1. HANDBOOK OF ECOTOURISM IN PROTECTED
AREAS OF VIETNAM
José Jiménez García-Herrera
2. Handbook of Ecotourism
HANDBOOK OF ECOTOURISM IN PROTECTED
AREAS OF VIETNAM
1. Introduction .................................................................................................................. 6
1.1 Biodiversity and Conservation ......................................................................... 6
1.2 Ecotourism...................................................................................................... 12
1.2.1 Current development of ecotourism in NPs and other PAs........................... 12
1.2.2 Definition of Ecotourism and Ecotourism development views in PAs......... 14
1.3 Ecotourism requirements................................................................................ 15
2. Ecotourism as a conservation tool........................................................................... 18
2.1 Previous considerations.................................................................................. 18
2.2 Ecotourism stakeholders................................................................................. 19
2.3 Ecotourism and protected areas...................................................................... 21
2.3.1 The role of Ecotourism in protected areas.............................................. 22
2.3.2 Benefits of Ecotourism........................................................................... 22
2.3.3 Negative environmental impact.............................................................. 24
2.3.4 Measures to minimize environmental impacts ....................................... 28
2.3.5 Carrying capacity.................................................................................... 29
2.4 Government organizations and ecotourism .................................................... 35
2.4.1 Coordination of development in the tourist industry.............................. 35
2.4.2 Promoting planning ................................................................................ 35
2.4.3 Monitoring.............................................................................................. 36
2.4.4 Marketing aids........................................................................................ 36
2.4.5 Supporting education, research and training .......................................... 36
2.4.6 Creating economic incentives for conservation...................................... 37
2.5 Ecotourism and local communities................................................................. 39
2.6 Ecotourism and NGOs.................................................................................... 40
2.7 Ecotourism and tourism industry.................................................................... 40
3. Ecotourism planning................................................................................................... 42
3.1 Ecotourism planning....................................................................................... 42
3.2 Previous site requirements.............................................................................. 43
3.3 Resource inventory and diagnosis.................................................................. 44
3.4 Plan monitoring .............................................................................................. 52
4. Ecotourism management ............................................................................................ 54
4.1 Ecotourism activities ...................................................................................... 54
4.1.1 Previous visitor instruction..................................................................... 54
4.1.2 Visitor Centers........................................................................................ 55
4.1.3 Interpretive paths.................................................................................... 57
4.1.4 Wildlife observation activities................................................................ 59
4.1.5 Ecotourism guides .................................................................................. 60
4.2 Ecotourism lodging ........................................................................................ 63
4.2.1 Selecting the site..................................................................................... 63
4.2.2 Architectural and building design........................................................... 64
3. Handbook of Ecotourism
4.2.3 Energy management ............................................................................... 68
4.2.4 Water management................................................................................. 69
4.2.5 Sewage management .............................................................................. 70
4.2.6 Solid waste management ........................................................................ 70
4.3 The role of local communities........................................................................ 72
4.3.1 Benefits for conservation........................................................................ 73
4.3.2 Benefits for local communities............................................................... 74
4.3.3 Risks and impact reduction .................................................................... 76
4.3.4 Community partaking............................................................................. 78
4.3.5 Relations between community and business .......................................... 79
4.3.6 Interaction between visitors and local culture........................................ 80
4.4 Quality and client care service........................................................................ 81
4.4.1 Previous activity preparation.................................................................. 81
4.4.2 Visitors’ expectations ............................................................................. 83
4.4.3 Offer flexibility....................................................................................... 84
4.4.4 Visitor’s suggestions and comments ...................................................... 84
4.4.5 Staff training........................................................................................... 86
4.4.6 Quality plans........................................................................................... 89
4.5 Promoting ecotourism projects....................................................................... 89
4.5.1 Market studies ........................................................................................ 89
4.5.2 Promotional programs ............................................................................ 93
4.5.3 Team work.............................................................................................. 98
5. Conclusions ................................................................................................................ 99
6. References and bibliography .................................................................................... 100
4. Handbook of Ecotourism
HANDBOOK OF ECOTOURISM IN PROTECTED
AREAS OF VIETNAM
Countryside development and ecotourism are priority issues for the
Spanish cooperation in Vietnam alongside the conservation of the environment
and natural resources.
From the start of its activities in this country, FUNDESO has worked and
continues to do so with a particular interest in these subjects. The project
―Training for the development of ecotourism in the protected areas of North
Vietnam‖, financed by the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation, is
based upon these topics. One of its main parts is to issue a handbook on the
development and management of ecotourism, seen as a practical tool for the
daily use of all the parties involved.
Currently, ecotourism plays an important role in many nature
conservation projects and in the development of landscape. The ecotourism
objectives related to protected areas are the following:
Ecological and cultural compatibility of tourism development as a
To help finance the management of the protected area.
To generate income for local population.
To promote the acceptance of nature protection as an indirect
result of economic effects.
The reason for such strategy, mainly oriented to nature protection, is the
extremely delicate situation of protected areas (as well as of the protection of
the nature in general) in developing countries. The financial difficulties, the
poverty and the non-acceptance of protected areas by the local communities
have created a general agreement in the conservation sector towards the need
of dealing with this issue. This can be seen in examples, such as Convention on
Biodiversity (Article 10), or national strategies, action plans and national reports
to develop the Convention. Ecotourism can play an important role in this
scenario. However, it cannot be used as a marketing tool, to make benefits
taking advantage of the social concern about the environment, nor trying to sell
it as an ideal solution for some communities in need to diversify their economic
resources. It is to be regarded as a specific attention to a part of a market in
order to make it viable while keeping the environment and the natural resources
a priority, both, inside protected areas and in general.
5. Handbook of Ecotourism
The structure of the handbook contains two parts; a conceptual one,
dedicated to previous questions and definitions as well as planning, and a
second part, about effective ecotourism management. It should be stressed that
technical work and political action are both key to effective ecotourism
management. And such conviction is the guideline of this handbook.
6. Handbook of Ecotourism
1.1 Biodiversity and Conservation
With regard to biodiversity, Vietnam can be considered one of countries
fascinating scientists. As released in the latest reports in the past ten years
(Nguyen Xuan Huan, 2003), new species have been found in different areas of
7 new species of plants and 1 genus: Livistona halongensis;
Impatiens halongensis, Chirieta hiepii, Ch. modesta, Ch.
halongensis, Paraboea halongensis; and Alpinia calcicola were
found in Halong World Heritage site in 2000.
5 new macro algae species: Sargassum tsengii, S. bangmeianae,
S. baorenii, S. hieui, S. buui were discovered in the coastal areas
of Vietnam in 2001.
9 new seeweed species: Neomartensia flabelliformis, Gibsmithia
hawaiinensis, Dictyurus occidentalis, Dasya crouaniana, Caulerpa
nummularia, C. urvilliana, Tydemania expeditionis, Udotea
flabellum, U. velurina were found in Truong Sa Islands.
In the period 1999 - 2000, three
new fish species were found in
Vietnam. They are
Sao la Pseudoryx nghetinhensis
7. Handbook of Ecotourism
New bird species have been added to the bird list of Vietnam:
Garrulax ngoclinhensis and Actinodura sodangonum in Ngoc Linh
Nature Reserve (Kon Tum); in Van Long moutains (Gia Vien -
What astonishes the world in the period between 1992 and 1997
are three big mammals and three small mammals found in
- Saola ( Pseudoryx nghetinhensis ), 1992
- Giant muntjac ( Megamuntiacus vuquangensis ),1993
- Truong Son muntjac (Canimuntiacus truongsonensis), 1996
- Pu Hoat muntjac (Muntiacus puhoatensis), 1997
- Tay Nguyen civet (Viverra tainguyenensis ), 1997
- Khting Vor (Pseudonovibos spiralis), in Central Highlands in
1994. However, latest research reveals the need to check the
reability of its discovery in Vietnam.
Some animals that have been considered extinct were caught in
November 1988 by camera traps in Cat Tien National Park, it is
Javan Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus).
A population of 135 sarus crane (Crus antigone) were seen in
wetland meadow in Kien Luong Nature Reserve (Kien Giang) in
1999 - 2000. Accordingly, it can be estimated that the number of
sarus crane in Vietnam is about 500 – 1,500, which is the largest
one in the world.
New statistics of new species added to the scientific world and Vietnam
as mentioned above show that the fauna and flora in Vietnam have not
completely discovered and they are various in forest ecology, fresh water
ecology, marine and coastal ecology.
According to the latest statistics, Vietnam has more than 13,766 plants,
of which 10% are endemic. There are nearly 300 mammal species and
subspecies, 840 bird species, 120 amphibians, 260 reptiles, 5,155 insects, 113
8. Handbook of Ecotourism
species of collembola, 145 species of acartia, 200 species of oligochaeta, 307
species of Nematoda; 10% of these are endemic mammals, birds and fish.
Fresh water ecosystem:
Fresh water bodies possess various kinds of plants and animals,
including alga, weed, wetland plants, invertebrates and fish.
