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Ecotourism implies traveling to places where the environment is preserved in its original form. This type of traveling means getting acquainted with the cultural-historical and natural features of the territory. When organizing ecotourism activities, priority is given to the conservation and maintenance of ecosystem integrity (Ballantyne & Packer, 2013). One of the possibilities to maintain such an approach is the influx of money into the region (for instance, through the purchase of local products, souvenirs, services, and so on).
The local population benefits from the maintenance of this kind of tourism since, as a result, the area is developed, but the environment is not harmed. Therefore, travelers gain an understanding of the natural, cultural, and ethnographic features of the terrain; thus, contributing to the preservation of the continuity of ecosystems and creating the economic setting for the development and maintenance of the existing natural resources. This paper aims to research the peculiarities of different types of tourism as well as its issues and trends and to analyze the background and perspectives of ecotourism in Peru.
Tourism and Its Features
It is worth noting that the distinguishing features of ecotourism lie in the fact that it stimulates and satisfies the desire to commune with nature, though, preventing the negative influence on nature and culture, and encouraging tourists to contribute to environment conservation and socio-economic development of the territory. Thus, ecotourism is an important component of the sustainable development of natural areas (Fennell, 2014).
Those kinds of tourism activities that have the highest net positive effect in terms of environmental, economic, and social development are more stable. The concept of ecotourism can be reduced to a set of principles applicable to all types of tourism-related to nature investigation including massive tourism. For instance, the basic principle of ecotourism is an acquaintance with wildlife as well as with the local customs and culture. Besides, a crucial aspect is to minimize the negative effects on the environment and socio-cultural heritage and maintain the ecological environment of stability (Fennell, 2014).
Quite often, traveling to reserves and national parks, which was originally planned as an ecotourism trip, has several serious shortcomings. For example, often tourists are taken to the venue of the tour by helicopters or boats with petrol engines frightening animals and polluting the water. Few programs include the active involvement of travelers in environmental activities. Previously, ecotourism was traditionally opposed to mass tourism, and it was defined as limited and, in some ways, exclusive nature tourism. However, based on the modern concept of ecotourism, this cannot be justified (Timothy & Boyd, 2014).
For instance, birdwatchers may be guided by environmental intentions; however, if there are not enough visitors, it will not provide a serious economic alternative to deforestation, the expansion of agricultural lands and settlements. At the same time, the more massive forms of nature tourism provided they are well organized, have considerable potential. One of the most striking examples is the Amboseli National Park in Kenya (Timothy & Boyd, 2014).
During a year, more than a quarter-million visitors come to explore it, which brings the local Maasai tribe ten times more income than getting it by cattle. In this context, it is fair to state that the income from tourism, if a significant part of it is given to the region, creates the economic resources for the conservation of natural ecosystems. Thus, the scale of tourism or motivation is not significant for nature conservation while the primary objective is determined by the actual organization of the trip.
Nature tourism (nature-based or nature-oriented tourism) is any kind of tourism, which is associated with the use of natural resources in their relatively unmodified state including landscapes, terrain, water, vegetation, and wildlife (Timothy & Boyd, 2014). In contrast to ecotourism, environmental tourism is based only on the motivation of the tourists and the nature of their activities, and it does not take into account the ecological, cultural, and economic impacts of such a journey. In this connection, the use of natural resources does not seem reasonable and sustainable enough.
Meanwhile, ecotourism is a comprehensive concept that implies the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity for future generations, the planning, and the management of tourism activities. In addition to the satisfaction of touristic urges, it implies the achievement of social goals. Some researches indicate other types of ecotourism such as wildlife tourism and wilderness travel, whose purpose may be the exploration of any objects in nature ranging from individual species to ecological communities (Timothy & Boyd, 2014).
Frequently, adventure tourism is associated with ecotourism. However, the latter does not always imply an adventure component. At the same time, not all adventure tours meet environmental criteria especially in the aspect of the sustainable use of resources. In particular, sports and safari tours associated with getting the trophies or achievement of results at any cost (using trees felled for the construction of crossings) do not seem environmentally friendly.
One more type of tourism that is connected to ecotourism is agrotourism. It is especially popular in the US and Western Europe, and it is a trip to the countryside (the villages, farms, farmhouses) (Timothy & Boyd, 2014). Tourists while leading the rural way of life in nature, are introduced to the values of popular culture, arts and crafts, national songs and dances, local customs, they participate in traditional rural labor, national holidays, and festivals.
Lastly, yet importantly, green tourism involves the use of environmentally friendly techniques and technologies while making a journey. Thus, it should be stressed out that ecotourism is at the intersection of nature-oriented and sustainable forms of tourism.
In Peru, the rich cultural heritage and extraordinary traditions are intertwined with ancient history and national identity. Peru is considered one of the most exotic and mystical countries. It is the desired destination not only for the fans of tropical forests and natural beauty but also for those interested in ancient sights. Local tropical rain forests give the home to many different species of birds and animals, where there are thousands of species of plants among which many endemic species can be found (Legrand, Simons-Kaufmann, & Sloan, 2012).
