Among today’s contending conservation and development strategies, Ecotourism is one of the most popular. It seeks to curb the often harmful effects of large-scale, conventional tourism on local communities and ecosystems. But more than that, it holds the promise of overcoming a number of today’s biggest environmental and social challenges.
Image courtesy of Randy OHC
From a socio-ecological view, Ecotourism is believed to help conserve biological and cultural diversity, alleviate rural poverty, strengthen ties between parks and neighbouring peoples, increase public awareness of environmental concerns, and contribute toward new social/ environmental enterprises.
In addition, sustainable development through Ecotourism has become a powerful and controversial theme as many view it as a viable way to protect the natural environment and create social and economic benefits for local communities. This new approach offers many opportunities to reflect on the importance of maintenance, and the possibilities of implementing approaches which move us in a new direction.
There are many positive economic, social, and ecological impacts of Ecotourism. These could vary from economic inputs into rural communities, to the preservation of a cloud forest as in the case of Costa Rica. Other benefits of the tourism industry include its potential growth especially in rural areas and its potential to help diversify economies and employ a large work force relative to other industries.
However, some other Ecotourism projects have failed to address some fundamental issues and do not generate the very benefits it is expected to provide. Some negative impacts have been noted from studies assessing the impact of this new phenomenon. The environmental enterprise provides an unstable source of income which could cause great fluctuations in tourist numbers. In addition, environmental impacts from pollution and habitat modification could result in cultural deterioration and habitat degradation.
That said, I believe that we as conservationists should take part and participate in directing this newly born industry and create a green pass for it. This will ensure that outcomes of this business would not contradict with our conservation goals.
By Nahla Mahmoud
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