Alga (Phytoplankton, Phytobenthos): 1,402 species are
So far 792 invertebrate species have been found. Noticeably,
among Crustacea, 54 species and 8 breeds are firstly seen in
Vietnam. In particular, among 57 species of crabs and shrimps, 6
breeds and 31 species (accounting for 54.4%) are firstly
discovered. So are 43 species (29.2%) out of 147 shells and three
breeds, which are typical for Vietnam and Indochina. This proves
the high diversity and endemicity of these species in Vietnam.
There are 546 species and subspecies of domestic fresh water
fish of 228 breeds, 57 families and 18 orders. The number of fresh
water fish species of Vietnam is estimated to likely rise to 700.
Marine and coastal ecology:
Research on Vietnam marine so far has discovered 10,837 marine
species of the following groups:
Plants: 537 alga species, 667 seaweeds, 15 sea grasses, 94
species of salt marsh of 72 branches and 58 families.
Floating animals: 468 species.
Benthos: 6,377 species, 225 sea shrimps, 298 hard corals of
Scleractinia of 76 breeds and 16 families.
Seafish: 2,038 species of 717 breeds and 178 families.
9. Handbook of Ecotourism
50 sea snakes, 4 tortoises, 16 sea mammals.
Vietnam is considered a nation of various and abundant natural
resources, ranking one of 16 countries of highest biodiversity in the world.
Several reasons have caused the deterioration of its natural resources and
biodiversity loss, especially the reduction of rare species of high economic
values. According to the estimates, about 28% of mammals, 10% of birds and
21 of reptiles are threatened (The Socialist Republic of Vietnam, 2003). The
Red Book of Vietnam published in 2003 lists 450 rare plants and 407 rare
animals as endangered species at different levels.
The biodiversity loss in Vietnam can be mainly caused by:
The degradation and loss of habitat: deforestation activities such
as logging, flash and burn cultivation, reclamation for agriculture land,
wars, natural disasters such as floods, storms, droughts, climate
changes and pest. The forest area in 1943 was 14.3 million ha with
the coverage of 43%, however the total area of natural and plantation
forests now is 9.3 million with the coverage of 28% (Ministry of
Forestry, 1995). The development of road systems, irrigation systems
of dikes and lakes, hydropower stations and power line systems has
reduced the area of forests, separating ecologies and making it easier
for people to access forests which results in considerable threatens to
Overexploitation, disastrous exploitation and unsustainable
biodiversity resource use prompts from the pressure of population
growth, poverty and commercial purposes.
Environmental pollution is caused by industrial waste, mineral
exploitation, agriculture chemicals, urban waste, oil pollution in
Exotic fauna and flora importation is out of control.
These occurrences come from the following reasons:
10. Handbook of Ecotourism
Rapid population growth (1.8% annually on average) leads to free
migration and development of new economic zones. Deforestation in
Central Highlands to plant industrial crops and coastal mangrove
forest clearing for marine husbandry results in rapid reduction in
People living in areas of high biodiversity still live on exploiting natural
resources, their economic condition is low and the number of poor
households remains high.
People‘s awareness of natural resource protection and biodiversity
conservation remains low. Their participation in biodiversity
conservation is not considerable and effective.
The enforcement of legal regulations regarding biodiversity
conservation is not effective because of the shortage of monitoring
and coordination among sectors and local agencies of different levels
in implementing guidelines and policies.
Biodiversity Conservation in the form of both in-situ and ex-situ draws
much interest of Vietnam very early. This can be seen from the early
establishment of Cuc Phuong National Park in 1962 and other botanical
gardens and zoological gardens. Especially rescue centers are set up in Cuc
Phuong National Park, Soc Son, Da Nang and Hochiminh City and so are
stations that functions as protecting fauna and flora genetic sources for Vietnam
Being aware of the importance of biodiversity, Vietnam sighed an
international convention on biodiversity in 1993 and the President of Vietnam
approved the convention in October 1994. The Prime Minister also approved
the Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) on 22 December 1995. Vietnam signed the
Convention on International Trading in Endangered Species (CITES) on 20
January 1994. The strategy on protected area management to the year 2010
was approved by the government 17 September 2003. The Central Truong Son
biodiversity conservation program during 2004-2020 was issued on 22 March
2004. It can be said that Vietnam has involved in most of international
conventions and issued legal documents, ordinances, regulations, decrees etc.
on biodiversity conservation.
So far Vietnam has established a system of protected areas, including 68
wetland protected areas, 15 marine protected areas, 126 special use forests in
which there are 27 national parks, 49 nature reserves, 11 species and habitat
protected areas and 39 landscape protected areas (The Socialist Republic of
11. Handbook of Ecotourism
Vietnam, 2003). It is estimated that 58% and 73% of rare and endemic plants
and animals respectively are located in protected areas (VNPPA, 2001).
A great challenge to biodiversity conservation in Vietnam is the
disastrous activities of local communities living in and around protected areas.
They hunt and trade wildlife as well as collect timber, firewood and non-timber
products. Burning beehives causing several forest fires is a serous threaten to
biodiversity. The reality of establishing protected areas has led to the
subsistence loss of local communities and the illegal exploitation of natural
resources remains a problem. Consequently, it is very important to have
policies for buffer zones to ensure the balance between conservation, economic
development and life stability of local people. It is necessary to enhance and
organize biodiversity awareness education among local communities and
commune authorities. At the same time there is a need to develop and complete
institutions and organization to attract the participation of local communities
living in and out of buffer zones of protected areas in biodiversity conservation
Protected areas serve the purposes of biodiversity conservation,
scientific research and recreation. Tourism brings a considerable income to
support conservation and local community development. In order to further
develop tourism in special use forest, the government issued the following
articles in the Regulation on Special Use Forest Management approved on 11
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development issues or
coordinates with other ministries and relevant agencies to issue
regulations on tourism organization (ecotourism, cultural tourism,
recreation) based on the principle of encouraging tourism activities
that do not impact nature conservation and the environment;
Tourism activities within special use forests must be conducted in the
frame of projects approved by special use forest management boards
based on the principle of not impacting the special use forest
Special use forest management boards are able to organize or sign
contracts to let organizations, households and individuals organize
services or ecotourism.
12. Handbook of Ecotourism
- Using land and planned forest areas under strict protection in
national parks for leasing and contracting purposes that may
change the natural forest subsequence is restricted.
- All tourism activities that use or create the income must follow the
existing financial management regulation; most of the income from
tourism activities is returned to special use forest management,
protection and development;
Excursions and tourism activities in special use forests must be
organized by the management boards or co-organized with other
cultural and tourism agencies.
1.2.1 Current development of ecotourism in NPs and other PAs
Despite a great potential, ecotourism in protected areas in Vietnam is just
at the beginning of development. Most of activities are spontaneous without
specific products and target visitors. There has been no investment in
advertising, researching the market and technologies serving ecotourism. Both
contents and manners of organizing ecotourism in national parks and other
protected areas belong to ecotourism-oriented nature tourism.
The ecotourism development in protected areas in Vietnam is not
corrective to its potential. The main reason for constraint of ecotourism
development is the absence of collaboration between authorities and various
sectors in the development of policies and ecotourism planning. Tourism
industry is related to numerous sectors, so it requires a close cooperation
between stakeholders for its development. Most of tourism activities in PAs are
spontaneous without specific products and target markets. There has been no
investment in promoting and developing technologies serving ecotourism (Le
Van Lanh, 1999). Considering both contents and manners of organizing tourism
in protected areas of Vietnam is belong to ecotourism-oriented nature tourism.
Some national parks have their own tourism sections or centers for
ecotourism and environmental education to operate their tourism activities.
Research and plan for ecotourism development have been conducted in some
national parks such as Cuc Phuong, Ba Be, Ba Vi, Tam Dao, Bach Ma, Cat
Tien, Tram Chim, etc. Previously, tourism infrastructure in national parks was
channeled by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. At present, the
13. Handbook of Ecotourism
Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, provinces and companies also
invest in tourism infrastructure in national parks. Thua Thien Hue Province and
the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism invest 11 billion dongs in
underground power cables to the mountains to avoid affecting 50 ha of forest
and the landscape of Bach Ma National Park. The park is now mobilizing
capitals to build nature trails, improve waterfalls, set up water supply systems
for tourism sites. In Ba Vi National Park, many companies are allocated forest
areas for protection and management to serve tourism development. Thanks to
the financial investment and protection, the forest area has been recovered and
developed more rapidly that those areas out of tourism sites.
At present, visitors to national parks are able to access forest ecologies,
plants and some insects only. They rarely see wildlife in forest. It is only in Cat
Tien National Park when some visitors luckily see some big mammals like deer,
wild pigs, civets, weasels, porcupines at night. Cuc Phuong and Ba Vi National
Parks have set up sub-wild areas to protect animals and serve tourism
purposes. The primate rescue center is an attractive site to visitors in Cuc
Phuong National Park.
