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This essay discusses pertinent aspects of the hospitality and tourism industry. The hospitality industry encompasses many aspects, which incorporates tour and travel, leisure destinations, hotels, resorts, beaches, ticketing agencies, ecotourism and airlines services. This makes tourism a robust industry, which contributes to the economic development of a given country.
Eco tourism is a term that describes travel activities intended to conserve the environment. It is a travel or tour to natural areas that are undisturbed by human activities with the aim of displaying the flora, fauna, sceneries and culture of a particular place.
The term eco tourism was popularised by Ceballos-Lascurain referring to the aspect of travelling to natural environments with the objective of learning and understanding the environment, cultures and history without altering the landscape and the ecosystem.
The tourism provides economic opportunities to the locals as well as the countries, which have the tourists’ attraction sites. Eco tourism is an environment-oriented travel that takes into consideration the cultures of the local people. The tourists involved conserve the environment for the development of the country (Ming, Yang & Zhong, 2000).
Most of the scholars on this subject have outlined the principles of eco tourism. The first principle is environmental conservation where the aim of eco tourism should be to preserve the natural sceneries and the indigenous flora and fauna. The second principle of eco tourism is to enrich the local communities who are directly involved in conservation of the environment.
The local communities should enjoy conserving the ecosystem through remunerations from both domestic as well as international tourists. The third principle of eco tourism is that it should be informative and a learning experience to the tourists. It should act as reminder of the need to conserve environment by providing reasons why environment need conservation.
Whereas most of the scholars have discussed the principles of eco tourism this research discusses different empirical studies conducted previously on the tourism. It discusses the methodologies that they used in their research as well as the findings. This discussion looks into different perspectives of eco tourism and how to benefit both the tourists and the local communities involved in the industry (Zhang, 2001).
Eco tourism is one of the most influential aspects of tourism and preserves the environment while enriching the local population. The aim of this research is to provide the theoretical aspects that govern eco tourism with an aim of increasing conservation of the environment as well as increasing the participation of the local communities.
The literature was reviewed due to its analysis on benefits of eco tourism, the discussion on environmental conservation and the emerging trends in eco tourism. The literatures excluded were those that did not discuss theoretical considerations or aspects of ecotourism. They also discussed tourism in general and were not specific on eco tourism.
The research however did not explore eco tourism in relation to any particular country. The literature that did not discuss the benefits of eco tourism was also excluded. However, this research did not include the literature based on research methodologies or findings. The following literature reviews two major articles that delve into the aspects of eco tourism (Zhang, 2003).
Theories of eco tourism
There are few theories that discuss eco tourism but none of them specifically targets eco tourism. The existing theories are economic theories that apply to tourism sector and operations. The stakeholders’ theory of tourism is a theory that applies to the discipline of eco tourism. This theory recognises the different stakeholders who play a major role in the tourism industry.
The industry cannot thrive without involvement of different stakeholders. These stakeholders range from the government, airline service companies as well as tour and travel companies. Unlike in general tourism, eco tourism recognises the flora, fauna, the ecosystem and the local community as stakeholders (Cochrane, 2006). This means that the tourists and the industry must reserve benefits for all stakeholders.
However, eco tourism has not conserved the environment or benefited the local people. For instance, there is the example of Kenya where eco tourism is a major attraction for eco tourists.
However, the roads and infrastructures that are build to take the tourist into the park to see the animals interfere with the core principles of eco tourism on conserving the environment. The local community is disadvantaged because of the fact that they cannot use the land for other purposes yet the compensation received from the government is low (Zhang, 2003).
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This article applies the qualitative research methodology by using the case study of Kenya and the stakeholder’s theory. The theory has looked into the contribution of eco tourism to the local Maasai community in Kenya where the game reserves and national parks are located.
The theory shows how the environment has been affected both positively and negatively through eco tourism. The author is however critical of the fact that the results of eco tourism do not always lead to environmental conservation and benefits to the local community (Zhang, 2003).
The other theory on the second case study is the externality theory, which discusses the eternality of eco tourism. Externality is incurring additional costs in the process of production of goods and services. These costs are indirect and monetary value is not the appropriate quantification, reflection and measure of the actual value.
