Tourism can benefit nature, report shows
Tropical regions harbor the richest concentrations of plant and animal life and also represent some of the fastest growing tourism areas in the world
April 29, 1999
Web posted at: 4:45 PM EDT
The worldwide tourism industry generated an estimated $4.4 trillion in 1998 and poses a serious threat to the environment and the livelihoods of local people. However, a report released by Conservation International Monday shows how this revenue can be used for environmental protection and community development.
The report, "The Green Host Effect An Integrated Approach to Sustainable Tourism and Resort Development," offers detailed steps necessary for the tourism industry to help protect natural resources as well as provide secure livelihoods for local people.
"Even the largest resorts can have good environmental and social practices, " said Jamie Sweeting, manager of Conservation International's Ecotourism Program. "Our goal is to transform all tourism that relies on nature into a truly positive force to help protect natural areas."
The report focuses on tropical regions that harbor the richest concentrations of plant and animal life and also represent some of the fastest growing tourism areas in the world.
Examples of tourism gone awry in exotic locales include Pattaya, Thailand and Cancun, Mexico. As recently as 1990, not one of Pattaya's 22,000 hotel rooms along the beach was attached to a sewage plant, and the sea along the coast was coated with a film of raw sewage. As of 1996, only 60 percent of the city's sewage was processed.
In Cancun, just 12 families inhabited the 14-mile island as recently as the 1970s. Today, Cancun receives more than 2.6 million visitors a year, and has more than 20,000 hotel rooms, with a permanent population of more than 300,000. In the nearby shanty towns that house local workers, sewage from 75 percent of the population is untreated. Due to extensive habitat loss and pollution, many bird, marine and other animal species have vanished.
To help resolve the issues, the report contains 12 recommendations for industry, government, environmental and community groups, and others to reduce negative impacts and increase tourism's overall positive contribution to conservation and local well-being.
Among the report's recommendations are the use of economic and financial tools to promote responsible tourism. These can include traditional strategies such as taxes, subsidies and entrance fees, as well as more innovative approaches such as performance bonds, trust funds and offsets.
The report also emphasizes minimizing negative impacts of tourist activities on local ecosystems and cultures. One example the report cites is a German company that brings charter tours to the Maldives. The company adopted a program that requires tourists to take their garbage back to Germany with them.
Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved
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