Ecotourism travelers can experience a lot of pleasant moments walking along with the local nature reserves, climbing the Andes, visiting the desert of Nazca, and other local attractions. The pearls of the Inca culture are the legendary Machu Picchu, giant drawings of Nazca desert, and the mysterious Lake Titicaca. In this region, the three different climatic zones are intricately mixed – the majestic Andes, the wild jungle, and ocean coast, as well as different cultures and beliefs, are mixed and intertwined.
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Peru allows gazing at a variety of attractions. For instance, the town of Paracas is unique in the way it connects the sea with the arid desert. The coast reveals a protected area, where travelers can watch a variety of birds and the representatives of the marine ecosystem. In the Paracas Reserve, the voyagers can find the unusual archaeological site El Candelabro, which is 120 meters high and the incredible creation of nature La Catedral cliff, which is reminiscent of a cathedral dome (Legrand et al., 2012). Besides, the river Amazon keeps safe the vulnerable beauty of the jungle with its fragile flora and fauna.
Machu Picchu depicted in Picture 1 is considered one of the most powerful energy places in the world, and the city of Cusco was declared the cultural heritage of humankind (Peru, n.d.). Further, in the Tambopata Reserve, travelers can observe more than 590 species of birds, over 100 species of mammals, 200 species of amphibians, and more than 1230 species of butterflies (Forrest, 2012). Further on, the national park Pacaya Samiria is one of the most beautiful nature reserves.
It covers an area of over 2 million hectares. Two rivers form a huge network of waterways. Thus, all the attractions and the natural wealth indicates that ecotourism aims to preserve and maintain the existing heritage of Peru.
It should be stated that Peru belongs to the category of ecotourism destinations for a variety of reasons. The natural resources of the country are diverse, and various ecological attractions are available and require preservation. The beauty and diversity of the landscape attract many tourists yearly, and the proximity to the international airport and tourist centers allows easy access to the location. Moreover, the natural heritage of the country is characterized by high biodiversity. Also, a long and relatively comfortable journey to the destination can be correlated with the level of attractiveness and availability of sights. It should be noted that seasonal difficulties associated with traveling by washed away roads at rainy seasons are governed as well, for instance, with the help of suspension bridges as evidenced in Picture 2 (CSR, n.d.).
Ecotourism in the area makes it possible to watch the wildlife and unusual forms of vegetation; moreover, the country is rich in cultural attractions and heritage. Local customs, ethnography, and traditional ways of life will enable travelers to learn about the history of this beautiful country. Moreover, the cooperation with the local population allows organizing a variety of outdoor activities.
The main trends to be considered when planning ecotourism activities in Peru can be reduced to five aspects. They are the minimization of environmental impacts, the protection of nature, creating a possibility of educational potential, the participation of local residents, and the sustainable development of the region. These aspects are discussed in detail in Table 1 (Bulbeck, 2012).
Table 1. Trends.
|Minimization of the negative effects on the environment and socio-cultural background of the region and maintenance of the ecological environment of stability implies that:|| |
|Promotion of protection of nature and the local socio-cultural environment means that (Bulbeck, 2012):|| |
|Environmental education and raising awareness of travelers implies that:|| |
|Participation of local people and generating revenues from the tourist activities to provide economic incentives for nature conservation mean that:|| |
|Cost-effectiveness and contribution to the sustainable development of the region mean that:|| |
The contemporary understanding of ecotourism focused on achieving sustainability as the final result encourages to reconsider the traditional ideas about what types of traveling can be considered ecotourism (Bulbeck, 2012). At the same time, the traditional criteria of the motivation for traveling and the volumes of tourist flows do not play a determining role anymore. The main issues to consider when planning touristic activities in Peru are the implications related to the impacts on the natural and cultural environment of the territory.
Challenges and Opportunities of Ecotourism in Peru
At present, ecotourism in the country is at a moderate level, and there is an evident need for emphasizing the regulation of the existing state. The country has a fairly high tourism potential, which is linked to high primary and derivative tourist offers (natural and cultural attractions). Also, the region is interested in the development of this type of tourism and engaging new audiences in the exploration of the country to attract finance to the sector.
However, the ecosystems are quite vulnerable, and the influence of nature conservation bodies is not high enough (Legrand et al., 2012). An analysis of the social, cultural, economic, and political factors indicates that the resources and the possibility of participation of the local population are at an average level, but there are prerequisites for a wide distribution of income from ecotourism in the community. According to the latest researches, the evaluation of the economic and political framework conditions, in particular, the national environmental policy, as well as the conditions of the autonomous income-protected areas, testify in favor of more active development of the industry.
Thus, Peru has good opportunities for ecotourism. However, there are several problems and obstacles to the more effective development of the industry. However, much work has been done during recent years. For instance, in some remote areas, the infrastructure of hotels and transport system was poorly developed, but the locals found a way and began using the resources of the Amazon River for this purpose with no harm to the environment (McCarthy, Miranda, Raub, Sainsbury, & Waterson, 2013).
Amazing safari routes through protected forests attract tourists from all over the world. However, the tour guides should have solid scientific erudition to be able to use modern means of communication and transport. Needless to say, they need to know foreign languages. Accordingly, these professionals should be trained properly. Consequently, a comprehensive scientific study of routes and the consideration of purification technology for household waste, the appearance of which is unavoidable, should be conducted. When planning ecotourism activities not only the interests of tourists should be considered but also the ability to pass through the nature area with due security and minimized dangers for the environment.
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