Wetland ecological areas with various species of birds and aquatic
entities also draw great attention from visitors. Xuan Thuy wetland reserve with
mangrove forest ecology are habitats of crabs, shrimps and hundreds of bird
species, especially black-faced spoonbill. Van Long wetland reserve (Ninh Binh
province) possesses limestone forest ecology. Visitors can watch groups of
Delacour langurs and water organisms, water birds such as common coost.
Tram Chim National Park is a nature protected area of Dong Thap Muoi ecology
with the endemic species of sarus crane that attracts thousands of visitors every
Well known marine areas such as Cat Ba, Ha Long, Hon Mun, Con Dao
and Phu Quoc have been making their plans on marine resource use to develop
attractive tourism services.
To introduce to visitors natural resources, especially their fauna and flora,
Cuc Phuong, Cat Ba, Ba Be, Bai Tu Long, Bach Ma and Cat Tien have built
their own visitor centers/information centers and nature trails with interpretation
signs. Through exhibits such as specimens, ecological models and information
and objects displayed in these centers, visitors are aware of biodiversity and the
significance of national parks. Botanical gardens in national parks have various
plants that visitors can see without trying hard to discover in forests. This is also
a good place for environmental education for visitors.
14. Handbook of Ecotourism
1.2.2 Definition of Ecotourism and Ecotourism development views in
A growing segment can be found within the tourism sector; that of nature
tourism and/or ecotourism, the annual growth rate of which is between 10 and
30%, while traditional tourism grows an average of 4% (Reingold, 1993). But let
us set bounds to the concepts we are using. Nature tourism is the tourism
based on visiting natural resources, and is closely linked to ecotourism, as it is
based upon the same resource, but it doesn‘t necessarily involve conservation
or sustainability. This is the kind of tourism that exists currently in many natural
areas without the establishment of a plan, or the promotion of conservation
measures. As for ecotourism, the most accurate and complete definition from
my point of view would be that of Honey (1999) ―the travel to fragile and pristine
areas, usually protected, with the objective of causing low impact and at a low
scale. It helps educate the visitor; it provides funds for environment
conservation; it directly benefits economic development and sovereignty of local
communities, and it promotes the respect for different cultures and for human
Protected areas contain many of the most important tourist attractions in
the world. These attractions can either be one or more rare, endemic or gaudy
flora or fauna species, abundant wildlife, high diversity, singular or spectacular
geomorphologic formations, or historic or contemporary cultural expressions,
unique in a natural context. This makes them good tourism receivers as long as
these attractions can be offered. Therefore, the link between tourism and the
(well) protected areas is unavoidable.
In Vietnam, an important part of the tourism is attracted by the news
about the biodiversity of the country, recent fauna findings, and wonderful
sights. However, at this stage it is superfluous to think only in terms of
ecotourism, since, if looked upon with its most restrictive definition, the
―ecotourism‖ visitors that will be received by Vietnam‘s protected areas in the
near future will only be a part of them all. A large proportion of the tourists
attracted by a natural environment are not actually looking for a ―total
immersion‖ experience, but wish to stay in a city or make short visits to observe
nature. Although such experiences are not generally considered ecotourism,
their effective management can provide a way of living to a relatively large
number of people. Obviously, we cannot let trees prevent us from seeing the
forest by adopting an extremely reductionist point of view. The need is clear to
organize nature tourism in order to make it really sustainable and close to the
ideological definition of ecotourism, as the most important challenge we face is
to prevent that the different participating agents degrade the potential tourist
15. Handbook of Ecotourism
resources, or, in other words, to avoid deteriorating protected areas due to an
inadequate approach of tourism. This requires a strategic plan to develop
tourism, that should identify the different types of places, product addresses,
development requirements, management restrictions and planned investments.
A very important aspect to consider while designing is the need for local
population to see a direct relation between the protection of resources and the
benefits that flow towards the community.
Lastly, it is necessary to highlight that ecotourism studies usually refer
only to that which is demanded from the visitor. Actually, an ecotourism project
must be properly conceived and organized, and should furnish an attractive
offer to be able to meet the demand. Tourists play the main part in ecotourism
projects, and therefore should be the major focus of attention. One should delve
into the tourist‘s (in this case the ecotourist‘s) opinion about the installations and
the obtained experience, in order to improve and adjust the programs. This fully
connects with what have been pointed out by several authors (Quach Mai
Hong, 2003) to be the main difficulties for the development of ecotourism in
Vietnam: (i) lack of knowledge about ecotourism (ii) lack of training in
ecotourism staff;(iii) difficulty in achieving environmental protection in the face of
poverty and (iv) lack of funds to improve tourism installations.
1.3 Ecotourism requirements
Ecotourism represents an excellent way to help both, the local
communities and the protected areas involved. It is an ideal component in a
sustainable development strategy in which natural resources can be used as
tourism attractions without damaging the nature of the area. As an important
tool for protected areas‘ management and for development, ecotourism must be
developed adapting to circumstances.
The following elements are crucial for the success of an ecotourism
initiative. Ecotourism must (Drumm, 2002):
Have a low impact on the natural resources of the protected areas.
Involve participants (individuals, communities, ecotourist, tourism
operators and government institutions) in the planning, development,
carrying out and follow up stages.
Respect local cultures and traditions.
16. Handbook of Ecotourism
Generate sustainable and equitable income for the local communities
and for as many other participants as possible, including private tour
Generate income for the conservation of protected areas.
Educate all parts involved in their role in conservation.
Some authors (Denman, 2001) complete these requirements with the
need to add to the visitor‘s experience the knowledge and appreciation of the
native culture. However, a basic aspect is frequently forgotten, the
consideration of ecotourism as an economic activity based on traveling to or
visiting natural areas with the purpose of enjoying and appreciating nature.
There can not be ecotourism if there is no (well preserved) nature to enjoy, as
well as a nature-based attraction to offer.
17. Handbook of Ecotourism
PARTICIPANTS in the Stream on Building Broader Support for Protected
Areas at the Vth World Parks Congress, in Durban, South Africa (8-17
RECOMMEND that the tourism sector, including appropriate institutions, associations,
and operators, work together with protected area managers and communities to ensure
that tourism associated with protected areas, in both developed and developing
a) Respects the primacy of the role of conservation for protected areas
b) Makes tangible and equitable financial contributions to conservation and
to protected area management.
c) Ensures tourism contributes to local economic development and poverty
Support to local small and medium sized enterprises
Employment of local people
Purchasing of local goods and services
Fair and equitable partnerships with local communities;
d) Uses relevant approaches that encourage appropriate behaviour by
visitors (e.g., environmental education, interpretation, and marketing)
e) Uses ecologically and culturally appropriate technologies, infrastructure,
facilities and materials in and or near protected areas
f) Monitors, reports and mitigates negative impacts and enhances positive
effects of tourism
g) Communicates the benefits of protected areas and the imperative for
h) Promotes the use of guidelines, codes of practice and certification
RECOMMEND that key decision-makers work with the conservation community,
including the IUCN WCPA Task Force for Tourism and Protected Areas, to ensure that
a) Supports the sustainable use of natural and cultural heritage
b) Supports local and indigenous community development and economic
Provides political and financial support for the establishment, extension,
and effective management of protected areas
Supports implementation of relevant international agreements, national
legislation, and guidelines on protected areas
Fosters respect and stewardship for natural and cultural heritage through
visitation and education
Promotes the use of culturally appropriately participatory processes
THEREFORE RECOMMEND to key international and national agencies, local authorities
and the private sector to support research and development to:
a) Understand the links between tourism, conservation and community
b) Establish reliable data on protected area tourism
c) Determine optimum types and levels of protected area visitation
d) Promote appropriate monitoring and evaluation
e) Promote effective management Foments the creation of politics on
tourism in the protected areas
f) Encourage policy development on protected area tourism Offer proper
services of education and interpretation
g) Provide appropriate tourism training for protected area personnel
h) Provide effective interpretation and education
i) Understand visitor experiences, behaviour and impact
j) Develop appropriate tools and techniques for sustainable finance of
protected areas through tourism
ENCOURAGE dissemination of these recommendations and coordination of their
implementation by the IUCN WCPA Task Force for Tourism and Protected Areas
18. Handbook of Ecotourism
2. ECOTOURISM AS A CONSERVATION TOOL
2.1 Previous considerations
As it happens in other parts of the world, tourism in Vietnam will end up
playing an important role in protected areas, and these will, for one reason or
other, end up needing the financial contribution that tourism can generate.
Since this conservation-tourism binomial must work in a regulated context, such
as protected areas, development guidelines should obviously be established.
These guidelines will, in the end, constitute a fundamental part in the concept of
nature tourism, and their final objective will be the creation of an ecotourism
industry, with all its characterizing features.