In eco tourism industry, the external costs involve depletion of environment through creation of new infrastructure and other tourist related activities. The external revenues involve the jobs created from such developments (Cochrane, 2006). This theory views eco tourism as a spill over effect, which comes because of conserving the environment.
The externality theory discusses the external factors that affect the local communities and tourism in general. Externalism states that there will be spill over effects emanating from the eco tourism, which may affect the local community or the environment. In many instances, the effect is not positive especially to the environment (Cochrane, 2006).
Although the intention of eco tourism is to conserve the environment, the sceneries and indigenous cultures, the spill over effect of this tourism such as the development of tourist infrastructures affects the environment negatively by hindering the movement of wild animals. During the process of such developments, indigenous trees and sceneries may be disturbed or destroyed thereby affecting the environment negatively.
There is a case study of instances where the tourists leave garbage on the natural sceneries thereby compromising the beauty of the natural environment. The tourists also destroy plants through camping, horse riding, gaming and hunting leading to compactness and hardness of soil making it difficult for plants to grow.
The spill over effect of destroying the natural environment has led to the creation of artificial sceneries and tourist attraction sites by private agencies rather than the local community and the government. This has reduced revenues that are intended for the government (Guo, 2007).
Although externality views eco tourism negatively in that it results to environmental degradation, it results to the creation of job opportunities for the local community who act as guides to the tourists. It has also led to the growth of other artificial sites that compete with the natural attraction sites.
The revenues that the country receives from the eco tourists have little or no expenses as compared with the provision of other services that have high costs of operation and production. The higher the cost of operation the lower the profits realised. Therefore, eco tourism is a profitable venture as long as the environment is conserved (Guo, 2007).
Analysis of the literature
The two literatures contain the case studies of different communities as well as the methodology of research. The first article is a case study of eco tourism in Kenya and the second article is the case study about eco tourism in China. The difference is that the two studies have used different theoretical approaches with the first case study using the stakeholders’ theory and the second one used the external theory.
Both studies acknowledge that ecotourism does not always result in conservation of the environment and that pursuit of economic benefits usually overrides the need to conserve the environment. Both studies agree that the stakeholders have to do more to conserve the environment, cultural heritage and sceneries for them to continue receiving revenues from ecotourism industry.
The two literatures however miss the principle of learning as part of eco tourism. They have extensively discussed the conservation of the environment as part of eco tourism and the economic benefits but they have not indicated the reasons why tourists want to see those sites. The principle of learning about the environment from those sites is equally critical as part of the conservation of the environment.
This is the only way tourism stakeholders can market themselves to eco tourists. As noted earlier the aspect of conserving the environment, which was the motivation of eco tourism, has been compromised in pursuit of economic benefits. The studies also show that the governments are over reliant on this source of revenue and ends up edging out local community from the benefits accrued from eco tourism (Cochrane, 2006).
Eco tourism in the modern day tourism does not uphold its principles especially in environmental conservation. It is concerned with gaining economic benefits without conserving the environment. To make eco tourism comprehensive, all the three principles need to have priority.
They are environmental conservation, economic benefit to the local communities and learning. Adhering to one principle of eco tourism while compromising the other aspects generalises eco tourism rather than separating it as a distinct branch of hotel and tourism industry.
The government and other stakeholders need to uphold all the principles of eco tourism by conserving the environment and teaching the local communities as well as the tourists on the need to maintain the status quo of the attractive ecosystems.
In mitigating externality, governments should view the eco tourism as spill over effect of conserving the environment rather than a source of revenue. This will enable the stakeholders maintain the integrity of the environment while benefiting from eco tourism.
Cochrane, J. (2006). The sustainability of ecotourism. London: Rutledge.
Guo, L. (2007). Chinese ecotourism: The base of sustainable tourism. Journal of Chinese Progress in Geography, 16(4), 4.
Ming, Q., Yang, G., & Zhong, L. (2000). Ecotourism. Beijing: Higher Education Press.
Zhang, J. (2001). Ecotourism theory and practice. Beijing: China Travel & Tourism Press.
Zhang, J. (2003). Ecotourism and the benefit of local residents, an analysis of successful experience of ecotourism. Chinese Tourism Tribune, 5(2), 60-63.