Tourism is one of the largest industries in the global scale and its increasing popularity has resulted in emergence of independent forms of tourism such as leisure tourism, business tourism, sports tourism, medical tourism, ecotourism, food tourism, religious tourism etc.
Ecotourism can be defined as “tourism to places that is designed to the protection of the environment or at least minimise damage to it, often involving travel to areas of natural interest in developing countries or participation in environmental projects” (Dictionary Reference, 2014, online). Ecotourism is also known as ethical tourism, ecological tourism and nature-based tourism.
Main differences of ecotourism from traditional tourism relate to travels only to natural destinations, constructions of environmental awareness, reducing detrimental impacts of tourism to the local communities and the environment, and respect for local cultures.
Benefits of Ecotourism
Understanding differences between customer needs and wants in an appropriate manner is important in order to fully appreciate the benefits of ecotourism to customers. Needs are essential for people for physical and social survival and they include food and water, clothing, accommodation, security, communication, love etc.
Wants, on the other hand, can be explained as “the cultural manifestation of those needs” (Andrews, 2007, p.72). In simple terms, both, highly educated individuals with substantial income and floor-level factory employees with minimal income have a need for adventure and recreation. However, while highly educated individuals with substantial income might want to satisfy this need by engaging in ecotourism, floor-level factory employees with minimal income might want to satisfy the need for adventure and recreation by only attending a local park.
There are various benefits of ecotourism to individuals engaged in ecotourism, to host destinations of ecotourism, and to the society and environment in general.
Ecotourism offers a set of advantages to customers, i.e. individuals engaged in ecotourism such as increasing the level of environmental awareness in a personal level, at the same time when being engaged in quality leisure.
Moreover, ecotourism can provide sense of fulfilment and contribution to the environment for ecotourists. Additional benefit of ecotourism to customers is associated with the preservation of touristic places to be re-visited in the future. Ecotourism offers the benefits of education to travellers about the value of environmental preservation and increases the level of cross-cultural awareness of tourists.
Benefits of ecotourism to host destinations are substantial, and they relate to the rise of standard of life through more jobs to local people and various schemes involving government and non-government organisations, preservation of local areas, and offering long-term solutions to the issues of poverty.
Moreover, ecotourism offers significant benefits to the society and the environment. Ecotourism is perceived to monitor, asses and manage the impacts of tourism, developing reliable methods of environmental accountability and countering negative effects of tourism.
Value of Ecotourism
The main value points of ecotourism can be represented through the following four points:
1. Increasing the level of environmental awareness. People engaged in ecotourism become more aware and sensitive towards a range of environmental issues such as global warming, deforestation, depletion of natural resources, and this change is going to have positive implications for the future of both, individuals concerned, and the environment.
2. Increasing the levels of cross-cultural knowledge. Engagement in ecotourism is going to increase the level of knowledge of tourists about various aspects of local culture and this fact represents a strong point associated with the value of ecotourism.
3. Preservation of unique tourism destinations for future generations. Ecotourism aims to diminish the negative impacts of tourism, and on the contrary, it aims to generate positive implications for a destination as a result of tourism activities. This aspect of ecotourism represents substantial value proposition in terms of preservation of unique aspects of tourism destinations of the present and future consumers.
4. Generation of sustainable revenues for tourism destinations. Ecotourism can effectively contribute to poverty reduction in local areas through increased level of involvement of local workforce in the provision of ecotourism services, and directing revenues generated through ecotourism fully or partially towards various charitable causes aiming to increase the standards of life for local people.
Changes in Ecotourism Benefits and Value
Benefits of ecotourism have changed during the past few years fuelled by the changes in customer needs and expectations. Generally, changes in customer needs in relation to tourism can be represented through the following three points:
Firstly, lifestyle of increasing numbers of people around the globe is becoming more hectic. Constant search for competitive advantage by employers is putting more pressure and demand for employees at all levels in a global scale with negative implications on employee-work life balance. As a result, increasing numbers of individuals aim to make the best use of their holiday time, preferably by immersing into nature far from their working environment.
Secondly, the numbers of natural environments are decreasing. Search for competitive advantage by businesses as discussed above are causing the depletion of natural resources at fast rates with negative implications on the numbers and qualities of natural environments.
Thirdly, the levels of awareness of customers about global environmental issues are increasing. Increasing influence of media in general and social media in particular is having positive impact on the level of awareness of people about a range of environmental issues such as global warming, deforestation, depletion of natural resources etc. Accordingly, the level of indifference amongst people towards these issues is declining, and people are becoming more sensitive towards environmental problems.
Due to the impact of all three changes discussed above, value perception and demand for ecotourism is increasing in a global scale. Accordingly, this tendency is encouraging the emergence of new businesses in the area of ecotourism further intensifying the level of competition in the manners that is discussed further below in greater details.
Andrews, S. (2007) “Introduction to Tourism and Hospitality Industry” Tata McGraw-Hill Education
Ecotourism (2014) Dictionary Reference Available at: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ecotourism