local indigenous people and exotic landscapes and wildlife, there is a cultural education to be found. By showing tourists a wider and broader perspective of nature and differing cultures, they are perhaps instilled with a greater conservation ethic -- to act more 'green'.

4. A 'Better' and 'Greener' Tourism

As tourism is, and probably always will be, a huge industry within modern day living, ecological tourism can at the very least -- despite its negatives if mismanaged -- be considered a step in the right direction towards resolving and mitigating the potential outcomes of global climate change. Although ecotourism, as of yet isn't perfect, the concept of it can certainly can be judged to be better than that of traditional tourism.

If you have any additional benefits of ecotourism please share them below in the comments box.

Disadvantages of Ecotourism

1. The Local People

In some circumstances, especially when ecotourism is severely mismanaged, local people do not always benefit economically or socially as a result of ecotourism. When assuming an influx of tourism, many often overlook the type of employment that local people get into, where they are usually low paid service jobs that are based on temporary contracts. Moreover, although countries such as South Africa are benefiting economically and commercially from eco-tourism (or more appropriately here: eco-terrorism), it is also accompanied with rather negative impacts on its people -- forced exits and displacements from their homes as well as evidence of "gross violations of fundamental rights"[4421].

2. Fails to Meet the 'Eco' Standard

As ecotourism is essentially a commercial industry (with the primary objective of profit maximization), there is evidence of certain companies simply "green-washing" -- which is the process of simply making the holiday appear eco-friendly when it is in fact not. There is not much substance needed for a company to term a holiday 'ecotourism' and they often fail to get scrutinized by consumers. Hence, leading a holiday through false pretences. For example, a 'wildlife theme park' is allowed to term itself as being 'Eco'. There is however a call for regulation -- such as a Green Star system, which signals to consumers how committed the company is to environmental friendliness. 

3. Wildlife Disturbance

Even with the promotion of ecotourism and environmental friendliness -- it is still inevitable on some levels that 'tourism' will cause a negative impact on wildlife through consumer pressures (e.g. Polar bears are meant to conserve energy through the winter months, however as a result of ecotourism, this causes them to be constantly aware -- causing them to burn much of the needed energy -- 43 metres is the suggested distance not to disturb them, however is this good enough for the demands of consumers who want close up photos?[4420]).

4. Environmental Degradation

It is almost certain that as a result of tourism, there will be some negative impacts on the environment whether it be through littering (accidental or otherwise) through to the unplanned destructive infrastructure. Even tourists who claim to be environmentally sophisticated and aware, usually fail to realise the damage them simply travelling to their destination through means of non-renewable energy e.g. "10,000 km consumes 100 litres of fuel per person" [4421] nor the true extent impacts of their stay -- from the food they are eating to the water they are drinking. 

If you have any additional drawbacks of ecotourism then please share them in the comments box below.

Summary of the Advantages and Disadvantages of Ecotourism

Although the above list of positives and negatives of ecotourism was a rather 'tongue in cheek' attempt, it has hopefully given you a more 'balanced' and 'informed' view on the impacts of ecotourism. However, it should be noted that not all ecotourism can be judged the same, each company and eco-holiday will have its own unique set of strengths and weaknesses regarding its environmental friendliness. There is still a lack of 'regulation and accreditation' regarding exactly what constitutes ecotourism, so although there is tourism activities that are in fact environmentally friendly, there are also 'wildlife theme parks' and 'eco-helicopter rides' and mismanaged 'ecotourism' programmes that get away with being dubbed as 'ecotourism' -- despite little regard for its true principles. However, on the whole ecotourism as a concept is obviously a good thing -- the promotion and protection of nature -- despite some issues of mismanagement it is certainly a step in the right direction. 

If you have any additional advantages and disadvantages of ecotourism or any general remarks and experiences, then I encourage you to share it in the comments box below.

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