Academic journal article International Journal of Management

The Development of a Framework for Studying Ecotourism

Academic journal article International Journal of Management

The Development of a Framework for Studying Ecotourism

Article excerpt

Ecotourism is a growing industry propelling economic growth and advancement in many lesser developed countries. Its appeal largely resides in its interaction with natural environments and educational experiences, while at the same time promoting sustainable development. However, there is currently a lack of standards in place for evaluating the diverse entrants in the ecotourism industry. Each enterprise has distinct goals and mindsets in place that result in very different levels of impact on the surrounding environment and community. The purpose of this article is to create a framework that identifies the standards necessary for studying ecotourism ventures.

Introduction

Modern advancements in information technology and countries' infrastructures, coupled with increases in disposable incomes, have resulted in a rapidly growing tourism industry. The World Tourism Organization (WTO) claims that, "at the start of die new millennium, tourism is firmly established as the number one industry in many countries and the fastest-growing economic sector in terms of foreign exchange earnings and job creation" (World Tourism Organization, 2006). This is all a result of an increase in disposable income among developed countries. Because of this increase lesser developed countries are scrambling to upgrade IT and infrastructure in order to attract the billions of dollars being spent on tourism every year.

The aforementioned advances have increased the proportion of the population that is well educated and has sufficient disposable income to travel abroad. The advances have also highlighted, through media and the Internet, indigenous cultures in remote places and raised the awareness of environmental issues associated with mass tourism. One example of this is me cruise ship issues with dumping untreated refuse directly into the ocean. Trends are shifting from mass tourism to smaller groups and participative authentic tourism. These trends are emerging as a result of changing consumer preferences for vacations.

Mass tourism caters to the need to entertain people on vacation, and satisfies tourists' desire to be pampered. The growing popularity of authentic tourism is based on a participative educational experience that is environmentally and socially responsible as well as sustainable. This category of tourism has become known as ecotourism.

The term ecotourism was created and popularized by Hector Ceballos-Lascurain in 1983, and was initially meant to describe nature-based travel to relatively undisturbed areas with an emphasis placed on education. His concept has matured to a scientifically based approach to the planning, development, and management of sustainable tourism products and activities. In the purist vision of what ecotourism represents, a definition should include all of the following elements:

* Nature based

* Active participation

* Progressive educational travel

* Interpretation of natural environments

* Social and cultural components

* Involvement and returns for the local community

* Managed to be ecologically and environmentally sustainable

With the continuing growth in tourism and die emergence of ecotourism as a distinct segment within the tourist industry, it is increasingly important to understand the development of ecotourism. Ecotourism has become a major source of revenue for developing countries. However, the term ecotourism has been inconsistently applied to purist operations as well as crass commercial exploits. This lack of consistency has been problematic in tracking the development of this industry segment.

Review of Literature

Growth in Tourism

Tourism has existed since biblical times when people traveled to far places to see culturally significant sites. During that time, travel and tourism were limited to individuals of status. With the passage of time, travel and tourism have become available to larger segments of the population, which is continuously growing as a result of increasing economic development and political stability in the world. …

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