Ecotourism is thus, above all, a strategic alliance between tourism and
the environment (Buckley, 1999), also described by the Ecologically
Sustainable Development Working Group on Tourism (ESDWG 1991) when it
suggested that ―the idea of a symbiotic relationship between tourism and the
environment is foreseen in ecotourism‖. This political and economic alliance
must involve all public and private agents and NGO (Non Government
Organizations) in order to be really effective, since, alike any business activity, it
is difficult to launch, and more so to keep running in a sustainable way. The
double face of ecotourism, practically and theorically at the same time, calls for
flexible management, which adapts to reality and coexists with it. Having the
objectives clear is as important as bearing in mind that they cannot be turned
into dogmas. It is obvious that not all public use in protected areas is going to
be ecotourism; however, this public use will have to be controlled, managed and
channeled to make it compatible with the conservation of the natural resources.
The same can be said regarding the duration of tourist‘s stays, usually a classic
reference to measure ecotourism. And so, under the perspective of biodiversity
conservation there is very little difference between tourists coming to be
inspired by nature for an hour or for a week. Moreover, the tourist that comes
for a ―total immersion‖ experience flies in the same plane, uses the same roads,
stays at the same hotel, and eats in the same restaurants as those who come to
be inspired during just an hour. At this stage we should notice that what needs
to be supported are ecotourism initiatives and not other forms of massive
tourism; even though we can not underestimate other formulas that do not
exactly match the profile classic ecotourism; the challenge is to manage these
visits in ways compatible with the conservation of the protected area and look
within them for profits for the local community. Also, we cannot forget that any
19. Handbook of Ecotourism
visit to a protected area is a challenge under the perspective of environmental
In this country where nature is one of its main calling cards, all tourism
must be considered as a bet for biodiversity conservation; and precisely in as
much as management is properly focused, flexible and with instruments to
direct future business activities, will we have achieved our objectives.
2.2 Ecotourism stakeholders
To begin the planning of the ecotourism project, we must know the
stakeholders that will be involved and be aware of how they are going to
influence the decisions taken at the beginning and during the project.
These stakeholders are not isolated entities, but a set of institutions,
groups or individuals that must work together, integrating the benefits furnished
by each one.
A –non exhaustive- list of these key stakeholders is as follows:
Relevant ministries and agencies
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in coordination with
Ministry of Fishery, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Ministry of
Planning and Investment, Ministry of Finance, and Vietnam Administration of
Tourism develop and pass legislation upholding the principles of cooperation
and identify responsibilities for ecotourism in Pas, and develop a mechanism for
sharing benefits from tourism and investing in the management and
conservation of biodiversity in PAs.
The Management Boards
The Management Boards are responsible for managing all ecotourism
activities in PAs. Their main tasks are managing and protecting diversity as well
as protecting the nature in general.
International and local travel agencies offer packages to the ecotourist, in
which the ecotourism company will have the opportunity to promote its project
by negotiating with them. The agencies will make the bookings and will design
20. Handbook of Ecotourism
the activities that the ecotourist will carry out during their his/her stay in
Vietnam. Sometimes, a fee must be negotiated in order to be included in the
services of a travel agency.
Guides are basic in an ecotourism project. They are the face of the
company in front of the customer. They need to be well trained, sensible to the
needs of the customer and with good communication skills to make the activity
and unforgettable experience. Along the handbook, many of the tools guides
must use for the success of the project are considered, as well as the different
company procedures, associations, local basis, etc.
Both national and international financial bodies are going to receive
demands for funds to initiate the projects. Ecotourism companies will need to
contact public and private bodies related with tourism in order to obtain the
information about institutions than can support the project.
VNAT (Vietnam National Administration for Tourism)
VNAT is the public agency for tourism in Vietnam. It has an active role in
the management of tourism in protected areas. This institution is crucial to
adopt and circulate at a national scale an adequate planning and design of
ecotourism activity, although the creation of a forum for inter-departmental
discussion with the MARD is a must, in order to agree upon the criteria and to
carry out a truly sustainable management of tourism.
Local communities inside and in the surroundings of the protected areas
must actively participate in ecotourism management. Local residents will be the
people in direct contact with the tourists. Many times they are not prepared for
it, so they must receive training and aids to direct the businesses.
Local authority must play a main part in ecotourism, as it must balance
the different interests to ensure sustainable development. Some authors
(Vourc‘h & Denman, 2003) advise local authorities to consider the development
of a sustainable tourism strategy in the context of Agenda 21.
Non Governmental Organizations
21. Handbook of Ecotourism
Ecotourism companies should focus its attention on the ones that work in
protected areas, as they have experience in their management. The NGO can
provide information and give technical support in the development of the
NGO linked to development activities can use ecotourism as a tool to
promote the development of communities neighboring the protected areas.
Tour operators are organisms that specialize in dealing with tourist
packages. The company manager can establish a partnership with them to
provide a joint service. Receptive tourism operators, as the term itself says, are
those domestic ones which receive the ecotourists. Emissive tourism operators
are those working in the tourist‘s country of origin, promoting his/her traveling to
Tourists play the main role in ecotourism projects and the greatest
attention should be focused upon them. It is crucial to know what the tourist, in
this case ―the ecotourist‖, thinks of the installations and the experience in
general, in order to improve and adjust the programs and the infrastructure.
They must be taken into account from the very planning of the project to the
carrying out and control of it.
We have to insist: tourists play the main part in the project. Forgetting it
will mean failure.
2.3 Ecotourism and protected areas
One of the differentiating features of ecotourism is that it takes place in
pristine, beautiful and little altered areas. And it is obvious that most of the
places that meet these requirements nowadays are protected areas. In
countries with low population density we still find possibilities to carry out
ecotourism activities in non-protected areas, although most nature tourism-
ecotourism happens in National Parks. Despite this, we have to insist that the
requirement for these activities is not to happen in areas of high biodiversity, but
in areas of ―natural environment‖.
22. Handbook of Ecotourism
2.3.1 The role of Ecotourism in protected areas
The treatment of nature tourism in protected areas must be completely
integrated in territorial management, as much as wildlife management,
threatened species‘ recovery or environmental education are. In the first place,
because it is unavoidable, as tourism ends up being such a powerful
transforming agent that channeling it is necessary in order to guarantee the
conservation of resources. Secondly, because it is very convenient, as it can be
used as mechanism to obtain income for the protected area and/or for the local
communities. Both goals must be managed from the same administrative realm,
and under the same perspective, as advised by the Durban Congress, so that
tourism can become an instrument for conservation and support of the
2.3.2 Benefits of Ecotourism
The existence of ecotourism derives not only from a tourism demand of
approaching nature, but also from its active use as a conservation tool in
protected areas, since it implies obtaining certain benefits for the conservation
of the protected areas, as implies to obtain the following benefits:
It implies the need for conservation of certain areas, and this
conservation must be effective so that the tourist continues to
desire visiting them. This protection also includes biodiversity
It furnishes economic earnings to the country, the region, the local
community, and, in particular, the protected area, providing
resources for conservation.
Tourism in and around protected areas must be designed as a vehicle for conservation: building support;
raising awareness of the many important values of protected areas including ecological, cultural, spiritual,
aesthetic, recreational, and economic values, and generating much needed income for conservation work for
the protection of biodiversity, ecosystem integrity and cultural heritage. Tourism should also contribute to the
quality of life of indigenous and local communities provide incentives to support traditional customs and
values, protect and respect sacred sites, and acknowledge traditional knowledge.
RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE Vth IUCN
WORLD PARKS CONGRESS
23. Handbook of Ecotourism
It can provide financial resources for the conservation of other
protected natural areas lacking tourism, be it because they are
unknown or because of their fragile ecological balance.
It can make protected areas more profitable, and thus encourage
government or private investment in the establishment of other
equally protected areas.
It can contribute to conservation if it is used as a tool of
environmental education, that sensitizes visitors, so they learn to
conveniently value Nature, and respect not only the area they visit
but also any other natural area.
It gives local communities alternatives to the extractive activities
that damage the ecosystems and endanger the natural resources.
It offers the ecotourist a gratifying experience, which s/he will want
to repeat somewhere else, thus contributing to conservation of
Nature in other places.
It can help conservation in other countries that see that the
experience succeeds in neighbouring countries.
―Ecotourism is an idea, a concept that is
challenging tourism as we have known it.
Defined most succinctly as ‗responsible travel
to natural areas, that conserves the
environment and sustains the well being of
local people,‘ ecotourism fundamentally
reshapes the basic precepts behind tourism,
which is quite simply travel undertaken for
pleasure. Nature tourism, which is frequently
but erroneously considered the same as
ecotourism, is defined as travel to unspoiled
places to experience and enjoy nature. Its
close cousin, adventure tourism, is described
as nature tourism with a kick—nature tourism
with a degree of risk taking and physical
endurance. Nature and adventure tourism
focus on what the tourist is seeking. In
contrast, ecotourism is qualitatively different.
It focuses on what the traveller does, plus the
impact of this travel on both the environment
and the people in the host country.
Ecotourism posits that this impact should be
positive. Ecotourism is not, therefore, simply
another niche market within the tourism
industry. Rather, ecotourism is a philosophy,
a set of practices and principles that, if
properly understood and implemented, will
transform the way we travel.‖
Ecotourism—Linking Tourism and
Biodiversity Conservation (Honey 2002))
24. Handbook of Ecotourism
But ecotourism has also an economic value of its own. Such value has
several components (Preece and Van Oosterzee, 2004):
Direct use values, such as those derived from recreational and
educational experience in natural areas.
