by Ben Heron
By reducing leakage, costs to the tourist may increase slightly,
but costs to the community and the environment will decrease significantly
- a small price to pay. To be a sustainable industry, tourism
and its associated infrastructures must "operate within natural
capacities for the regeneration and future productivity of resources
natural, social and cultural", and "recognise
the contribution that people and communities, customs and lifestyles
past and present, make to the tourism experience" (Parfitt).
Ecotourism is now the fastest growing sector in the tourist industry.
It offers a sound alternative to mass tourism and attracts consumers
who wish to enjoy more ethical, nature-based holidays. Although
ecotourism can bring benefits to the environment and local people,
it can also be exploited by companies who use the prefix 'eco'
as a marketing ploy to increase interest and consequent sales.
The majority of ecotourism tours offer trips into jungles, rainforests
or other natural environments, but they rarely mention the involvement
of local communities. If ecotourism projects are to be ecologically
sound, they must recognize that most parts of the world have been
modified, managed and, in some cases, improved by indigenous people
for many centuries.
Tourism projects aiming to help conserve biodiversity-rich areas
should therefore begin with the notion that they are "social
spaces, where culture and nature are renewed with, by and for
local people" (Ghimirie). In other words, for a conservation
project to be successful, it should be developed, managed and
protected by the area's local communities, not by outside organisation.