Education and Sustainability Aspect of Ecotourism; economic and social criteria

Ecotourism

Education and Sustainability Aspect of Ecotourism; economic and social criteria

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Education and Sustainability Aspect of Ecotourism: Economic and Social Criteria

Introduction

            Ecotourism can be termed as the act of tourism in nature in its original untampered state. According to Gilbert (2003, p. 75), ecotourism is a culmination of both a desire to pursue tourist experiences and promotion of environmental sensitivity, using means that prioritize the integrity of the areas whilst promoting environmental preservation causes. Over the recent years, human beings have come to terms that their numerous activities have led to the destruction of the environment and natural life in it. It is with this knowledge in mind that measures have been put in place in order to cushion the aftereffects of senseless environmental destruction over the years. In this regard, appreciation of the natural environment as is, has taken precedence in the minds and hearts of the community. Kiper (2013, p. 1) asserts that, intricate planning, building and operation of village-based ecotourism sites, alongside participation of the local community will enable the reduction of unsustainable activities that would normally put a strain on the pre-existing natural resources. Through ecotourism, we are able to appreciate the aesthetic beauty of nature and maintain it for our own pleasure and well-being. Education on the best practices for environmental sustainability has assisted in making great strides towards a knowledge-empowered race. As we take advantage of the economic benefits of ecotourism, we also create a great social impact through education. This paper will focus on the education for sustainability aspect of ecotourism from an economic and social perspective as well as its relevance to the world today.

Literature review

Education for Ecotourism

Literacy plays a major role in ensuring that our environment is maintained, reveled at and sustained for present and future generations. While, some of the basic sensitization is done via the various forms of media in the public domain, it is imperative that we also ensure that every person realizes that they have their personal role to play. According to Gilbert (2003, p. 76), there are 3 key main forms of approach to environmental education. First, is the conventional approach to education about the environment, where it is deemed to be an archive for information, from which we are to learn. The second approach asserts that, nature is a laboratory or gymnasium where various tests, investigations and exercises are to be carried. The third perspective is that, nature is a deity or a place of worship that ought to be revered since its contents are sacred hence requiring preservation. In this respect, environmental education through ecotourism is considered to be an avenue by which awe and veneration for nature are achieved.

Economic criterion

According to Kiper (2003), tourism is sustainable if it meets the needs of the neighboring community and tourists while protecting nature. Ecotourism offers multiple opportunities to residents, while offering both development and educational opportunities. It also focuses on learning and experiencing nature in its raw untampered form. In order for human being to survive and make maximum benefit of the resources endowed upon us, we monetize the resources by creating experiences that offer the possibilities of fun and enjoyment. Such experiences are created by building of theme parks in areas with natural, unblemished and exquisite beauty. These are the building blocks for the ecotourism sector. Such places available for tourism are: China’s Wansheng Ordovician Theme Park, located 100 km from Chongqing – a major city in southwest China. The park has the largest number of sky-high attractions in the world. Among its delights, is the longest glass footbridge in the world, hanging from a mountain 120 meters high and a swing on the edge of a 300 meter-high cliff. Its cantilevered glass footbridge – the longest in the world, offers a thrill and excitement that myriads of tourists visit to experience. In essence, this boosts China’s economy through the thriving tourism industry.

Social criterion

            Ecotourism education has a major effect on the social and ergonomic perception of the communities living around such areas. Gilbert (2003) states that, environmental education entails: looking critically at how we think about environmental issues, the language, theories and perspectives we use, the dominant discourses we use in our everyday lives and how these discourses produce their effects and construct power relations. While it is important to enforce stringent measure to curb encroachment onto forests and such lands of beauty and awe, it is also imperative that neighboring communities are educated of the benefits they would enjoy if such areas are avoided. This may foster unity in the protection of these tourist attraction sites.

