As one of the largest industries, tourism has had an average annual increase of 6.6 per cent over the last half century, with international travel rising continuously and alternative tourism having a main role in this transaction. Nature-based tourism and ecotourism, with accepted definitions through tourism industry will be discussed in this report. Uniqueness and differences of ecotourism from mass tourism will be explained and benefits of ecotourism will be referred as well. An ecotourism destination; Galapagos Islands will be briefly introduced and the strategies being implemented in the specific destination will be indentified. Ecotourism is significant, special nowadays for the environment, the culture and also for the economy. So, what is the future of ecotourism? Will the efficient use of the natural resources and heritage of Galapagos Islands be a sufficient factor to maintain the importance of ecotourism? The future will be discussed as well.
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Tourism is a complex sector with many challenges and chances at the same time. Î‘ attempt to define tourism and to describe its scope fully must consider the various groups that participate in and are affected by the tourist, such as the tourist, the host community, the government and the businesses providing the product. Charles R. Goeldner defined tourism (2009): ”Tourism may be defined as the processes, activities and outcomes arising from the relationships and the interactions among tourists, tourism suppliers, host governments, host communities, and surrounding environments, that are involved in the attracting and hosting of visitors.” Tourism as an industry deserves significant criticism, not least because in many cases it contributes to the decline of natural areas. A form of tourism inspired by the natural history of an area is ecotourism. Travelling to locations full of natural resources for enjoyment, which at the same time protects the fauna, flora and the ecosystem, as well as the people. Below a more formal definition of ecotourism and nature-based tourism is delivered by Goodwin (1996: 288):
” Nature-based tourism encompasses all forms of tourism-mass tourism, adventure tourism, low impact tourism, ecotourism- which we use natural resources in a wild or undeveloped form- including species, habitat, landscape, scenery and salt and fresh-water features. Nature tourism is travel for the purpose of enjoying undeveloped natural areas of wildlife.”
” Ecotourism is low impact tourism which contributes to the maintenance of species and habitats either directly through a contribution to conservation and/or indirectly by providing revenue to the local community sufficient for local people to value, and therefore protect their wildlife heritage area as a source of income.”
Furthermore, someone could say that ecotourism is an educational travelling that provides great knowledge to its participants. The practices of ecotourism are mentioned below:
Green Tourism, Alternative Tourism, Endemic Tourism, Wildlife Tourism, Adventure Tourism, Geotourism, Nature-based Tourism, Responsible and Sustainable Tourism.
1.2 The importance and the role of the sustainable tourism in eco tourism.
Sustainability is generally an ambition of tourism to have the lowest impact in economy, environment and culture as well. Sustainable development has been proposed as a model for a structural change within society. Sustainable tourism is an extension of the new emphasis on sustainable development (Sadler: 1992). One of the first strategies on tourism and sustainability emerged from the Globe ’90 conference in British Columbia, Canada. At this conference representatives from the tourism industry, government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and academe discussed the importance of the environment in sustaining the tourism industry, and how poorly tourism developments, that attract the visitors, destroy the quality of the natural and human environment.
To Tourism Concern (1992), sustainable tourism is:
”Tourism and associated infrastructures that, both now and in the future; operate within natural capacities for the regeneration and future productivity of natural resources; recognize the contribution that people and communities, customs and lifestyles, make to the tourism experience; accept that these people must have an equitable share in the economic benefits of tourism; are guided by the wishes of local people and communities in the host areas.”
Eco tourism is a small, though growing industry. There is much faith in the work that eco tourists do and they face a lot of problems and challenges in achieving a sustainable development. Sustainable tourism includes specific practices such as the carrying capacity, the visitor impact management, the visitor activity and the limits of acceptable change that are used in protected areas.
It is essential to note, here, that if these strategies are implemented successfully sustainable tourism will provide historical development and will increase the environmental awareness. Sustainable development and eco tourism are two terms that match together and try to create a guideline for successful tourism in the eco destinations.
