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ECOTOURISM - Ecotourism and the environment The environment...

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Ecotourism and the environment: The environment is one of the primary concerns of ecotourism, which often involves travel to relatively undisturbed areas. As the tourism product is often dependent upon nature, negative impacts upon that resource should be minimized. As Cater [1994] notes, even the most conscientious tourist will have some degree of impact on the environment and so ecotourism should therefore attempt to minimize that impact. Many studies of tourism attempt to identify an environmental carrying capacity but a major difficulty of this technique is that it “implies the existence of fixed and determinable limits to development and that if one stays below those threshold levels no changes or deterioration will occur” [Murphy, 1994, p.282; see also Gunn, 1994, Farrell & Runyan, 1991, p.31]. Ecotourism, the local population and economic benefits: A definition of ecotourism must also take into account the local population - ecotourism should minimize negative impacts on the host community because otherwise the local population may come to dislike the presence of tourism, and this could undermine its long-term prospects. Tourism is likely to have the greatest socio-cultural impacts on small, isolated communities [Pearce, 1994] which may themselves be one of the tourist attractions. As a result, any cultural changes in the community's way of life may reduce the tourism product's overall marketability and therefore future prospects. At the same time, ecotourism should produce direct economic benefits for the local community if it is to receive their continued support – benefits that should compliment rather than overwhelm traditional practices and sources of income [Wallace & Pierce, 1996]. However, such economic benefits and material wealth obtained by the local community may themselves lead to cultural changes in their way of life. The literature on ecotourism asserts that economic benefits should be accrued by the host community whilst at the same time preserving the environment and cultural way of life of that community. Little of the literature acknowledges the fact that the two will often be mutually exclusive. An article by Wall [1997] notes that “ecotourism is an agent of change” [p.490]. He also notes the widespread misuse of the term “sustainable tourism”, asserting that it should be considered as “tourism which is in a form which can maintain its viability in an area for an indefinite period or time” [ Butler , 1993, cited in Wall, 1997, p.486]. Considering that “ecotourism is not automatically
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sustainable” [Wall, 1997, p.490], it may have to be viewed as part of a longer term strategy of
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