Sustainability for Ecotourism

            When we broach the subject of ecotourism and sustainability, we are inclined to think about the prospective future based on whatever actions we decide to take. One approach would be to take an unwavering stance on the degradation of the environment. Such actions may entail: gazettement of forest land and increasing the number of wildlife and forestry security personnel. The second approach, would entail building of theme parks and unique site-viewing areas that allow tourists to explore nature without actually physically being in contact with it. As ascertained by Kiper (2013), the trend in ecotourism is to enhance experiences through encouraging activities such as: hiking, camping, hunting, sight-seeing, swimming, cycling, observing wildlife and nature, visiting historical places among many others. The above measures will ensure that nature is revered and conserved.

Economic criterion

            The main purpose of a sustainable ecotourism sector is to ensure that the economy thrives exponentially. According to Bhattacharya and Kumari (2004), sustainable development can be achieved through the improvement of lives of the people. When we conserve the natural environment, it provides us with a steady source of income now, and in the future through jobs and job security. Consequently, the need for a vibrant tourism sector is not only an appeal or thrill for aesthetic beauty, but also a necessary source of income for development and personal sustenance.

Social criterion

            Bhattacharya and Kumari (2004) asserts that, ecotourism for development does not only prioritize economic benefits but also the cultural and social benefits of ecotourism on the locals. The community has an important role to play in ensuring the sustainability of the ecosystem. It is said that the ecosystem is self-sustaining but human activities play a major role in ensuring that. Avoiding littering, taking part in reclamation of forest land activities and practicing self-consciousness inn our daily activities with ease the strain on the environment. Subsequently, we should all be encouraged to practice the 3 key rules of environmental conservation: “reduce, reuse and recycle.”

Aims and objectives

The main objectives of this study are:

  1. To ascertain whether the present maintenance and sustainability measures put in place are beneficial to the environment.
  2. To pinpoint the relevance of education for sustainability in ecotourism.
  3. To discuss the social and economic criteria and their bearing on ecotourism.

Research methodology and specific methods

            A detailed cutting edge method of research will be implemented for the study involving: questionnaire surveys, group discussions and personal interviews with the various stakeholders to ecotourism in the site of study. Questionnaire surveys will be conducted with the Service Providers in the ecotourism site who may include: animal operators, tour guides and porters, hotel and lodging operators as well as tourists. Informal interviews with members of staff from the ecotourism site will be undertaken. Informal interactions could also be conducted with stay-at-home representatives like the youth residing around the area. Visits shall be taken to the security post for data collection on international and domestic tourists. An actual site-seeing tour around the entire area of the ecotourism site as well as the community around it shall be conducted so as to verify the level and nature of impact of ecotourism activities on these areas.

This study however has its limitations because it is untested in the field over an unconstrained time study period for in-depth analysis and more accurate data collection from larger population. The results of this case study may greatly vary with other parts of the world due to the disparity in social and cultural activities. This study will however only be viable and replicable within that specific country of study. Despite this study’s precincts, it shall provide substantial and useful insight on the opinions of the native communities towards ecotourism, as well as how it has impacted their lives.

Ethical considerations

            Ecotourism can be considered as nature’s priceless gift to mankind but other critics may consider the mere action itself as an unnecessary intrusion to the natural environment. The shared perspective is that environmental pollution is bad, but when the question of whether it is right for human beings to take advantage of it for personal gain, there are contrasting thoughts. We shat discuss environmental ethics in this section.

            Environmental ethics as ascertained by Hill (2020), can be described as the rationale by which we can separate an inanimate object’s instrumental value to mankind and its intrinsic value. She goes on to quote Aristotle, in Politics who claims that, “Nature has made all things specifically for the sake of man”. A contrast of Aristotle’s statement is made by Rachel Carson, The Silent Spring (1962) who claims that, “The ‘control of nature’ is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and the convenience of man”. Based on these two contrasts we realize that is a bone of contention between complete conservationism and absolute human control of nature. It is however important that we remember that all actions have consequences.

