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Tourism and the Environment Essay

Assignment 4: Tourism and the Environment Analysis of Ecotourism in Rathdowney, Queensland, Australia By: Angie Haves December 14, 2009 Introduction The effect of global warming is becoming ever more evident, well-known and of increasing concern as research is conducted on an ongoing basis and the results of this research are communicated widely through the media and print publications. Scientists believe that climate change is largely caused by humans producing pollution (i. . burning of fossil fuels; accumulating vast amounts of garbage in dumps) and removing large areas of forests, which has caused an excess of heat-trapping gasses in the atmosphere. This is believed to be causing significant changes in weather patterns resulting in more frequent occurrences of drought, flooding, hurricanes and heat waves. Consequently, these weather pattern changes are believed to have had, and will continue to have, negative physical effects for all living beings (e. . increased rates of death from famine; increases in life-threatening diseases) which will only intensify over time if changes are not enacted throughout the world (United Nations, 2009). The United Nations has taken the lead on a ‘call to arms’ for nations to become engaged in formulating a global response to the problem. This began with the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) developed in 1992 to begin to consider what can be done to reduce global warming.

In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was adopted by 184 world partners who committed to reducing their emissions by an average of 5 percent by 2012 1. from 1990 levels. Currently, the United Nations is hosting the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen to further the work completed by the Kyoto Protocol. The goal of this conference is to strengthen the multi-nation commitments made in 1997 to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases which cause lobal warming and the resultant negative health effects (United Nations, 2009). Because of the heightened awareness of the problems of global warming, responses to mitigate the negative effects are not only being seen as the responsibility of political leaders, but of all citizens. This has been reinforced through education about the importance of all citizens engaging in sustainable practices (e. g. , reduce, reuse, recycle) in our everyday lives.

The Brundtland Commission of the United Nations developed the following definition of sustainability and sustainable development, which is ‘…development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs which can sustain all life-forms without destroying or depleting natural resources’ (United Nations, 1987). Governmental and non-governmental organizations have utilized numerous resources (e. g. financial incentives, educational publications, public forums) to educate individual citizens and corporations about ways in which they can adopt sustainable practices.

The tourism industry has taken this message to heart by advocating the concept of ‘ecotourism’ as they 2. realize ‘Profitability in tourism depends on maintaining the attractiveness of the destination people want to see and experience’ (Goeldner & Ritchie, 2009, pgs. 470). There is also a growing awareness that making ecotourism opportunities available for tourists is good for business in that tourists are increasingly demanding products and experiences which are educationally stimulating and environmentally conscious.

It is anticipated demand in this area will be maintained for the foreseeable future (Government of Ontario, 2009). This paper will outline the potential benefits and dangers of ecotourism by first deriving a better understanding of the issue by examining the industry as a whole, and then more closely looking at ecotourism from the perspective of an operation based in Rathdowney, Queensland, Australia. Ecotourism Industry

Ecotourism has been defined in a number of ways, but one definition from the Travel Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) describes ecotourism as ‘… a segment of sustainable tourism that offers experiences that enable visitors to discover natural areas while preserving their integrity, and to understand, through interpretation and education, the natural and cultural sense of place’ (2003 as cited in Goeldner & Ritchie, 2009, pg. 484).

What is particularly attractive about ecotourism is the recognition of its potential to be a ‘win-win’ situation in terms of conserving the environment while benefiting local communities at the same time. More specifically, the 3. possible benefits cited for those countries who develop, implement, and maintain ecotourism projects include: -offering local people the opportunity to earn income and escape poverty by engaging in environmentally friendly work (e. g. sharing their knowledge of the local terrain, culture, language and ecology with visitors; maintaining environmental preserves; developing markets for local handicrafts) versus engaging in work which destroys the environment and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions such as clear cutting land for farming -attracting foreign visitors with the type of environmental education and emotionally satisfying ‘out of the ordinary’ experiences they are looking for. This in turns provides opportunities for engaging in an productive dialogues with people from different backgrounds.

