The Concept of Ecotourism: Evolution and
Les Roches Management School, Tourism Research Centre, CH-3975, Bluche, Switzerland
The researchwithin the area of ecotourism still appears to be at its infancy stage. The definitional perspective of the concept is lacking both in terms of scope and criteria used, as well as in aspects of its planning and operationalisation. There are a variety of ecotourismdefinitions all reflecting a range of paradigms and perspectives. The view that this article has taken is that the definition of ecotourismis not really necessary if the discussion focuses on the concepts rather than the issues implied by ecotourism. Hence, it seems that ecotourismdefinitions could range from passive to active stances incorporating the three common concepts in the form of trade-off scenarios. The three common concepts within ecotourism are natural-based, educational, and sustainable (which includes economic and social criteria).Within these components, both benefits and costs exist, and in some circumstances there is disequilibrium towards greater costs. Fundamentally, ecotourism could merit wider credibility, but only when the different actors involved avoid overmarketing, and control the overuse of its products by consumers. In light of these pitfalls, this paper focuses on the three components of ecotourismand includes a reviewof ecotourism’s definitions followed by an examination of its natural-based,sustainabilityand educational components. It concludeswith the future state of ecotourismresearch in light of the changes in trends in the tourism industry.
The termecotourism emerged in the late 1980s as a direct result of theworld’s acknowledgment and reaction to sustainable practices and global ecological practices. In these instances, the natural-based element of holiday activities together with the increased awareness to minimise the ‘antagonistic’ impacts of tourism on the environment (which is the boundless consumption of environmental resources) contributed to the demand for ecotourism holidays. This demandwas also boosted by concrete evidence that consumers had shifted away from mass tourism towards experiences that were more individualistic and enriching. In addition, these experiences were claimed to be associated with a general search for the natural component during holidays (Kusler, 1991a, b; Hvenegaard, 1994; Dowling, 1996). Generally speaking, the grounds in which ecotourism operates are associated with the alternative forms of tourism or special interest travel, and the tourismproducts generated fromthese segments. Here, the concern which emerged was that although ecotourism generated a large volume of demand both from the consumers and the stakeholders, it became subject to claims that it was a new form ofmass tourism. Looking at the evidence of this claim, the literature on ecotourism is divided into two broad schools of thought (Jaakson, 1997; Diamantis, 1998a):
Discussion Web Site: http://divcom.otago.ac.nz:800/tourism/current-issues/homepage.htm 1368-3500/99/02 0093-30 $10.00/0 ©1999 D. Diamantis
Current Issues in Tourism Vol. 2, No. 2&3, 1999
· firstly, the location case-studies raising issues concerning the impacts of ecotourism; and
· secondly the thematic studies illustrating issues regarding planning and development,where case studies are focused onthemethodological issues. In both instances, therewere a few concrete studies evaluating thedefinitional perspective of ecotourism,which this paper aims to discuss. In examining these issues the discussion centres around two main themes: the definitional frameworks of ecotourism; and the natural-based, sustainable and educational components of ecotourism.
Scope and Definitional Perspective of Ecotourism
Global estimates revealed that in Australia and New Zealand, 32%of visitors search for the scenery, wild plants, and wildlife, as part of their trip. In Africa, 80% of tourists who...
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