Ecotourism and its relationship to sustainabilityEssay Question: Evaluate the meaning and nature of ‘ecotourism’ and its relationship to sustainability through a review of relevant literature. Select a case study ecotourism project and analyse the extent to which the project aspires to and achieves sustainable practices. I. IntroductionEcotourism has been a central focus of many companies especially in the hospitality and travel industry. However it is facing two criticisms due to the two factors- unfulfilled criteria of ecotourism products and their adherence to a weak or minimalist model. First, there are many tourism products which do not usually fulfill criteria of ecotourism products in the market (Fennell and Weaver, 2005).
Thus, there is still a need to clarify the concept of ecotourism which can be grounded for many business organizations to forester and commit themselves for ecotourism and sustainability of the environment. Since 1980s and beyond, there has been debate on one of the enduring legacies of the sustainable development which has a greater quest for integration of the economy and the environment. A by-product of the quest is a growing interest in great potentials in formulating environmental policy based on the market as a supplement.
In some cases, the traditional approach of providing standard environmental standards which can be placed as direct legal regulations (Eckersley, 1995a: 1). In the hospitality and travel industry, air travel is one of the fastest growing sectors in tourism. Some environmental impacts of this travel sector were (1) high levels of fuel consumption, (2) noise pollution, (3) air pollution, and (4) production of waste (Air Transport Action Group, 2002; Becken, 2002; Clancy, 2001; Middleton & Hawkins, 1999; Penner et al. , 1999).
According to the Air Transport Action Group (2002), the record of frequent use of air travel by tourists to get to and from their destination has been ever increasing. In addition, another indicator of average length of journey on a plane has been increased to double over the two decades. More over, Clancy (2001) points out that half of the total travel expenses of a tourist are contributed by the cost of air. As a result, there has been increasing demands on the environment with respect to air travel.
Buckley (2001: 379) argues that there is a broader impact of transportation on the environment and it is always been ‘beyond the scope’ of sustainable tourism discussions. However (Middleton and Hawkins, 1999, 1994) insist that when looking at the overall tourism impacts on environment, there has been increasingly consideration of a traveler’s mode effects on the environmental effects. This essay searches for core concept of ecotourism. It studies how ecotourism relates to the sustainability in the concept and application. It evidences how a business organization in the travel industry made commitments to environmental sustainability and ecotourism.
II. Defining the EcotourismSince mid-1980s, the ecotourism sector with its allied concept of sustainable tourism and alternative tourism has been matured. It was seen as a prt of a response to the perceived environmental, economic and socio-cultural costs of conventional laissez-faire mass tourism (Jafari, 2001). Blamey (2001) and Fennell (1999) state that based on the past fifteen years of theoretical and practical development, the ecotourism has three core criteria, namely, (1) an emphasis on nature-based attractions, (2) learning opportunities, and (3) management practices that adhere to the principles of ecological, socio-cultural and economic sustainability.
First, ecotourism is primarily nature-based because its products and attractions are always associated with cultural influences of contemporary, historic, and archeological. Second, the learning opportunities include part of the provision of formal product interpretation, and part of maintenance of conditions that facilitate informal personal interactions with the natural environment and culture. Weiier and Hamm (2001) propose that visitors should have basic understanding on targeted natural and cultural attractions. Third, ecotourism should be managed in order to result in sustainability.