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EXPLORING ECOTOURISM

International Year of Ecotourism Resource Guide
by Ron Mader

IYE WIKI

You get to know things better when they go by slow.
- Slow Notebook

IYE 2012

FLICKR ALBUM: International Year of Ecotourism


2002 was a great time for networking as those practicing ecotourism shared more information than ever with other like-minded souls. In a separate essay, we offer our reflections on the Summit and reflections on the 10 year anniversary. Comments are also welcome on Ron's blog.

HISTORY

The United Nations declared 2002 the "International Year of Ecotourism." The declaration came as a result of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD)-related meeting of the Ad-Hoc (Inter-Agency) Working Group on Tourism, convened at Heredia, Costa Rica in 1999 in which the World Tourism Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) were mandated to work together toward a World Ecotourism Summit, which took place in Quebec, Canada in May, 2002.

CRITICISM

The official gatherings did receive a good deal criticism -- as did the second Earth Summit held the same year. There is also post-event criticism, such as that the Quebec Declaration does not include travelers as valued stakeholders -- a serious omission.

Some groups were critical of the top-down process, citing lack of transparency and information from the sponsoring institutions and within the hierarchy of development agencies, foundations and NGOs. "Do we need the international year of ecotourism?"asked Anita Pleumarom of Tourism Investigation and Monitoring Team. Criticizing these environmental organizations, Pleumarom's letter explains: "Too often, international agencies have used the South for misguided and outright destructive development experiments." [Source]

The letter goes on to oppose the idea of the International Year of Ecotourism in that it serves as "an instrument for ecotourism experiments in developing countries, which are likely to cause more harm than good." Criticism can be made of the critics, though, as most lost interest once the IYE was underway and have not followed up with the same passion shown in 2001.

PLANETA

Having covered ecotourism on the Web since 1994, Planeta.com followed the IYE with great interest. In 2001, we published the first edition of this resource guide and we created the IYE 2002 Yahoo Group to promote a dialogue among interested parties. The public forum was developed to promote a dialogue among IYE proponents and critics and was moderated by Ron Mader and later by John Shores.

In April 2002, Planeta website founder Ron Mader developed and moderated the Sustainable Development of Ecotourism Web Conference. During this event we suggested a proposal (see below) toward improving information sharing among those working in ecotourism:

POST IYE

Following the Quebec Summit, Planeta.com hosted topical dialogues including Financing Sustainable Tourism, Ecotourism Marketing and the Environmental Impact of Transportation.

www.flickr.com

AUTHOR

Ron Mader is the responsible travel correspondent for Transitions Abroad and host of the award-winning Planeta.com website.


PROPOSAL

It is difficult to imagine effective cost/benefit analysis without improving basic information sharing as quickly as possible. This is easily said, but has proven a challenge.

As a reporter, I have written a great deal about the benefits of ecotourism -- how a particular lodge works toward conservation and environmental education ... how travelers benefit from an eco-friendly trip ... how environmental groups use ecotourism to foment an understanding of ecosystems necessary for a panoply of conservation work.

As a reporter, the first challenge is getting the information. Too often I have stumbled upon great case studies. I would argue that most institutions could make better use of their own websites.

For example, most of the environmental NGOs with ecotourism programs do not document their field work, provide budgets or personnel contacts online. Financial institutions, such as the World Bank and IADB, have not put much substantive information about current programs or evaluations of projects online. Universities also tend to work in an isolated manner.

Perhaps the short-term financial reward -- for universities, environmental groups or government offices -- comes from NOT sharing information. It does not benefit a multinational NGO to provide the contact information of a local environmental group. It risks losing some of the funding -- and the credit -- to a local operation. The same can be said about competing government offices or universities.

The result is that project reports, proceedings and academic papers take a several years to be published. By then, the matter of costs and benefits becomes trivia. There's nothing that can be done. It seems that much of the work of developing ecotourism -- be it at universities or trade shows -- is conducted behind closed doors.

I would like to make a proposal -- suggest a way of opening that door a bit. Is there interest in forming a working group that could develop a pledge or a petition that would provide the most effective means of communication among
- government institutions
- financial institutions
- environmental groups
- travel companies
- media
- universities
- travelers
- locals

Basically, this is an invitation to all of the players in whose best interests lie improved communications. In the long term, I believe that we can accomplish more working together than we can working apart.

- Ron Mader, adapted from a proposal submitted April 24, 2002


FEATURES

g Evaluating the Impact of the International Year of Ecotourism: Anniversary Report, IYE+5
g International Year of Ecotourism Resource Guide
g Reflections on the International Year of Ecotourism
g Reflections on the Quebec Ecotourism Summit
g Sustainable Development of Ecotourism Web Conference

FLICKR

g International Year of Ecotourism
ONLINE FLICKR

WIKI

g IYE
g How is your conference green?
g Toward Effective Communication in Responsible Travel and Ecotourism
ONLINE WIKI

International Year of Ecotourism


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Ron Mader



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