Can ecotourism provide sustainable livelihoods and protect biodiversity? Kathy Velander

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Management of Sustainable Development 2012, Week 5
Can ecotourism provide sustainable livelihoods and protect biodiversity?
Kathy Velander (Edinburgh Napier University)
Kathy will introduce ecotourism, considering its definition and how it is distinct from, yet linked to other forms of tourism. She will examine several case studies of ecotourism enterprises from a range of different countries to assess the environmental, economic and social impacts of ecotourism. From this analysis, Kathy will draw conclusions about the promise and pitfalls of ecotourism as a way of securing livelihoods for local communities while protecting biodiversity.
For a general introduction to ecotourism the following are recommended:
Fennell D. A. (2002). Ecotourism programme planning. CABI Pub.,Wallingford, Oxon, UK. [Available online as electronic book:]

Masberg, B.A. and Morales, N. (1999). A case analysis of strategies in ecotourism development. Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management 2(3), 289-300 (available on WebCT).

Essay topic:
How can ecotourism provide sustainable livelihoods?
It has been argued that ecotourism has the potential to provide sustainable livelihoods for people in developing countries. Although many ecotourism businesses have been

established, most have failed to provide sustainable livelihoods.

For your assignment you are asked to consider both of the following:

  • What lessons can be learned from these failures?

  • What are the basic requirements for establishing ecotourism businesses that are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable?

Your essay should critically evaluate particular trends and provide evidence through case studies. Your essay should draw on the lectures, other information provided, and on published literature as suggested below.

These are listed in the lecture handout ‘Impacts of Tourism Tables and References List’, which is appended. The tables also provide information relevant to the essay topic.

Impacts of Tourism Tables and References List
Kathy Velander, Edinburgh Napier University, February 2012

Table 1: Some of the potential impacts of tourism

Factor involved

Impact on natural quality



1. Overcrowding of tourist area or tourist resource

Environmental stress, behavioural changes in wildlife

Irritation, reduction in quality, need for carrying capacity limits

2. Overdevelopment

Uncontrolled development of rural areas, excessive artificial structures

Unsightly, urban concentrations

3. Recreational use

a) Boats

Disturbance of wildlife Decrease water quality

Actual damage to animals

Landing / Anchoring

Vulnerability during resting seasons

b) Fishing


Competition with natural predators

c) Foot or vehicle safaris / boat tours / walking / mountain biking / trail riding / skiing

Disturbance of wildlife;

Trail erosion and braiding

Overuse and trail erosion

4. Pollution

a) Noise (radios, etc.)

Disturbance of natural sounds


b) Litter

Impairment of natural scene

Aesthetic and health hazard

c) Air

Environmental stress, smog, particulate matter and pollutants

Aesthetic and health hazards; damage to buildings

d) Land

Erosion; Contaminant build up through improper disposal of rubbish / sewage

Aesthetic and health hazards

e) Water

Increased siltation of water courses

Loss of soil, smothering of water living organisms

5. Vandalism

Mutilation and facility destruction

Removal of natural features, fossils, facility damage

6. Feeding animals

Behavioural changes

Removal of habituated animals

7. Vehicles

a) Speeding

Wildlife mortality

Ecological changes

b) Driving off-road

Soil and vegetation damage

c) Night driving

Soil and vegetation damage


1. Collection of firewood

Small wildlife mortality

Interference with energy flow

2. Roads and Murram pits

Habitat loss, drainage changes

Aesthetic scars, disruption

3. Introduction of exotic plants

Competition with wild plants

Public confusion

4. Power lines

Destruction of vegetation

Aesthetic impacts

5. Artificial waterholes and salt provision

Unnatural wildlife concentration, vegetation damage

Replacement of soil required

Table 2: Economic Impacts of tourism on a destination



1) Brings in foreign exchange

Inflation, particularly land, labour and foodstuffs

2) Provides funding for the preservation of architecture and heritage

3) Provides employment

Often menial jobs (although initially tourism offers a high number of unskilled jobs which with a poorly trained workforce can provide employment to a wider workforce, but may lead to labour shortages as industry expands and more skilled workers are needed)

4) Offers a more modern way of life in developing countries

Destruction of traditional life styles

5) Can promote gender equality and employment of disadvantaged groups (lower castes, young people)

Change in status quo (who profits, gender / age equality)

6) Development pays for improved infrastructure from basic to clean water and sanitation to facilities such as shopping centres, swimming pools, sports facilities

Locals may or may not get access to these facilities


Leakages can be high, reducing amount of profit that stays in the area/region/country


Political unrest, extreme weather conditions, changes in international currency rate of exchanges have uncontrolled impacts on destinations


Tourism is price and income elastic (prices can change rapidly, drawing tourists to ‘best value for money’ locations)


Over dependence on single often fashion driven industry

11) .