Option values, comprising the value placed on having an
opportunity make use of natural areas at some future stage.
Vicarious use values, referring to the value derived from knowing
about the direct experiences of other people.
Existence values or the value associated with the knowledge that
natural systems or species continue to exist.
Bequest values or the value derived from the ability to bequeath
natural assets to future generations.
Quasi-option values, which refer to the value obtained from
delaying exploitative actions to learn more about the potential
threats or risks to natural areas and the strategies or management
practices that may be put in place to avoid or minimize adverse
2.3.3 Negative environmental impact
Research on the impacts of tourism is beyond the reach of this
handbook, although we can mention two kinds of impact: the one caused by
tourism in general, and the one caused by the ecotourist in use of the protected
A risk that often shows up when resources available for tourist projects
increase without proper management is the creation of certain infrastructures to
attract tourism, while causing harms and damages that can get to be
irreversible. This fact, far of being an exception, happens quite often.
Impact of tourism in general
A description of all possible impacts derived from tourism would be very
extensive, as it includes as many aspects as any other realm of development.
Potential impacts of tourism in general can be as varied as:
1. Upon the soil, sea and landscape: beach deterioration by ships;
pollution; rubbish dump; erosion on hiking paths; erosion by 4x4
25. Handbook of Ecotourism
vehicles; excessive infrastructure development for the visit and
lodging installations (roads, power lines, water pipes, buildings,
gravel pits, etc.)
2. Upon the water: pollution; aquifer overexploitation, etc.
3. Upon the vegetation: firewood over exploitation; harm to
vegetation caused by trampling in the proximities of the paths;
plant picking; vegetation damaged by camping activities, fires, etc.
4. Upon the wildlife: damage on coral reefs; fisheries overexploitation
in estuaries and lakes; disturbances in areas of animal
reproduction; nuisance to wild animals, introduction of alien
Obviously the role of the Administration is to put those techniques in
place that allow to avoid or minimize the impacts caused, basically through
previous evaluation of the environmental impact generated
Impact of ecotourism use
A frequent impact of
ecotourism use in protected areas is
the one caused by trampling. This
example will also help us look at the
Initially, with very low levels of
trampling, only particularly fragile
vegetation can be damaged.
26. Handbook of Ecotourism
However, even with low levels of trampling, most of the vegetation cover is lost
and the organic surface (such as leaves and little branches) results pulverized.
With a moderate intensity of trampling, all vegetation is lost except the most
resistant plants, and the mineral ground gets exposed as the organic layer is
eroded. With higher intensity of trampling, mineral ground gets exposed to
erosion and compacting, thus exposing trees roots as well. Studies on the
impact generated by visitors on the paths have documented that impact on the
resources is related in a non linear way to the level of use, so that at very low
levels of use a great impact occurs, and with great increase in use additional
changes are small, which could be represented with a curve similar to the one
in the graph. Some impact determining parameters, such as vegetation
regeneration in the first phases, resulting very much affected for very low levels
of use. In contrast, mineral ground exposure occurs later in the progression of
impact, and, with use, the relation adopts a more linear shape. Most impact
evaluation parameters, such as vegetation loss, present an intermediate
An important implication of the use/impact relation is that most of the
uses must be eliminated to achieve significant reductions in most kinds of
impact originated by recreational use. However, although adjusting the level of
use is crucial to regulate recreational impacts, research has shown the
importance of many other factors. Three categories of acting factors have been
described, as well as their potential for manipulation by managers: the factors
related to use, environment, and management.
Use related factors
Managers can influence certain factors related to the use that prove
relevant in recreational use impacts. As mentioned, the peculiar use/impact
relation implies that managers might be forced to reduce the use at the very low
levels in order to achieve significant reductions for many types of impacts.
Research has also proven that some types of use (for instance horses or 4
wheel drive vehicles) impact more than others (for instance hiking). Managers
can forbid certain uses or restrict them to more resistant places, or to sites
designed to carry higher levels of impact.
Many impacts are the result of ignorant or careless behavior. Managers
can educate and control visitors in order to reduce high impact behavior (such
as starting fires, cutting trees, shortcuts outside the paths) and to promote low
impact behaviors. Finally large groups have more resource damaging potential
than the same number of individuals in smaller groups. Limiting the size is
usually unavoidable to minimize impacts. The best group size is generally less
than 12 people
27. Handbook of Ecotourism
Through control exerted by means of recreational use site selection and
pathway design, managers have the possibility to minimize the impacts,
promoting recreational use in the more resistant places. For example, research
has shown considerable variability in the resistance to trampling depending on
the kind of vegetation. Grass cover in sunny areas is often more resistant to
trampling than nemori plants. The resistance of vegetation to trampling also
varies with the season of the year. Vegetation is more likely to be damaged
during the growing season and when the soils are damp. Equally, soils differ in
susceptibility to trampling, according to texture, organic matter, and humidity
Visitor and site management techniques are the final group of factors
available for the managers to minimize impacts. We have already seen how the
use/impact relation limits the effectiveness of use reduction as a management
action. We find two opposed management strategies:
Dispersion: due to the relation between use/impact and different factors of
behavior, this strategy has succeeded only in areas that receive low use. Most
visitors prefer excursions along established paths. Mountain areas and/or those
with dense vegetation can limit the visitors’ possibilities to hike outside the
paths. Usually, established paths are more comfortable and less demanding.
Finally, water and other landscape attractions will always attract a higher
number of visitors than other less interesting areas. In general, management
efforts to modify these natural trends won’t succeed.
Concentration: is the opposite strategy to dispersion, and offers a more
satisfactory way of minimizing impact. For example, consolidated paths, the use
28. Handbook of Ecotourism
concentrated within them, represents a contention method very well used in
some parks of Vietnam.
2.3.4 Measures to minimize environmental impacts
The management of biotic and abiotic resources is implied in all aspects
of any economy considered sustainable under an ecological perspective, and
tourism is not an exception. The management of these resources is not easy,
neither conceptually nor to achieve in practice, and it requires the development
of national strategies and their application.
It is often considered that a representative nature reserve system is
essential for the tourism industry and for the conservation of biodiversity, but it
is also widely accepted that it alone is not enough. As mentioned previously, the
system of reserves will never be large and continuous enough to preserve the
global biodiversity within it. The management of biodiversity must cover the
whole territory. Thus, the management of tourism impacts on biodiversity
conservation must be extended beyond the boundaries of parks and reserves.
Tourism industry has both the obligation and the need to communicate
ecologically sustainable practices, and managers of protected areas will need to
maximize the number of tourists that receive this messages. After all, tour
guides have a wide audience, and an extraordinary chance to teach more
people about the environment in Vietnam, than all universities and the majority
of schools. Their role in biodiversity conservation has been underestimated for a
The tourism industry must get involved producing its own guidelines,
seeking direct and frequent advice from the managers, learning about the
impacts, and notifying pertinent authorities about the problems that may be
identified. There will never be enough resources to properly manage the
impacts without the complicity of the users.
Achieving this also requires a change in the way authorities work. Even
though managers are (and must be) the only authority in the park, there are
cases where tour operators can detect and identify problems on site fast and
effectively, given their continuous presence upon the territory and their easy
contact with the customer. Some environmental problems that operators can
identify are negative changes in the quality of a site, wildlife behavior, state of
vegetation, practices by tourists, and many others. The management must
establish consulting systems with all actors involved in the protected area.
Effective means to face this are workshops and training courses, directed either
by the park managers or by associations of tour operators. These events
produce not only not the training itself, but also facilitate a bi-directional
29. Handbook of Ecotourism
interaction, optimal for the mutual resolution of management and operative
problems. Workshops must be short and frequent, face key problems, ways of
identifying them, and ways to solve them.
2.3.5 Carrying capacity
Initiatives to reduce negative impacts of visitors‘ presence in protected
areas began with the determinations of the visitor carrying capacity and the
imposition of limits to the admissible number of tourists. This methodology,
useful as first step, revealed itself excessively simplistic and some other better
ones came along after it. One of the most accepted is the so called Levels of
Acceptable Change (LAC), because it is flexible, it can cover a wide variety of
repercussions and it requires the participation of the stakeholders, including the
We must emphasize that any carrying capacity estimate that does
not consider the visitor‘s experience among its variables will be insufficient. At
the end of the day, in ecotourism we work with ―customers‖, and their level of
satisfaction is crucial for the future. In order for the ecotourism operation
monitoring to be totally effective, it must include environmental, experimental (o
psychological), economic, socio-cultural, and managerial (or infrastructural)
―The amount, kind and distribution of use that can occur
without leading to unacceptable impacts on either the physical-
biological resource or the available wilderness experience‖
(Stankey et al., 1990).
