Three dozen respondents have responded. The following are the
results and key comments.
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
Having chronicled the development of ecotourism since 1994,
in early 2001 Planeta launched
Forum to focus on the
International Year of Ecotourism (IYE). Planeta.com created
an online guide
and conducted the 2002
Ecotourism Forum to promote a dialogue among interested
parties. In April 2002 at the request of UNEP and WTO, Planeta
website founder Ron Mader developed the Sustainable
Development of Ecotourism Web Conference.
RESULTS OF THE 2007 SURVEY
When did you become aware of the International Year
2002 or before - 82.4%
After 2002 - 8.8%
Just now - 8.8%
How do you characterize ecotourism in the country where
you live? Provide examples of best or worst practices.
PAKISTAN - Ecotourism is a new concept in
Some people understand its true concept but most of the people
in travel trade are not fully aware about the concept
USA - For the United States, ecotourism is
a misnomer, although many companies are practicing the principles
under the names 'nature tourism' and 'agritourism.'
MEXICO - Ecotourism is fairly nondescript in
Mexico. It generally means being outdoors. That said, there
are number of great examples of conservation and local community
involvement in successful tourism enterprises. Worst practices
are the massive attractions where there is no concern to the
environment or local communities.
INDIA - Ecotourism is becoming one of the major
attractions of Kerala. In this small state, ecotourism activities
and programs are mainly in the wilderness areas. Ecotourism
programs in the Periyar Tiger Reserve, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary
and Chimmony Wildlife Sanctuary are the examples of good practices,
because of the participation of the local community. Worst practices
are the business magnets trying to project themselves as leaders
of the ecotourism bandwagon of Kerala. The whole tourism management
authority of government is being manipulated by this highly
AUSTRALIA - Ecotourism is largely a major money
spinner with few operators obtaining accreditation taking their
obligations seriously in my experience. The international year
of ecotourism launch here in South Australia was appalling in
all senses but particularly for the Ngarrindjeri peoples whose
country was used for the event.
CANADA - In Saskatchewan,
Canada there are very few operators offering services consistent
with the principles of ecotourism. Most do not want to use the
term because it has developed a 'greenwash' flavor. As a operator
myself certified by one of the few Canadian certification processes
I am consistently applying it. The term tourism for sustainability
or sustainable tourism are more in favour in the industry in
our area at present. Relatively little progress has been made
since 2002. In fact here, more was accomplished before 2002
and we have seen a drop or degeneration in ecotourism.
CANADA - As a professional consultant focusing
on Aboriginal ecotourism and community economic development
in Canada, I would characterize the ecotourism sector as slowly
emerging and developing. The gap in Canada is on the side of
indigenous people being involved in establishing government
policy and programs for tourism and for ecotourism. We need
to build government capacity to understand and effectively support
ecotourism and Aboriginal ecotourism. One of the best ways to
do this at the government level would be to seek the guidance
and even the decision-making roles for the real ecotourism experts
in Canada - the operators and developers who are living and
breathing ecotourism on a day-to-day basis.
CARIBBEAN - For the Eastern Caribbean: A marginal
fragment of the total tourism product in the region -- ironically,
by permitting the development of more difficult sites, it may
have increased total tourism and the ecological footprint of
all tourism in the region.
USA - I think that the phrase 'ecotourism'
is weighed down by some negative connotations--the public thinks
that it only applies to budget, hardy, backpacker-type travel
options, and that it can only take place in pristine natural
settings. The future of the movement depends on a widening of
this meaning to include luxury travel (in addition to other
price ranges) and to apply to urban and suburban accommodations.
Good practices are low-impact/no-impact backcountry camping.
Worst practices are low-mileage SUVs.
On a scale of 1-5 (1 being the least and 5 being the
most), rate how well you think ecotourism is managed by the
government in the country where you live::
Policy and planning 1.97
Product development, marketing and promotion 2.17
Costs and benefits monitoring 1.66
How do you characterize ecotourism in other countries?
Provide examples of good practices or greenwashing.
Hard to say that 'ecotourism' has much meaning around the globe.