Tourism often seasonal, so tendency to increase capacity for the high season, which is grossly under-utilised in the low season. Similarly staff unemployed a large part of the year.

12) Offers a higher potential income than export of raw materials, particularly with the impacts of world trade agreements and national subsidies on the prices of commodities

13) Tourism requires little in imports in relation to per unit of foreign exchange it generates

Locals see and desire more ‘western’ goods, increasing import demand


Neo-colonial relationships of exploitation

Table 3: Main potential impacts of tourism on host cultures and societies.

Modified from: Swarbrooke, J. (1998) Sustainable tourism management.


Largely Beneficial

Largely Negative


Improvement in the quality of museums

Greater attention paid to conservation by local communities and public sector bodies

Construction of buildings using non-traditional architectural styles

Theft of artefacts by tourists

Censorship of heritage stories so as not to upset tourists


Greater interest in conserving traditional languages if they are seen as an attraction for tourists.

Introduction of foreign words into vocabulary

Pressure on local languages if tourists are unable or unwilling to converse with staff in these languages


Growth in respect for the host community’s religion from tourists

Loss of spirituality at religious sites that become dominated by tourists

Traditional Arts

Development of new markets for traditional crafts and art forms Renaissance of traditional art forms

Pressure to replace traditional crafts with other products which tourists demand Trivialization / modification of traditional art forms to meet desires of tourists.

Traditional Lifestyles

Increased awareness of lifestyles elsewhere in the world

New eating habits, e.g. fast food

Danger of move from self-sufficiency to dependency

Growing influences of foreign media

Decline in use of local language

Values and Behaviour

Adopt positive aspects of tourist values and behaviour such as in the case of sexual equality or the treatment of animals

Growth in crime

Loss of dignity as forced to behave in a servile manner towards tourists

Reduce level of personal morality

Host Population

In-migration of dynamic people to live and work in the community

Reduce depopulation

Better public health care facilities

Domination of the community by immigrants from outside the community

Issues relating to success and failure to Ecotourism

Integrated approach – involve local community in planning & mgmt, involve gov’t, training, guidelines & sufficient funding

Masberg & Morales, 1999

If becomes successful more locals want to take part

If becomes viable alternative to logging, metal extraction, etc. good thing

Leatherman & Goodman, 2005

Litvin, Goldsmith & Pan, 2008

Simpson, 2008


Inequalities between local people and tourists – leading to stereotyping, commodification of cultures, novelty seeking visitors

Chang, Wall and Chu, 2006

Degradation of Language, craftsmanship, agric practices

Dyer, Aberdeen & Schuler, 2003

Alienation, exploitation and uncensored commodification of culture

Choi & Sirakaya, 2006

Dependence on private investors and NGO’s or international consultants for expertise, leaving locals menial positions

The advisors may not know what is workable for that community (How tailor make ecotourism) - Customising Ecotourism

Also investment profits leave the country to pay back investors

Higham & Lück, 2007

Marine Wildlife and Tourism Management: Insights from the Natural and Social Sciences

by James Higham (Editor), Michael Luck (Editor) (2007) CABI

Cárdenas-Torres et al, 2007

Lack of education regarding cultures, customs & behavioural norms

Eco-labelling – lack consistency and merely a marketing ploy

Lack of Standards with ‘teeth’ Greenwashing

Mihalic, 2000

Cole, 2007

Misuse of the term Ecotourism

Lück, 2003

Inconsistent Consumer

Higham & Lück, 2007 (see above)

Initiatives start small, supplementing rather than replacing traditional forms of living

Simpson, 2008 (see above)

Lack of infrastructure – development too quick

Influx of immigrants, changing social structure

Baine et al, 2007

Development may only support small part of the community causing conflict ( Unfair distribution of profits amongst locals causing some to react with environmental damage (CAMPFIRE))

Careful management and planning as well as continual evaluation during operation (?)