Definition of wilderness carrying capacity
simple concept - difficult to implement
dynamic nature of ecosystems makes it difficult to calculate
it can be increased/decreased by management actions/human use
it is NOT a fixed value
is different for different uses
varies spatially and temporally
product of value judgement as well as scientific evidence
30. Handbook of Ecotourism
impacts. We recommend developing and applying a process of ecotourism
monitoring formed by the following steps:
1) Forming a coordination commission integrated by protected area directors,
ecotourism managers and representatives of NGO and of local communities.
2) Holding a community meeting with the purpose of educating local residents in
the repercussions of ecotourism and its monitoring, and getting them involved.
3) Defining both impacts and indicators to be monitored
4) Selecting measuring methods
5) Defining the boundaries or margins of acceptable changes, with contributions
from the stakeholders
6) Designing a monitoring operations plan.
7) Training of staff, managers and community representatives in techniques for
monitoring, data analysis, and implementation of management changes.
8) Data monitoring and examination.
9) Presenting the monitoring results to all stakeholders.
10) Evaluation and spreading of the monitoring program.
At the beginning of ecotourism programs or activities, the impacts of the
projects are scarce or minimum. When data about the basic conditions, that
would allow to establish a comparison, are few, or simply do not exist, it can be
difficult to perceive the first symptoms of negative impacts. A study of the basic
data is rarely carried out at the beginning in developing countries, since time,
budgets, and technical resources are limited, and the needs are not perceived.
Often, when serious impacts get exposed, questions are raised and
management measures are considered necessary. However, as pointed out by
Buckley (1999) once the negative impacts have turned outstanding, the options
to easily eliminate them diminish. It gets difficult, from a political point of view, to
reduce the number of visitors or limit their activities or both. Another alternative,
the ―hardening‖ of environment, or making it more impact resistant, requires
higher expenses in infrastructure and the consequent maintenance of it, and in
some cases, the management will not reach to compensate for the losses. If the
impacts would have been gradually measured from the beginning and fast
measures would have been put in place to reduce them, the harm would have
been smaller, or would have not existed. The establishment of a monitoring
program at the beginning of the projects, and the collection of basic information
are useful to make an early change alert available, which allows for the fitting
establishment of management programs. In any case, ecotourism management
is only another aspect in the management of protected areas, and as such must
it be treated in zonation, a powerful tool to avoid or deal with impacts.
31. Handbook of Ecotourism
The first methods created to deal with tourism impacts were based upon
the concept of carrying capacity. There are several definitions of carrying
capacity, as per how and where the concept gets applied (see Ceballos-
Lascurain, 1996 or Boo, 1995), but generally speaking, it is a measure of the
volume and kind of use that can be sustained by an area and its surrounding
community before the impacts become unacceptable. Ceballos-Lascurain
(1996) and Cifuentes (1992), offer methods to measure them and examples of
their application. The use of strict numeric limits for visitors is considered to be a
simple and direct solution to reduce tourism impacts.
Different carrying capacities have been defined in relation with tourism:
Psychological carrying capacity: is the level where visitors will be satisfied
with the experience and will wish to come back.
Social carrying capacity: is the level where the local community is going to
agree with the project and accept visitors.
Structural carrying capacity: is the level where structures are going to be able
to meet the order to satisfy the tourists’ needs.
However, researchers and managers that are familiar with the dynamics
of impacts caused by visitors (Stankey y McCool, 1972; Lindberg and others,
1997; Borrie and others, 1998) defend that there is no clear and precise relation
between the number of visitors and the impacts, and that there are many other
factors that influence the form and the place of those impacts. Furthermore, a
variety of mitigation strategies and tactics can be applied (Marion y Farrell,
1998), which are useful to increase the number of visitors while simultaneously
reducing negative repercussions. Hence, simply quantitative restrictions applied
within the framework of carrying capacity analysis, are no longer considered
appropriated or precise, as currently more sensible and specific methods are
available. Having said that, it is important to take into account that the term
―carrying capacity‖ is still of common use and continues to be useful to refer to
the concept of setting limits for tourism in order to reduce negative impacts. In
fact, as the term is understood worldwide, it has created awareness about the
importance of monitoring these repercussions (Lindberg, McCool y Stankey,
Facing the disadvantages of the first, strictly numerical, methods of
limiting impacts caused by visitors, more qualitative methodologies have been
designed. The oldest one of these uses the concept of Limit of Acceptable
Change, (LAC), which recognizes that there will be a change as a result of
32. Handbook of Ecotourism
tourism, and that the key target of visitor monitoring is to keep the impacts at a
predetermined level. This and other similar methods fix rules or scales of
acceptable changes and describe a methodology for the definition of those
rules, the measurement of the impacts, and the definition of management
strategies for the follow up of negative impacts.
Different methodologies can be consulted in:
Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS) – Clark, R.N. y Stankey, G.H.,
1979. ―Determining the Acceptability of Recreation Impacts: An Application of
the Outdoor Recreation Opportunity Spectrum". In: Proceedings: Recreational
Impact on Wildlands. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region. Report
No. R-6-001-1979. Seattle, WA.
Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC) – Stankey, G.H. y McCool, S., 1972.
―Managing for the Sustainable Use of Protected Wildlands: The Limits of
Acceptable Change Framework‖.
Visitor Impact Management (VIM) – Graefe, Alan R., Kuss, Fred R. y Vaske,
Jerry J., 1990. Visitor Impact Management: The Planning Framework. National
Parks and Conservation Association, Washington, DC.
Visitor Experience and Resource Protection (VERP) – Hof, M. et al., 1993.
VERP: A Process for Assessing Visitor Carrying Capacity in the National Park
System. U.S. Department of Interior, National Park System, Denver, CO
Tourism Optimisation Management Model (TOMM) – Manidis Roberts
Consultants, 1997. Developing a Tourism Optimisation Management Model
(TOMM). Manidis Roberts Consultants, Surry Hills, NSW, Australia.
Quality Upgrading and Learning (QUAL). QUAL processes incise in two
aspects of the quality of the visitor’s experience: the reasons for choosing the
specific site for the desired activity (see what is important to the visitor during
his/her experience), and the changes observed in the area in those aspects
considered important for a user that repeats the visit. - Chilman, Kenneth; John
Titre; James Vogel; Greg Brown, 2000. Evolving Concepts of Recreational
Carrying Capacity Management.
A chart can be seen in the table QUALITY UPGRADING AND LEARNING
(QUAL) PROCESS TO DETERMINE RECREATIONAL CARRYING
Visitor perception can help us direct management to improve it. An
example of testing through consultation can be the one carried out among users
of New Zeeland protected areas (Higham, James E. S.; Anna M. Carr &
Stephanie Gale, 2001) that is shown in the table of Respondents’ views on
making tourism attractions in New Zealand more environmentally friendly
33. Handbook of Ecotourism
With the management of public use in protected areas we face a typical
Impacts affect the visitor’s experience
Their reduction would improve the experience
However, it is obvious that impact management, which proves essential
to improve visitor experience, also ends up restricting his/her possibilities of
using the area. This then affects the visitor‘s experience negatively. This is one
of the principles of: A solution is never good enough for everyone. We have to
accept that solutions rarely work without affecting something or creating other
General comments Frequency Percent
Smaller group numbers. Limit numbers on tours in fragile areas 129 20.9
Public education 105 17
Increase awareness of adverse visitors impacts 101 16.3
More rubbish bins and recycling opportunities 92 14.9
Better public transport, fuel/energy efficiency 54 8.7
Restrict development 36 5.8
Keep attractions as natural as possible 23 3.7
Promote activities that do not consume natural resources 22 3.6
Recycling/composting/limit packaging 20 3.2
Enforce rules to discourage littering 20 3.2
Be aware of the potential impacts of tourism 19 3.1
Keep it honest and less commercialized 17 2.8
Educate tourists, operators, local residents on sustainable tourism 16 2.6
Produce fewer brochures and pamphlets 11 1.8
Buildings/signage should blend with surrounding environments 10 1.6
Respondents’ views on making tourism attractions in New Zealand more environmentally friendly
34. Handbook of Ecotourism
QUALITY UPGRADING AND LEARNING (QUAL) PROCESS
TO DETERMINE RECREATIONAL CARRYING CAPACITY
Step I. Management Goal: Quality Recreation
a. Operational definition of ―quality recreation‖ (Wagar 1966)
1. Provide a range of recreation opportunities.
2. Zoning different activities in different places.
3. Specify management practices by zones.
4. Interpret area attractions.
5. (Survey visitors for perceptions of conditions)
b. Obtain consensus on management goal
Determine interest groups involved
Identify area changes or issues of concern
Determine appropriate planning process
Consider level of planning effort needed
Step II. Inventory Existing Conditions
a. Reconnaissance of area
Maps, preliminary examination of ecological characteristics
Special significance or importance of area
Examine patterns of use, types of users
Examine area history, records, management practices
b. Comparison of area to other recreation areas
Use Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS) land classification system or
c. Divide management area into subunits
Use Recreation Area Division and Subdivision (RADS) system
Identify Travel Pattern Concentrations (TPC) recreation settings and priorities
for management attention
d. d. Measurements on priority subunits
Site analysis of TPC patterns of use, impacts
Assess site impacts
Visitor observations, counts, interviews
Step III. Analysis of Alternatives
a. Locate study area on ROS classes framework (or equivalent)
Indicate relative abundance of areas in ROS classes for the region
Assess implications of changing study area conditions into another class, in
terms of relative abundance
Find out what area visitors perceive as the existing range of opportunities for
b. Determine if there are area aspects of uniqueness or fragility (determined by inventory,
c. Other factors to consider: visitor safety, legislative mandates, etc.