A Lonely Planet author said that what is called 'ecotourism'
in Latin America is called a 'walk in the country' in the UK.
Greenwashing exists at all levels, from operators to ngos to
In Ecuador, there are many examples of organizations claiming
to be 'ecotourism,', but too little regulation. Too many certifications
and awards appear to be given with insufficient inspection,
or even on self reporting, or worse - used as a promotional
tool by the certifying body itself, giving them little incentive
to turn down operations that at least present a nominal appearance/self
reported case of being true ecotourism. In this sense, these
types of certification and awards could be promoting more greenwashing
than true ecotourism practices.
The certification movement has created a lot of green wash.
On a scale of 1-5 (1 being the least and 5 being the
most) how well do you think indigenous people are involved in
the development of ecotourism in the country where you live
In the country where I live - 2.37
Global - 2.52
On a scale of 1-5 (1 being poor and 5 being the best)
how would you evaluate the work of developing ecotourism by
IYE organizers United Nations Environment Programme and World
Tourism Organization since 2002?
United Nations Environmental Programme - 2.73
World Tourism Organization - 2.29
What are the noteworthy achievements in ecotourism
in the past five years?
PAKISTAN - In Pakistan
people from travel trade have started thinking more seriously
the negative impacts of general and tourism and there is better
growth of understanding about the concept of ecotourism during
the last five years.
INDIA - In India, especially in Kerala, more
travellers and entrepreneurs have become aware of ecotourism.
Indigenous people are making an alternate livelihood from these
programs in the Reserves. They are working with the state forest
department to protect the jungles they live in which is indeed
a noteworthy achievement.
MEXICO - The increasing coordination between
federal government agencies. SEMARNAT produced an ecotourism
norm NMX-AA-133-SCFI-2006 and a small manual.
AUSTRALIA - Aboriginal people in Australia
have traditional fire management practices that are slowly being
adopted in the area where I live. In the areas that our Indigenous
people are not only advising but managing this practice, our
wildlife, flora and fauna has started to come back to the way
it was in the past. Plants and animals not seen for generations
are now returning.
NEW ZEALAND - Ecotourism has moved from being
an activity on the fringes of policy development to a place
firmly on the radar; the first education programmes training
people to work in ecotourism have been offered; the first national
ecotourism conference has been held (with the second to come
in August this year); and a virtual ecotourism centre (www.ecotourismnz.com).
USA - I believe that the media's greater attention
to ecotourism is a huge achievement. Mainstream magazines, newspapers,
and television shows are considering environmental and social
responsibility when making travel recommendations.
What are the chief obstacles in developing successful
Ecotourism is not producing enough money to be successful.
Lack of clarity. Weak definitions and piling-on of extraneous
criteria. Failure to educate consumers to be more demanding.
Easy capitulation to short-term economic gain over long-term
resource conservation. Climate change and frantic efforts to
adjust will probably cancel out previous thoughtful efforts
Conflicts between ecotourism goals and economic forces (usually
the strongest) that tend to motivate operations to cut corners,
leave out 'messy' community involvement, use market spin to
greenwash. Many of the things ecotourism operations should do
are not glamorous, visible or marketable (examples:, long, behind-the-scenes
participative meetings with community, use of composting toilets).
The chief obstacles are the lack of communication, collaboration
and cooperation among stakeholders. Everybody's talking, but
few are listening.
Governments fail to be proactive and supportive.
TIES is a major problem since they have become so big and are
having influence on policy-makers. It's a top-down situation.
And because of their size, they are influential - people who
are looking to develop ecotourism look to them. It's not good.
Canada has various federal and provincial development programs
and tourism agencies which have the ability to invest in project
development and marketing. In dealing with these various programs
across the country, it is clear that most programs do not have
an adequate understanding of ecotourism, and what kind of role
they should be playing to strategically support the development
of ecotourism. In general, the federal and provincial programs
treat ecotourism as they would any other tourism project, and
the developers are faced with the additional task of educating
their government contacts about the ecotourism industry while
also seeking their project support. This results in an 'uphill
battle' which can be won, but with significant extra persistence,
resources and delays.