Fuller, 2005

Clear ownership of land and facilities

Fuller, 2005 (as above)

Corruption at all levels of the operation and external aspects impacting on the project (e.g. bribes, creaming off profits, but also gov’t ignoring illegal logging, poaching, etc.)

Seasonality of tourism in general

Political instability

Who is to blame?

Local Operators

Support Agencies (inc gov’t, NGO, DFID)

Funders (all except locally funded projects)


You are not expected to read or use all of these references! They are provided either because they are cited in the lecture and/or the impact tables, or because they introduce other case studies that may be useful, depending on your interests.
Avila Foucat, V.S. (2002) Look at Community-based ecotourism management moving towards sustainability, in Ventanilla, Oaxaca, Mexico. Ocean and Coastal Management 45: 511-529.

Aylward, B., Allen, K., Echeverria, J. and Tosi, J. (1996) Sustainable ecotourism in Costa Rica: the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve. Biodiversity and Conservation 5, 315-343.

Baine, M., Howard, M., Kerr, S., Edgar, G. and Toral, V. (2007) Coastal and marine resource management in the Galapagos Islands and the Archipelago of San Andres: Issues, problems and opportunities. Oceans and Coastal Management, 50 (3-4), 148 - 173.

Broadhurst, R. (2001) Managing Environments for Leisure and Recreation. Routledge Environmental Management Series, London

Cárdenas-Torres, N., a Enríquez-Andradeb, R. and , N. (2007) Community-based management through ecotourism in Bahia de los Angeles, Mexico. Fisheries Research, 84 (1), 114 – 118.

Chang, J., Wall, G. and Chu, S-T. (2006) Novelty seeking at aboriginal attractions. Annals of Tourism Research. 33 (3), 729 – 747.

Choi, H.S. and Sirakaya, E. (2006) Sustainability indicators for managing community tourism. Tourism Management, 27 (6), 1274 – 1289.

Cole, D.N. (2007) Beyond authenticity and commodification. Annals of Tourism Research, 34 (4), 943.960.

Cole, D.N. and Spildie, D.R. (1998) Hiker, horse and llama trampling effects on native vegetation in Montana, USA. Journal of Environmental Management 53, 61-71.

Constantine, R., Brunton, D.H. and Dennis, T. (2004) Dolphin-watching tour boats change bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncates) behaviour. Biological Conservation, 117(3), 299-307

Dyck, M.G. and Baydack, R.K. (2004) Vigilance behaviour of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in the context of wildlife-viewing activities at Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. Biological Conservation, 116 (3) 343 –350.

Dyer, P., Aberdeen, L. & Schuler, S. (2003) Tourism impacts on an Australian indigenous community: a Djabugay case study. Tourism Management, 24 (1), 83 – 95.

Doxey, G.V. When enough’s enough: the natives are restless in Old Niagrara, Heritage Canada 2 (2), 26-7.

Fairburn-Dunlop, P. (1994) Gender, culture and tourism development in Western Samoa. In V. Kinnaird and D. Hall (eds.) Tourism: A Gender Analysis, 121-141. London: John Wiley.

Forsyth, T. (1995) Business attitudes to sustainable tourism: Self-regulation in the UK outgoing tourism industry. Journal of Sustainable Tourism 3 (4), 210-31.

Fuller, D., Buultjens, J. and Cummings, E. (2005) Ecotourism and indigenous micro-enterprise formation in northern Australia opportunities and constraints. Tourism Management, 26 (6), 891 – 904.

Glasson, J., Therivel, R. and Chadwick, A. (1995) Introduction to Environmental Impact Assessment. UCL Press, London. 342 pp.

Gunn, C.A. (1993) Tourism Planning: Basic concepts cases. Taylor and Francis, 3rd edition. 460 pp.

Gurung, D. (1995) Tourism and gender: Impact and implications of tourism on Nepalese women - A case study from the Annapurna Conservation Area Project. Mountain Enterprises and Infrastructure discussion paper, 95/03. Kathmandu: International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development.

Higham, J. (eds.) & Lück,M. (ed.) (2007) Marine Wildlife and Tourism Management: Insights from the Natural and Social Sciences. CABI.