1.3 The importance of ecotourism
The principles ecotourism serves are defined by many sociologists the last years and acknowledge the importance of ecotourism. Firstly, ecotourism minimizes the negative impact to the environment and to the local people. Ecotourism provides a big amount of environmental and cultural awareness to both visitors and hosts. The support of human rights is another principle important to mention. Ecotourism provides direct benefits in economy of the local people and improves the sensitivity of the locals for the environment, culture and heritage. Ecotourism provides benefits to both hosts and local people. Ecotourism generates foreign exchange for the country and injects capital and new money into the local economy.
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Ecotourism often takes travelers to undiscovered areas where nature still exists with no transformation at all. It gives to the visitor the advantage of education and discovering new places that are far away from the usual trends. Educational ecotourism offers to the tourists the privilege of being aware of the danger they may cost to the environment, in order to protect it. Resorts and hotels around the world started to go green by reducing their energy use and investing their money to eco friendly products. Ecotourism also protects the threatened wildlife of the ecosystems by bringing local and worldwide awareness. As ecotourism works in a location, it respects the people’s culture and values. It provides a chance for relaxation and exploration and evaluation of self.
2.0 Emerging Issues of ecotourism of Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
2.1 Brief Introduction of Galapagos Islands
An eco – destination that features inspiring stories about destinations and provides great travelling experiences.
The Galapagos Archipelago is a cluster of some 13 volcanic islands and associated islets and rocks located just under the equator, about 600 miles (1000km) west of Ecuador in South America. The oldest of the islands are about 4 million years old and the youngest are still in the process of being formed. These Islands that tourists visit on Galapagos cruises are considered to be one of the most active volcanic areas in the world. About 95% of the islands are part of the Galapagos National Park system, with the remainder being inhabited by about 14,000 people in four major communities (Puerto Ayora, Puerto Baquerizo, Puerto Villamil and Floreana).
The Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station jointly operate the islands. The Park Service provides rangers and guides, and is responsible for overseeing the many tourists who visit each year. The Darwin Station conducts scientific research and conservation programs. It is currently breeding and releasing captive tortoises and iguanas. This group of 13 mayor islands and dozens of smaller islets and rocks – all the result of volcanic activity – certainly appear to be out of this world. They are, in fact, an unpredicted wilderness, filled with extraordinary populations of unique species, which have developed apart from humans and their dominating influence. In an effort to preserve the islands as they were centuries ago, the Galapagos have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. An eco tourism destination with rich heritage and great experiences to offer.
2.2 Presentation and evaluation of ecotourism strategies implemented by Galapagos Islands
Ecotourism was already practiced since the 1960’s in the islands, with two Ecuadorian inbound tour operators based in Quito, working together with an American outbound operator. The number of vessels was small, two cruise boats, twelve passengers 39 sailing vessel and a sixty-passenger luxury liner. At the same time the companies worked very closely with the Darwin station and the National Park. During the 1970’s tourism infrastructure grew slowly, but from 1974 to 1980 it had a boom that almost double folded the amount of visitors.
The foreign owned floating hotels represents the major activity and they are the strong economic and political influence for the islands. The principles or guidelines for Ecotourism projects in the Islands began to develop in the international arena in the 1990’s.
Internet search engines were used to identify ecotourism cruise operations in the Galapagos Islands using the search times “ecotourism” and “Galapagos Islands.” “Adventure” tours and “nature” tours were not used as search terms. As of November 1, 2009, fifteen company websites identified themselves as “ecotours” in the Galapagos Islands. That showed a big movement through internet for the development of tourism in Galapagos Islands.
Education of the local population and visitors in the natural history of the Galapagos is a goal of the Station and the Park and programs are conducted in the Islands and on the mainland. An intensive course for naturalist guides, which is required to supervise visitors to Park sites, is conducted annually. Educated bilingual naturalist guides and auxiliary guides are taken place at Galapagos Islands, offering valuable information and help to visitors.
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