d. (Public review and discussion)
Step IV. Objective-Setting and Implementation
a. Select desired recreation opportunities/set of conditions to be achieved or maintained as
Specify indicators of desired conditions (social, ecological, managerial) to
achieve or maintain
b. Develop interpretive plan to highlight area significance, and to direct use to particular
c. Select management strategies, techniques, prepare plan
d. (Public review and discussion)
e. Implement strategies/techniques to achieve objectives
f. Communicate progress in achieving programs and objectives
Step V. Monitoring and Evaluation
a. Periodic remeasurement of key indicators of desired conditions
b. Evaluation of indicator data on changes occurring, achievement of objectives
c. Decisions to take management actions to deal with changes or to begin process of
35. Handbook of Ecotourism
These methodologies have been well received by a variety of
researchers (Boo, 1995; Harroun and Boo, 1996; Ceballos-Lascurain, 1996;
Borrie and others, 1998; Harroun, 1994; Marrion and Farrell, 1998; TES, 1998;
etc.). Especially useful are Harroun and Boo‘s studies (1996) because they
analyze these methodologies with a view to their application in developing
2.4 Government organizations and ecotourism
2.4.1 Coordination of development in the tourist industry
Coordination and development of the tourism industry, which in Vietnam
is a responsibility of VNAT, is a general policy, the physical basis of which is the
whole country. We should, however, stress the idea, dealt with along this
handbook, that it is essential that the responsibility and the control of tourism
activities in protected areas be wholly exercised by the directors of the
protected areas and never by other departments or local authorities. Current
situation seems to be far from ideal; we find massive tourism in protected areas
and with a lack of management of such tourism in order to channel it so that the
conservation of the resources is assured (we need to notice that when ―massive
tourism‖ is mentioned, it is not an excessive number of visitors that is meant,
but an inadequate use of the protected area).
It is also essential to create MARD-VNAT-MoF-MSE-Local Authorities
joint committees, leaded by MARD. These organizations should act as dialog
and problem-solving forums with a minimum number of participants, and their
objective must be to act as an advisory body so that the management can adopt
decissions after listening to the other parties.
As mentioned previously, biodiversity conservation policies –and also
ecotourism- are not limited to protected areas. In fact, these are insufficient for
the conservation of many threatened species. It is therefore necessary to
increase the resources dedicated to conservation of Nature in general, and , in
particular, to fighting illegal traffic of species (Buckley, 1999), a very serious fact
that, aside from being a brutal outrage upon the conservation of endangered
species, also seriously undermines the possibilities of ecotourism use in the
2.4.2 Promoting planning
36. Handbook of Ecotourism
The need is evident to combine the demands of the ecotourism industry‘s
market with the environmental assessments, in order to create economic
models for regional development.
Wherever significant environmental impacts are expected, as would be
the case of protected areas, development proposals should undergo
environmental impact assessment.In some cases, this may imply producing
recommendations to modify the proposal; in others, its plain rejection. In spite of
their evident weaknesses, environmental impact assessment procedures are a
basic tool to study the incidence of projects.
It is recommended that regional planning be developed with participation
of government agencies and local governments in whatever may imply
promotion and management of ecotourism. This requires the development of
information and data collection systems, and the modeling and design of
participative planning processses. Something similar should be done with the
private sector when it comes to approving the development of infrastructures in
the protected areas and their areas of influence, assessing both, the investment
and the awaited environmental impacts.
Public authorities have the responsibility to maintain data bases and
information systems that relate physical environment to biodiversity. Geographic
Information Systems (GIS) are particularly useful in supporting planning, since
they incorporate the data upon a spatial base.
2.4.4 Marketing aids
A fundamental role of governments is to collaborate through general and
specific tourism advertising campaigns. Coordination with the industry is
important for this. Marketing must continue to promote Vietnam‘s rich diversity.
This requires informative advertising and educational programs. Such strategies
could also be carried out jointly by the government and the tourism industry.
2.4.5 Supporting education, research and training
Research must be integrated in natural resources and protected area
management. As mentioned, education and training should be basic
components in a national strategy, strongly focused upon the interrelation
between tourism training and ecological management.
37. Handbook of Ecotourism
2.4.6 Creating economic incentives for conservation
Several fundraising systems are available to promote biodiversity
conservation starting from the tourism industry. The methods to increase
tourism incomes vary from direct payment to indirect rates and taxes upon
goods and services related with tourism.
Entry fees for protected areas
The main goal of national park and reserve management is the
conservation of biodiversity, even though some expenses derived from public
use also exist, such as the construction and maintenance of infrastructure:
paths, sanitation, lodging, etc, which are added to the needs in monitoring,
research, and wildlife management.
Most economists working in the realm of nature conservation-tourism
speak up for a ―pay per user‖ system to cover the management and protection
costs of natural areas. Such funds may be obtained through fees for park use or
annual permits. In some cases, they are not feasible, especially in large natural
areas with few visits, since the management itself of the charging system may
cost more that the income obtained.
The ―pay per user‖ principle should be extended to commercial
operators, through license fees and a realistic leasing and concessionaire
charging system, following a market analysis. For instance, the exclusive rights
for certain operations within park boundaries can be offered to the private sector
through an auction.
Furnishing goods and services
The goods and services offered in the parks should operate on the basis
of assigning net income to conservation measures. The marketing of products
and services specifically associated with ecotourism could help fundraising,
through educational programs, consulting services, books, videotapes,
paintings and photographs.
Funds for environmental protection may be obtained from taxes upon
materials used in outdoor recreational activities and tourism, such as equipment
38. Handbook of Ecotourism
for camping, fishing, diving and similar articles. The use of a tax per bed can
also be considered. Tourists usually understand it as a component of their
tourist package. Airport taxes are another potential source of income.
An important principle that must be observed is that of maintaining the
goal of the funds obtained from tourism. They should be specifically assigned,
with the purpose of establishing and maintaining natural environments. People
are frequently willing to support conservation causes if some guarantee is given
that their money will really be spent on these programs.
Donations from the public may be sought through fundraising for specific
causes. A classic example is the use of some kind of sponsoring or symbolic
adoption of animals, be it for conservation programs or for rehabilitation in
centers. Certificates, badges, and other identification reinforcing systems may
be used. This requires that tourists be able to make direct contributions to
specific sites. The industry can generally be an important source of donations.
Corporations frequently make significant contributions to reinforce their
corporate image and publicize their engagement with Nature conservation
Bond deposits may be introduced for the private operators who offer
routes in natural areas, or build and manage infrastructure. They are useful in
evaluating the environmental damage caused, so that the necessary
rehabilitation will always be covered. The usual contract is a capital or financial
guarantee that will remain in the protected area manager‘s hands as a condition
for each valid license.
Investing in conservation in private lands
Introducing economic incentives for the conservation of biodiversity in
private lands is more complicated, especially if a link between nature
conservation management and ecotourism is sought.
The private sector can see a direct commercial value in the development
of ecotourism activities in private lands, and thus facilitate adequate
investments in Nature protection.
39. Handbook of Ecotourism
2.5 Ecotourism and local communities
Getting the community involved is an extremely complex issue, and a
very important one for the ecotourism initiative to be successful. Even though
the options and solutions are going to vary among the different areas and
communities, an important principle is to work with the existing social and
communitarian structures, even if these can change alongside the challenges
posed. It is also very useful to identify the leaders and people with management
The main goal should be to make sufficient benefits, equitably distributed
within the community. Gender problems can also be significant, and ecotourism
may provide employment opportunities for women. However, it should not be
overlooked that IWO estimates in 1983 indicated that one third of the world‘s
labor force in the tourism sector was made up of women. According to more
recent estimates, the rate of women working in the tourism
sector (without considering the informal sector) has grown to
46 per cent, while in the restaurant and lodging sector they
represent approximately 90 per cent of the total number of
workers (IWO, 2001). They occupy the lowest levels of the
professional structure in the tourism job market, with little
career perspective promotion opportunities, and low remuneration
levels (some estimates point out that women‘s salaries are as much as 20 per
cent lower than men‘s). In many developing countries, the larger incidence of
unemployment among women is attributed to their scarce qualifications and low
social condition. Furthermore, they are usually the first to be affected by
personnel reductions due to recession or adjustment to new technology. It can
also be mentioned that the majority of the workers in a subcontract status, or
with temporary, casual or part-time jobs are women. Thus, the attention to this
more sensitive group should be a priority.