Hodgson, G. (1999) Global Assessment of Human Effects on Coral Reefs. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 38 (5), 345-555.

Hunter, C. and Green, H. (1996) Tourism and the Environment: a Sustainable Relationship. Routledge, London.

Jones, S. (2005) Community-based ecotourism: The significance of Social Capital. Annals of Tourism Research, 32 (2), 303-324.

Laiola, P. (2003) Diversity and structure of the bird community overwintering in the Himalayan subalpine zone: is conservation compatible with tourism? Biological Conservation 15, 251-262.

Lama, W.B. (1998) CBMT: Women and CBMT in the Himalaya. Submitted to the Community-based Mountain Tourism Conference, as posted on the Mountain Forum Discussion Archives on 5-08-99:

Lapointe, B.E., Barile, P.J., Littler, M.M., Littler, D.S., Bedford, B.J. and Gasque, C. (2005) Macroalgal blooms on southeast Florida coral reefs I. Nutrient stoichiometry of the invasive green alga (Codium isthmocladum) in the wider Caribbean indicates nutrient enrichment. Harmful Algae, 4, 1092 – 1105.

Leatherman, T.L. & Goodman, A. (2005) Coca-colonization of diets in the Yucatan. Social Science and Medicine 61(4): 833-846

Litvin, S.W., Goldsmith, R.E. & Pan, B. (2008) Electronic word-of-mouth in hospitality and tourism management. Tourism Management, 29 (3), 458 – 468.

Lepp, A. (2007) Resident’s attitudes towards tourism in Bigodi village, Uganda. Tourism Management 28, 876-885

Lindsay, J.J. (1986) Carrying capacity for tourism development in national parks of the United States, Industry and Environment, 9 (1), 17-20.

Luck, M. (2003) Education on marine mammal tours as agent for conservation—but do tourists want to be educated? Ocean and Coastal Management, 49 (9-10), 943-956.

Lumsdon, L.M. and Swift, J.S. (1998) Ecotourism at a Cross-roads: The case of Costa Rica. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 6 (2), 155-172.

Mander, M. and Steytler, N. (1997) Evaluating Eden: Assessing the impacts of community based wildlife management - the South African, Lesotho and Swaziland Component. Phase 1. Gland, Switzerland: UICN (World Conservation Union ) and London: International Institute for Environment and Development.

Mansperger, M.C. (1995) Tourism and cultural change in small-scale societies. Human Organization, 54 (1), 87-94.

Masberg, B.A. and Morales, N. (1999) A case analysis of strategies in ecotourism development. Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management. 2(3), 289 – 300.

Mathieson, A. and Wall, G. (1992) Tourism: Economic, physical and social impacts. Longman, England. 208pp.

Mihalič, T. (2000) Environmental management of a tourist destination: A factor of tourism competitiveness. Tourism Management, 21 (1), 65 -78.

Mullner, A., Linsenmair, K.E. and Wikelski, M. (2004) Exposure to ecotourism reduces survival and affects stress response in hoatzin chicks (Opisthocomus hoatzin). Biological Conservation, 118 (4), 549-558.

Obua, J. (1997) The potential, development and ecological impact of ecotourism in Kibale National Park, Uganda. Journal of Environmental Management, 50, 27-38.

Parlett, G., Fletcher, J. and Cooer, C. (1995) The impact of tourism on the Old Town of Edinburgh, Tourism management 16 (5), 355-360

Pruitt, D. and LaFont, S. (1995) For love and money- romance tourism in Jamaica. Annals of Tourism Research 22 (2) 422-440.

Scheyvens, R. (2000) Promoting women’s empowerment through involvement in ecotourism: experiences from the third world. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 8 (2), 232 - 249

Shackley, M. (1996) Wildlife Tourism. Thomson Press 152 pp.

Shackley, M. (1996) Community impact of the camel safari industry in Jaisalmar, Rajasthan. Tourism Management 17 (3) 213-218

Simpson, M.C. (2008) Community Benefit Tourism Initiatives—A conceptual oxymoron? Tourism Management, 29 (1), 1-18.

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Swarbrooke, J. (1998) Sustainable Tourism Management. CABI Publishing, Oxon.

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WTO, UNEP, 1992. Guidelines: Development of National Parks and Protected Areas for Tourism. WTO/UNEP Technical Report Series #13, Madrid, Spain.

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