These exchanges can encourage visitors to adopt the role of advocates in raising awareness of the problems facing a particular area or its people -environmentally providing for long-term protection of the land and its resources by preserving ecosystems that might otherwise be lost -reinvestment back into local communities via income derived from ecotourism attractions so it can be channeled into programs that further scientific knowledge about the area’s ecology; support preservation and rehabilitation efforts; and observe the effects of opening the area to tourists to ensure their visits do not degrade precious resources (Lindsay, 2003)

When considering the possible benefits of ecotourism, it becomes readily apparent that without proper implementation and management controls there is the potential for abuse within this segment of the tourist industry which can result in more detriments than benefits. Indeed, the main problem cited has been damage to, rather than preservation of the environment, including over-consumption of natural resources, increased pollution, destroying or negatively altering ecologically fragile areas, and harm to both land and marine wildlife habitats (World Wild Fund for Nature, . 2001). For example, the Balearic Islands (a group of islands in the Mediterranean) is one area regarded as having experienced the detrimental effects from tourism related activities (e. g. increased water pollution, deterioration of natural areas, excessive consumption of limited fresh water resources) (World Tourism Organization, 2002). In order for ecotourism to have beneficial, rather than harmful, outcomes for a particular area, it’s widely acknowledged that political leaders, operators of tourism related businesses, and other stakeholders (e. . , tourists) have an ethical obligation to educate themselves regarding ecotourism related best practices and respect any guidelines that have been developed. There are a number of organizations taking on a leadership role in terms of developing these educational tools including the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the World Travel and Tourism Council, Business Enterprises for Sustainable Travel, the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, the Travel Industry Association of America (Goeldner & Ritchie, 2009).

As a result of these efforts, in general it has been suggested that the most beneficial practices are those in which: • The value of an area’s cultural and natural resources is respected and tourist activities do not overtax or degrade these resources • All stakeholders (local community members, business leaders, indigenous groups, representatives of governmental and non-governmental organizations, tourists) commit to forming partnerships in order to work together for the most optimal results 5. A proportion of revenue generated from the tourism industry is reinvested in the local community to support environmental conservation efforts, the enhancement of scientific knowledge and cultural benefits for the community • Legal, political, and funding mechanisms are established to facilitate the planning, implementation, and management of ecotourism initiatives • Mechanisms are devised and put in place to monitor the impacts of any ecotourism developments and efficiently respond to any concerns which arise (World Tourism Organization, 2002).

The ultimate goal is for baseline criteria to be defined (i. e. standards, guidelines, policies and procedures) which are tailored to each country’s specific characteristics (e. g. , demographic, cultural, ecological), in an attempt to encourage tourism related industries to become ecotourism certified. The main objective is to help travelers discern the less conscientious businesses from those that truly take steps to be environmentally friendly so that tourists will support certified businesses.

In addition, it is hoped having criteria in place will hold those who have achieved certification accountable to uphold the promises they made which enabled them to become certified (e. g. energy conservation measures, positive environmental and community impact). Rathdowney, Queensland, Australia Rathdowney is a small town about one and half hours away from Brisbane (the capital) in the state of Queensland, Australia which occupies the north- 6. eastern section of the country.

Located in the Scenic Rim (a group of mountain ranges), and settled initially in the 1860’s, it had a population of just less than 200 people in 2006. It is within close proximity to some of the regions of the greatest biodiversity in Australia (e. g. , Currawynia and Mount Barney National Parks). As visitors come through the area it provides some support for some small businesses in the town (e. g. , cafe, service station, post office, information center) (Wikipedia, 2009) however, the only business based in Rathdowney which is exclusively focused on serving tourists is Araucaria Ecotours.

Araucaria Ecotours is a small business established in Rathdowney in 1997 which is operated mainly by a husband and wife team, and their son. It is based on an 87 acre property (where the family also resides). Characteristics of the property include portions of mature rainforest re-growth and a main creek which runs partially through their land, with most of the property covered in what they refer to as native kangaroo grass. They also note there is also a large variety of protected wildlife on their property (invertebrates, mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish native to Australia.

They appear to have a desire to demonstrate that they are ethically responsible by achieving certification as an ‘Advanced Ecotourism Operator’ by Ecotourism Australia which means they have demonstrated a commitment to ecotourism best practices by ‘… using resources wisely, contributing to the conservation of the environment’ and helping the local community (Ecotourism Australia, 2009). 7. When looking more closely at their operations, from an ecotourism perspective, it is evident that their business produces some financial, educational and environmental benefits.