Schedule or timetable

 GroupActivity
Week 1Animal operators, tour guides and portersQuestionnaires and informal interviews
Week 2Hotel and lodge operatorsInformal interviews
Week 3Security personnel and touristsQuestionnaires and informal interviews
Week 4Neighboring communityQuestionnaires and informal interviews
Schedule for questionnaires and informal interviews

Statement of Relevance

            The research done in this paper will help sensitize the government, community and all major and minor stakeholders on the importance of ecotourism, its benefits and the means by which we can maintain a more vibrant ecosystem. Gilbert (2003) articulates that, in order to influence the predispositions of the public to partaking of measures that focus on environmental sustainability, it is imperative that we offer authentic education that will give them practical solutions to their everyday problems. If we take the necessary but radical measures required to provide education and ensure sustainability in the ecotourism sector, then we shall reap of its numerous benefits now and in the future.

Dissemination and policy relevance

            I would propose that this paper be considered to be a research proposal. Environmental conservation is a major issue in the world today that need to be addressed. Time, effort and extensive research would be required in order to come up with substantial data for evaluation and analysis, statement of problem and the most viable, practical solutions that would mitigate the loss of our environmental structure.

References

Gilbert, R. (2003). Ecotourism and education for sustainability: A critical approach International Review for Environmental Strategies, 4(1), 75-83

Kiper, T. (2013). Role of ecotourism in sustainable development. InTech

Bhattacharya, P., & Kumari, S. (2004, August). Application of criteria and indicator for sustainable ecotourism: Scenario under Globalization. In Abstract and Paper Submitted for the IASCP Bi-Annual Conference on “The Commons in an Age of Global Transition: Challenges, Risk and Opportunities” at Oaxaca, Mexico from (pp. 9-14)

Hill, K. (n.d.). An Overview of Environmental Ethics With a focus on Ecotourism and an introduction to Florida SEE. Retrieved December 06, 2020, from https://masternaturalist.ifas.ufl.edu/docs/Presentations%20-%20Web/Trinidad/Saturday/AM/0945%20Hill.pdf

Appendices

Appendix 1: Questionnaire

 GroupQuestions
Week 1Animal operators, tour guides and portersWhat time do you report for work every day?How many days a week do you come to work?How many tourists do you serve on average daily?How many of them are domestic/international tourists?What is the main attraction site?Would you consider this place a source of national heritage?
Week 2Security personnelHow many days a week do you work?On what days and months do we have the most number of tourists?What is the average number of domestic and international tourists daily?Have there been any security concerns from the onset of your work here?
Week 3Neighboring communityWhen did this ecotourism site get developed?How was life before its emergence?How is your life now?Have you benefitted from its development?Have you ever visited the ecotourism site?What is your honest opinion about this ecotourism site?
Week 4TouristsWhen did you arrive here?Are you frequent visitors?Where are you from (domestic/international)?Are you here with your family or any other person?How did you find out about this place?Does the experience meet your expectations?What is you main focus of attraction in this ecotourism site?Would you come here for a holiday with your family?How long will you be staying here?Would you consider this ecotourism site, a site of national heritage?What other places similar to this do you know of and what better experiences do they offer?
Interview schedule

Appendix 2: Interview schedule

 GroupQuestions
Week 1Neighboring communityWhat are the benefits of the development of this ecotourism site?What are its disadvantages?Have you been personally affected by its emergence?Does it have an effect on your social and economic activities?Have you been taught on the importance of maintenance of the environment?How many of you work at the ecotourism site and what kind of jobs do you do?
Week 2Animal operators, tour guides and portersDo you love working here?What does your work involve?Do you think you are paid enough value for your services?What measures do you take to sensitize the community on the importance of environmental conservation?Do you follow environmental-friendly and sustainable protocols in your work?
Week 3Hotel and lodge operatorsWhat month is the best for business?What is the ratio between domestic to international visitors during peak and non-peak seasons?Has the development of the ecotourism site been good for business?How many jobs have you created to assist with your activities?
Interview schedule
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