You Told Us: What Topics We Should Cover
April 25, 1997
Two weeks ago, we asked the ominous question, "What topics should we cover when ski season ends?" Of course, some argued, pointing to the global ski community, the season never really ends. That's true, and well worth keeping in mind....But that wasn't the question. Less sassy responses ranged from fly-fishing to golf-putting to best beaches to mountain biking, hiking, and "cliking." We appreciate the input and want you to keep those suggestions rolling in. Meantime, a more general query as we ease off the slopes for awhile: We want to know, What do you think of ecotourism? Sham or good thing?
Mail from the Trail Archive
Ecotourism is one of the greatest detriments to our environment. As a student of the environment I have seen the exploitation of resources and the natural world by the greedy tourism industry. I have recently attributed ice climbing to ecotourism and have been blasted about it. However, I affirm my position that ecotourist activities are an evil that must be stopped. We have made the environment a playland for the rich and trendy and have forgotten that it was not meant for man's exploitation. We must not allow large corporations to continue the promotion of the exploitation of our environment. I want to applaud the cities of Chattanooga,TN, Madison,Wi,
Santa Barbara,CA, Savannah,GA, Charlottesville,VA,
Lexington,KY, and Portland, OR for their efforts to save our environment and prevent unequitable urban sprawl. Ecotourism is an ill that will be stopped if cities such as those listed above are emulated.
S. Stewart Suder
I am living in Brisbane and regularely visit Lammington National Park which is 2 hours drive from my place. There is a very nice lodge called I live in Brisbane and often drive 2 hours to the O'Reilly's Guest House in Lamminton National Park. In 1989 park staff build a rainforest canopy walk from where tourist could watch the Rifle Bird displaying (A bird of paradise). I visited the place first time in 1988 and thus been able to follow the developments over the last 10 years. The lodge has expanded to accommodate more than twice as many people and the parking space is now full every weekend. The road is some times jammed and noisy families with children venture out in the forest. The Riflebird has gone from the area and bird numberes are decreasing. This is an example of exhaustion of a site from Nature-based tourism.
Niels Poul Dreyer
"Ecotourism" meant something for its first three days. Then it became meaningless. 99.9% of all travel is far from "Eco", yet claims to be. We study and practice the issue, and there are but a few small enterprises worldwide worthy of the monicer - certainly none of the prominent American outfitters. Most "Societies" are merely trade organizations promoting their membership, so they aren't the answer either.
As I watch Travel Guide, I say good intentions, but CNN just doesn't have a clue - Elsa Klench certainly isn't the answer. Do the World a favor.
Study the issue before you cover it. Ecotourism is NOT expensive river lodges. (How much did the chambermaids make?)
See you on the water,
John 'Caveman' Gray, Founder, SeaCanoe email@example.com
Visiting Professor of Ecotourism, Srinakarinwirot University, Bangkok
PATA Product Development Committee
Regional Winners 1995: British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Awards
Green Globe Awards Commendation 1996
Pacific Asia Travel Association 1995 Gold Awards: Environment/Ecotourism
SeaCanoe International, Box 276,
Phuket 83000 Thailand
Ecotourism to me is a vitally necessary concept to preserve what little remains of the natural beauty of this planet. In reality, ecotourism is now just another travel industry buzzword used to give the appearance of being environmentally responsible. It will not be meaningful until tourists and travellers insist that providers demonstrate social and ecological responsibility as a condition of doing business with them. Species of plants and animals are disappearing from the planet at a staggering rate because tourists don't care and because the people of developing nations are not provided alternatives to destroying habitats to survive.
Americans consume about 65% of the worlds
resources and ecotourism makes it easy for us to
sit on our fat asses and point fingers at all the
remaining "PRETTY STUFF". At the rate we are
consuming the "COMMONS" prehaps we should look
at it before it's gone. Ecotourism is for rich
consumers who dont have a clue what is happining
to our world.
There is no question that ecotourism benefits conservation and local communities. However, the examples are few and far between - mostly because the tourism industry likes to generate tremendous profits (via mass tourism) and conservationists for the most part haven't been to keen on any type of human interference, much less tourism. This is not a no-win situation, just a paradoxical strategy that requires additional nurturing.
My work has focused on Mexico and Latin America. Given a choice between developing economies through extraction (logging, mining, etc.) or through responsible tourism, many communities are inviting guests to visit the wonders in their back yards. Cuatrocienegas, for example, is a large gypsum dune with natural lakes in the northern border state of Coahuila. It is much like the United State's White Sands Natural Monument. Until recently, the major economic force was a company mining the dunes for gypsum. Tourism may not be perfect, but the current mayor wants to promote the region for responsible tourism. Likewise in Chiapas, the rural community of Laguna Miramar offers rustic accomodations and a beautiful lake for visitors. Otherwise, the major source of income is logging and cattle ranching.
There are many examples of ecotourism failing both local communities and conservation. Perhaps most distressing is the superficial appeal of ecotourism to foundations and large environmental groups, which have all the funds to study and debate the concept, but nothing to market and ensure the surival of these grassroots approaches to conservation and local development. Check out Deb McLaren's book, Rethinking Tourism, which will be published later this year.
Ron Mader, Publisher
El Planeta Platica: Eco Travels in Latin America
Eco tourism is a good thing. The reciprocal however, is "DEVELOPMENT TOURISM" which in my opinion can allow third world people who are forced to live close to nature and its hostilities to get a 'taste' of real development which people of the developed world have over-enjoyed for decades. Visa restrictions, impoverishment through terms of trade mechanisms, investment arrangements which in no way change the circumstances of our people, operate in such a way so as to allow the 'real participants' in ecotourism to see both faces of the world while the birth to death experience for us stage props is one face; i.e A VICIOUS CYCLE OF POVERTY.
I'm watching the world.
Henry Hamilton (Jr.)
I have been researching ectourism operations in Australia as case studies for an operators' guide to ecotourism, and have been impressed with the range and standard of ecotourism in this country.
It is always easy to criticise and be cynical (almost mandatory in some groups), and there are examples of "ecotourism" being used purely as a marketing tool with no real enivronmental or social focus, however, there is a plcace for ecotourism in this world. In Australia, the ecotourism industry is relative well developed and organised, and has recently introduced an accreditation program that incorporates a compliance mechanism, unlike many "envrionmntal codes" that are not enforceable, being more like "wish lists". Accredited ecotourism operators are provided with a logo denoting their status, and are required to meet an extensive range of criteria. This project has been many years in its development, and I do not have room to go into detail here, but it has been developed by the industry in conjunction with conservation organisations and the federal government and has across the board support.
It is unfortunate that we must have some sort of compliance mechanism to avoid mis-representation of an industry that has the potential to contribute rather than merely take from the environment, but there must be a way that consumers can be assisted in making informed decisions about their holidays.
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