The business employs students to assist with the maintenance of the property and the educational tours they operate for visitors which include day tours (i. e. bird-watching, bushwalking, wildlife, rainforest, customized) and extended tours (i. e. 3 day wildlife tour, weekend camps, 6 day outback tours, customized) both on their property and National parks nearby. These tours focus on educating people about understanding the linkages between plants, wildlife, humans and the environment; the importance of habitat conservation and restoration; and how to approach and observe animals without harming them in any way.

It is also noted that one of the owners, Ronda Green (who has a PhD in zoology) has been active in conducting ecological research to further inform and educate the public. Environmentally, they actively engage in modeling and educating their visitors about sustainable practices (e. g. , uses of alternative sources of energy, recycling), and the importance of protecting and sustaining the natural environment (e. g. , restoration of trees and preservation of wildlife on their property). Financially, they reinvest in ehabilitation efforts in their property and provide support to groups committed to advocating for environmental sustainability such as Ecotourism Australia, the Ecology Society 8. of Australia, and Wildlife Tourism Australia. Conclusion Araucaria Ecotours, the only ecotourism business based in Rathdowney, Queensland, Australia appears to be commended for their efforts to operate in an ethically responsible manner by abiding by the best practice guidelines established by Ecotourism Australia.

They appear to use resources wisely, contribute to the conservation of the environment, provide meaningful educational opportunities for their visitors, financially reinvest in their own property as well as supporting groups with a focus on environmental preservation, and help their local community, all of which have been identified as worthwhile objectives in the ecotourism industry.

However, because ecotourism certification is a relatively new development in the tourism industry, there appears to be little in the way of independent research that has been conducted as to how effective certification programs have been in ensuring that operators who have been certified are complying over the long-term with the standards they agreed to. As well, groups such as Ecotourism Australia act as non-profit, self-governing bodies, with limited oversight on operations once they have certified them.

Therefore, they appear to have very limited abilities to enforce the standards they’ve established and have no legal powers to compel tourism operators to change their actions if they are indeed demonstrating they are not operating in ways which are consistent with 9. protecting the environment. The most they can do is to remove the operator’s certification status and report any concerns to government authorities. In conclusion, there appears to be a need for more work to e done on an international, national, and community basis to ensure any certification processes put in place are sound and that operators who are certified are actively monitored on a regular basis to ensure their actions are consistent with best practice guidelines in place. With sustainable living as the goal, the potential negative outcomes for not engaging in due diligence are too many for all stakeholders to not be proactive in this regard. 10. References Ecotourism Australia (2009). Eco Certification Program.

Retrieved from http://www. ecotourism. org. au/eco_certification. asp Goeldner, Charles R. and Ritchie, J. R. Brent (2009). Tourism: Principles, Practices and Philosophies. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons Inc. Government of Ontario (2009). Global Tourism Opportunities: Research Study. Retrieved from http://www. tourism. gov. on. ca/english/competitiveness/Global_Tourism_Opportunities. pdf Lindsay, H. E. (2003). Ecotourism: the Promise and Perils of Environmentally- Oriented Travel. Retrieved from http://www. csa. om/discoveryguides/ecotour/overview. php United Nations (2009). Fact sheet: An introduction to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and its Kyoto Protocol. Retrieved from http://unfccc. int/press/fact_sheets/items/4978. php United Nations (2009). Fact sheet: What is the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Retrieved from http://unfccc. int/press/fact_sheets/items/4980. php United Nations General Assembly (1987). Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future.

Retrieved from http://www. un-documents. net/wced-ocf. htm World Tourism Organization (2002). World Ecotourism Summit: Final Report. Retrieved from http://pub. unwto. org/WebRoot/Store/Shops/Infoshop/Products/1269/1269- 1. pdf World Wide Fund For Nature (2001). Preliminary Assessment of the Environmental & Social Effects of Liberalization in Tourism Services. Retrieved from http://www. icrtourism. org/Publications/tourism. PDF Wikipedia (2009). Rathdowney, Queensland. Retrieved from http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Rathdowney,_Queensland

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