What's on your wishlist? Do you have any suggestions
that could help improve ecotourism?
Better information and marketing.
Make sure that lessons from good and bad examples get shared,
not swept under the rug. Give local communities a voice. Talk
to locals about what the real scoop is, not just the marketing
Transparency in development banks and foundations. We'd like
more user-friendly information on bank and donor websites.
Proper training for all the officials and entrepreneurs on
I'd like to see a programme of international exchanges for
both operators and educators/trainers.
Save the planet - become an ecotourist. Save the planet - become
an ecotourist operator.
Government in Canada, and governments elsewhere as well, would
be well advised to develop ecotourism development capacity within
their agencies. Government should have dedicated programs and
personnel who research and support ecotourism, and who can become
internal champions within government. Aboriginal people have
specific rights which should be respected for the benefit of
all. Ecotourism, as an industry, needs to focus more heavily
on genuine partnership with Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal
leadership. Every ecotourism project should endeavour to build
respectful, equal relations with neighbouring Aboriginal communities.
I'm not talking about having a native carving in your lobby,
or about selling native crafts. I'm talking about building a
respectful relationship from the earliest days of conceptualizing
your project, jointly determining appropriate ways that your
project can provide economic opportunities for your Aboriginal
partners, and striving to ensure that your project minimizes
negative impacts and maximizes potential benefits for the community.
Government seeking to support Aboriginal ecotourism should not
only make this a target, they should also include Aboriginal
ecotourism representatives in the process of ecotourism policy
development and programming development, and furthermore, in
Do you have any suggestions of how traditional media
(magazines, newspapers, radio, tv) can improve coverage of ecotourism?
Be more skeptical.
Maybe 'ecotourism' as a term is now too limiting, and media
should report on 'sustainable' tourism that impacts more people
through mass-market tourism
Each press tour should have a component concerning ecotourism
if it applies to that destination. The media needs to tell how
it is, how it could be, how visitors,along with local governments
can help improve the cultural, social, economic and environmental
aspects of the destination. The media is often more of an ambassador
of the destinations than a real enquirer or investigator.
Get rid of greenwash. Anyone saying 'see it before it disappears'
or fly to Antarctica
for a pristine eco experience to commune with nature should
be drawn and quartered for their hypocrisy and sheer avarice.
Many journals are not diligent with the term 'ecotourism.'
It can mean anything from a community lodge to a jet ski operator.
Too often editors allow their advertisers to define the word,
but worse, most editors simply don't care. Editors and publishers
may argue that travel writing is escapism. If so, readers need
to demand more from their publications. One of the frequent
discussion threads during the MET
Conference is the value of local reporters versus parachute
journalists. Why don't we write more about the places where
Do you have any suggestions of how websites can improve
coverage of ecotourism? We are seeking recommendations for government
tourism portals and independent sites.
Give priority to small organisations as they are the best
practitioners of what they preach.
The ultimate mashup would be a tool with yahoo/google search
capabilities, plus a wiki-style descriptive component, linked
to all available sources of evaluative/assessment/certification
material for each destination, tour company, guide program,
hotel, B&B, restaurant, bus company, wrangler, etc. Essentially
Web 3.0 where you send your agent out to scout for your criteria
and report back.
Federal government and national parks websites are often weak
in linking with good ecotourism websites
We need information!
The governments could somehow give recognition (an award)
for good sites of ecotourism.
We need a carefully developed and applied glossary and taxonomy
of ecotourism so that people know what descriptions mean.
Involving governments through UNWTO and UNEP would be a good
Websites should focus on quantifiable success, such as how much
water a hotel saves, or how many local people it's brought medical
care to. This convinces the public that their tourist dollars
are going to a well thought out and successful program.
We need to see recognition for good work. Reciprocal links
are fine, but we need something we greater depth. Government
websites that spotlight ecotourism and sustainable travel are
eligible to win Planeta.com's Ecotourism
Spotlight Award. Winners are announced before World Tourism