Tourism is the world’s largest industry with nature-based ecotourism seeing rapid growth since its initial arrival in the 1980s. It is estimated by the World Tourism Organisation that nature tourism generates 7% of all international travel expenditure (Lindberg, 1997) and this figure will have increased rapidly over recent years. It’s increase in popularity is due to a number of factors; tourists becoming increasingly bored of the typical sun, sea and sand holiday’s, the increase in global awareness or environmental issues such as global warming, deforestation and conservation efforts. Ecotourism has the ability through its economic benefits to increase conservation, improve the economic well-being of local communities and national governments and educate people on the threats facing fragile environments around the world. However, ecotourism is not without its drawbacks and ill-managed and uncontrolled tourism can impact badly on wildlife and protected areas. In this assignment I will aim to look at the relationship between people and ecotourism and analyse the benefits and weaknesses that they both have on each other. The most prominent thing which springs to mind with regard to nature tourism for most people would be safaris in Africa aiming at spotting the ‘Big 5’ (African Elephant, Black Rhinoceros, Cape Buffalo, Lion & Leopard). The term was originally coined by hunters but now it is applied widely in tourism. ‘Africans safaris are one of the fastest growing segments of the travel market’ (Wildlife Travel, 2006). Approximately 8% of Kenya is protected National Parks and reserves and these areas are responsible for generating millions of pounds annually for the treasury, and literally thousands of Kenyans are employed in the wildlife-based tourism industry throughout the country (Sindiga, 1999). This means that many parts of Africa have been able to develop a sustainable part of the economy based around protecting and conserving the animals which they have for tourists benefit as opposed to in the past, where the predominant form of tourism was in hunting these animals. However now the money received from tourism can be used to increase conservation efforts and aid breeding programs and the rehabilitation of neglected animals. However, in some instances the companies which run the safaris have their headquarters located in other more economically developed countries therefore the money raised by the African land leaves the host country to other countries and therefore it is not helping Africa become more economically developed. The most distinguished nature reserve in Africa is the Masai Mara Nature Reserve in Kenya. Tourist accommodation first started being developed after the reserve was gazetted in 1963. The initial effort enforced by the reserve to ensure the animals are not disturbed and parks preserved whilst tourists visit them is issuing all visitors and guides with a printed leaflet outlining the regulations which must be abided by whilst in the reserve and these are listed in figure 1. Infringement of these regulations carries a $25 fine, although it is rarely applied (Wildlife and People, 1999)
• No off-road driving.
• No following of animals.
• Minimum approach distance of 20m to an animal.
• Limit of five vehicles at any one viewing.
• Limit of 10 minutes viewing when other vehicles are waiting to view. • Maximum speed limit of 50km/hr.
• No deliberate use of noise to distract wildlife.
• No leaning out of vehicles (except roof hatches) and no getting out of vehicles. • No dropping litter.
• No pets.
• No starting fires.
A study conducted to see how many visitors broke these rules suggested that regulations were broken in over 90% of cases, with the main...