Previous | Next | Tourism and biodiversity
Topic: Ecotourism and ecolodge development
Conf: Tourism and biodiversity, Msg: 6299
From: Deleted User
Date: 15/11/2004 05:40 PM

Ecotourism and ecolodge development Hector Ceballos-Lascurain hectorc SUBJECT: Ecotourism and ecolodge development around the world in the 21st century
AUTHOR: Hector Ceballos-Lascurain, Director General of the Program of International Consultancy on Ecotourism (PICE) and Special Advisor on Ecotourism to IUCN (The World Conservation Union) and the World Tourism Organization (WTO).

SUMMARY: At the beginning of the millennium, ecotourism is not merely a buzzword, but rather a global phenomenon that is starting to provide tangible benefits for many developed and developing countries. Ecotourism has become one of the fastest growing segments of tourism activities around the world and has proven to be a valuable tool for conserving biodiversity and promoting sustainable development.

KEYWORDS: Planning, ecotourism, ecolodge.

Tourism is the world’s most important civil industry, annually representing a US$ 3.5 trillion activity. International tourist arrivals totalled 694 million in 2003 (WTO, 2004). The segment of tourism undergoing the fastest growth is nature-based tourism, which includes ecotourism (WTTC, 2000).

Clearly, tourism has a paramount economic role for countries around the world and, if planned and managed correctly, can significantly contribute to sustainable socio-economic development and environmental conservation. If uncontrolled mass tourism is allowed to continue overrunning many areas of natural and cultural significance, irreversible damage will occur in these areas, which are the repositories of biological and cultural diversity in the planet as well as important sources of income and well-being for all countries and many local communities. Consequently, the appropriate interaction between biodiversity conservation planning and tourism planning and development has become a key concern for many institutions at the local, national and international levels.

Sustainable tourism, especially ecotourism, has the capability of being a feasible tool for biodiversity conservation by providing economic alternatives for communities to engage in other than destructive livelihood activities, creating new revenue streams to support conservation through user fee systems and other mechanisms, and building constituencies that support conservation priorities by exposing tourists, communities, and governments to the value of protecting unique natural ecosystems.

Ecotourism, as defined by IUCN - The World Conservation Union -, is "environmentally responsible travel and visitation to relatively undisturbed natural areas, in order to enjoy, study and appreciate nature (and any accompanying cultural features - both past and present), that promotes conservation, has low negative visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local populations" (Ceballos-Lascurain, 1996).

Since the late 1980s ecotourism activities have increased remarkably. Governments of the most varied countries are showing heretofore-unknown interest in ecotourism, recognizing its enormous capabilities for conserving the natural and cultural heritage of their nations and also its rich potential for ensuring sustainable development. NGOs around the planet are also embarking upon ecotourism projects, recognizing in them an important ally. Ecotourism operators and professional membership organizations are sprouting everywhere. Local communities in remote localities, which until very recently had very little contact with "modern" civilization, are now attracting ecotourists to their settlements in the jungle, the desert or the island

A product of the ecotourism industry is packaged lodge accommodation in remote, natural areas. According to The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), "the term ecolodge is an industry label used to identify a nature-dependent tourist lodge that meets the philosophy of ecotourism" (Hawkins et al., 1995). It must be stressed that "the most important thing about an ecolodge is that the ecolodge is not the most important thing" (Ceballos-Lascurain, 1997), i.e., it is the quality of the surrounding environment that most counts: the nearby natural and cultural attractions - and the way ecotourism circuits are set up, operated and marketed, also the way in which local populations are actively involved in the process.

The main reason for a tourist coming to an ecolodge is that it provides the opportunity of being in close contact with nature (in some cases, supplemented by interesting cultural elements).
In any ecolodge project there is the need to apply a new approach to architecture, now widely termed as ecological design or "ecodesign". Ecodesign may be defined as "any form of design that, being integrated to the surrounding ecosystem, minimizes its negative environmental impacts" (Ceballos-Lascurain, 1997). Ecodesign is an integrative and ecologically responsible design discipline. It consists of joining isolated efforts in what has been loosely termed as "green architecture", sustainable agriculture, ecological engineering and many other fields, sometimes widely dispersed, in which we must include ecotourism.

Ecolodge development, being a consequence of ecotourism, is a new phenomenon and lessons are being learned every day around the world in this fascinating and fast-growing field. There are several areas where ecolodge development is being successfully implemented. Some key areas of ecolodge development around the world include Costa Rica, Belize, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil (mainly the Amazonian area), Venezuela, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Malawi, and Botswana.

Hopefully, in the not too distant future, all ecotourism activities and facilities will be generally carried out in a more environmentally-friendly way, which will contribute to the conservation of our planet’s natural and cultural heritage, including the valuable resources contained in national parks and other protected areas around the world.

CONCLUSION: Tourism and environmental ministries of all countries around the world should be encouraged to promote ecotourism plans and programmes as a high priority government policy, including the design, construction and operation of appropriate ecolodges in and near protected areas. Rich countries should also provide more economic assistance and technical orientation in these fields to less developed countries. There is still an important gap in ecolodge design research and development around the world.

Ceballos-Lascurain, Hector. 1996. Tourism, Ecotourism and Protected Areas. IUCN. The World Conservation Union. Gland, Switzerland.
Ceballos-Lascurain, Hector. 1997. Ecolodge Guidelines for the Red Sea Coast of Egypt. Report to Winrock Organization. Washington, DC, USA.
Ceballos-Lascurain, Hector. 2001. Integrating Biodiversity into the Tourism Sector: Best Practice and Country Case Studies. Study for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP/UNDP/ GEF/BPSP). Nairobi.
Ceballos-Lascurain, Hector and Hitesh Mehta. 2002. Architectural Design. Chapter 3 of International Ecolodge Guidelines, edited by Hitesh Mehta et al. The International Ecotourism Society. Burlington, VT, US.
Hawkins, Donald E. et al. 1995. The Ecolodge Sourcebook. The International Ecotourism Society (TIES). Burlington, VT, US.
Mehta, Hitesh and Hector Ceballos-Lascurain. 2002. Site Selection, Planning and Design. Chapter 1 of International Ecolodge Guidelines, edited by Hitesh Mehta et al. The International Ecotourism Society. Burlington, VT, US.
WTO. 2004. World Tourism Barometer. April 2004. World Tourism Organization official web site: Site accessed 14 Nov 2003 WTTC.
WTTC. 2000. Update on World Tourism. World Travel and Tourism Council. Brussels, Belgium.