It is important to remember that ecotourism is a business. Without
prejudice to the support of community initiatives, sometimes it may turn out
more feasible for ecotourism to be developed by private companies and
investments, within a structure where the community has access to the benefit,
and retains the power to decide upon the level and kind of tourism in its area.
There are several ways of relating the private companies with the
community, such as, for instance, through the concession system, or through
agreements that make training and capacity building possible for community
40. Handbook of Ecotourism
2.6 Ecotourism and NGOs
Non government organizations play an important role in ecotourism. Their
presence may be motivated by some of the following reasons:
1. Working in biodiversity or environmental conservation.
2. Working in sustainable development at the local scale.
The roles that they can play are very diverse, and are listed below,
without meaning to be exhaustive:
1. NGO can act as a link between other actors in the context of ecotourism,
for example: between the communities and the tourism industry, between
the directors of the protected areas and the communities. This role is
particularly valuable, given that NGO are perceived as neutral actors
between competing interests.
2. NGO can achieve better results for conservation when they associate
with community-based ecotourism companies or with private tourism
3. NGO can play as main actors in training, as well as in spreading
information and technical experience.
4. NGO, in agreement with Public Administration, can develop ecotourism
certification programs, precisely by using their status of independence
5. NGO can work together with protected area administrations to develop
some aspects of ecotourism programs, such as interpretation or
environmental education programs. The NGO generally obtains external
funding, and carries out activities according to a jointly agreed action
6. Under exceptional circumstances, NGO can provide ecotourism services.
It is not a desirable situation, as it would be competing against free
enterprise with advantage.
In general, the role of NGO is to promote the development of ecotourism
through its integration with local communities, the private sector of the tourism
industry, the protected areas and other actors.
2.7 Ecotourism and tourism industry
Entrepreneurs (companies) are essential in order to achieve the goals of
conservation through ecotourism. They must establish contact and collaboration
mechanisms with NGO, with the directors of the protected areas, and with the
41. Handbook of Ecotourism
local communities, if ecotourism is to become an economic reality, and not a
more or less abstract concept.
In a situation of full ecotourism development, tourism industry will
become one of the most important defenders of protected areas, and this
process should be fostered by establishing adequate mechanisms for the
communication and cooperation between protected area directors and tourism
The companies implied are:
1. Travel agencies. They are the wholesalers, and deal with
massive tourism. Generally, they sell the programs of tour
operators who specialize in a region or activity.
2. Tour operators. They can be divided into origin and destination
operators, depending on whether they are located at the
customer‘s starting or receiving site. The massive use of the
internet is displacing origin operators. The destination operator is
the one to hire services, and the one that truly ―manages‖ tourism.
3. Local services providers. These are the companies that provide
services to the customer, Such as lodging, restaurant, souvenir
sale, and, for example, guided visits to protected areas. This is the
group ecotourism companies fit into.
The entrepreneur is a basic figure for the development of ecotourism. His
opinion, worries, and suggestions should be considered as basic pieces of the
activity to be carried out, informing about potential markets, advising about
customer preferences, offering services and training, and occasionally financing
A very special situation of tourism industry participation is the
management of lodges or hostels in the protected areas, which is usually
established through a concession system. It is one of the most extended ways
of tourism industry participation, and may contain several forms of
compensation, such as reversion clauses upon the buildings or improvements
made, the payment of a fee, the obligation to hire staff from the local
communities, organizing training courses, etc.
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3. ECOTOURISM PLANNING
3.1 Ecotourism planning
Ecotourism cannot be developed everywhere. As any other business, it is
ruled by the law of offer and demand. It has to be an attractive offer, and meet
certain requirements, in order to work. Not every place is valid. It should be
taken into account that most of the ecotourism businesses that fail do so
because of miscalculation in the inflow of visitors. The tourism entrepreneur or
promoter may use the following as a preliminary poll:
1. Is there some natural or cultural attraction potential in the area? Some
examples can be:
Endemic or rare species, such as the silver pheasant or the
Charismatic species, for example, the tiger, the whale shark, or
Attractive and well preserved habitats, for example: coral reefs,
primary tropical forests.
High diversity rates of birds or mammals, for example, more than
300 species of birds, or more than 100 species of mammals.
Spectacular geomorphologic formations, for example: high or
spectacular waterfalls, caves.
Historic or contemporary, nationally or internationally recognized,
cultural manifestations, such as temples.
2. Can visitor accesses be established easily?
3. Can it be protected from visitor impact, maintaining an acceptable
4. Is the area free of security problems that cannot be effectively controlled
by the area administration or the local authorities?
5. Does the protected area have an administration capable of effectively
managing the launching and monitoring of an ecotourism program?
43. Handbook of Ecotourism
6. Are there reasonable expectations of having the necessary funding
available for the development of ecotourism?
7. Are protected area directors, tourism operators, and communities willing
to adjust to the requirements of ecotourism, for example low impact,
small groups, impact monitoring, working and engaging with the
8. Will visits improve the situation of biodiversity, or reduce the threats to
the object of conservation?
If the answer to the questions is positive, we may continue to work in the
design of ecotourism in that place, and go on to the next stage, site selection.
Obviously, some of the questions posed may have negative answers that may
be solved in the future. Only then will we reconsider the project.
3.2 Previous site requirements
Before launching an ecotourism project, we must study the local
conditions of the area, and the fulfillment of a series of basic requirements.
It is important to avoid time and money losses, as well as not to raise
expectations, if the concurrent circumstances make failure foreseeable. A
previous feasibility assessment should be made before embarking the
community upon an ecotourism strategy.
Some premises are related to the situation at a national level, and others
are local conditions of the area targeted by ecotourism. The main aspects to be
studied are the following:
a) Adequate conditions for the launching of a tourism business:
An economic and political framework that ensures commercial
possibilities and the necessary safety for the investment.
A national legislation that allows the benefits of tourism to revert to local
A sufficient level of property rights within the local community.
High levels of security for visitors. We need to stress that the image
projected of the country or region is often as important as reality.
Relatively low health risk, and access to basic medical services and
44. Handbook of Ecotourism
Means of access and telecommunications‘ network.
b) Requirements for ecotourism:
Landscapes, flora or wildlife attractive or interesting enough to attract
specialists or visitors in general.
Ecosystems capable of absorbing at least a certain level of managed
visiting without suffering damage.
A local community aware of the potential opportunities, the risks and
changes that may come with it, and interested in receiving visitors.
The existence or the possibility of setting up potential structures for
effective decision making (governance) within the community.
The inexistence of obvious threats to the indigenous culture and its
A previous market study that reveals a potential demand, as well as
effective means to meet this demand.
3.3 Resource inventory and diagnosis
Once the preliminary poll mentioned in heading 3.1 is surmounted, it is
time to start a detailed inventory of the existing resources and situation, as well
as to compile the information of interest, in order to carry out an adequate
diagnosis. The indispensable information to be collected is exceptionally well
described and specified in Ecotourism Development–A Manual Series for
Conservation Planners and Managers (Drumm & Moore, 2002), which is
transcribed in what follows, with some minor changes. These authors classify it
in several sections, named Natural Resources; Cultural Resources; Protected
Area Management Situation; Visitation Patterns; Activities and Infrastructure;
Tourism Policy and Planning; Communities; Strategic Alliances; Marketing and
Promotion; Opportunities and Difficulties. A series of questions is posed about
each one of these sections, the answer to which will be of use to establish the
diagnosis. As means for collection, the authors recommend:
Revision of existing materials
Interviews, questionnaires, and polls
Consulting meetings and workshops
1. Natural resources
45. Handbook of Ecotourism
This section must revise the natural resources (species, communities,
ecosystems, biophysical features such as mountains, rivers, lakes, etc.) that are
real or potential attractions for visitors, or that may be affected by the use made
Which are the main natural resources of the area? Are there any
plant or animal species attractive for visitors? Are there any
―attractive‖ or ―charismatic‖ species in the area? Have species‘
inventories been carried out? If so, describe their contents.
Which are the endangered or threatened plant/animal species or
communities? Where are they located?
What are the main landscape attractions of the protected area?
Where are the best preserved sectors of the protected area?
2. Cultural resources
This section must define the historic, archaeological or cultural sites that
can act as attractors, or that may somehow affect the way in which
ecotourism is conducted.
Are there any historic sites within the protected area, or in the
surrounding areas capable of being used as tourism attractions? Do
these same sites show any significant difficulties for their protection?
Is it necessary to involve other institutions to excavate, restore,
protect or interpret these sites?
Do any indigenous or traditional local cultures exist, that should be
considered and respected in the development of ecotourism? To what
point will the hopes and culture of local populations allow their
engagement in ecotourism
3. Protected area management
Is the area protected? If so, what is its history? When was it declared
a protected area? Which has its protection status been? Why is
protecting it considered important? Is there an effective protection? If
not, what are the lacks?
46. Handbook of Ecotourism
Who manages the area? Is the management system effective?
How much staff does the protected area employ? Describe their
functions. Do they work full time or part time? Do they live within the
area or outside of it? Are there any volunteers working in the project?
Is the current number of employees adequate to cover the present
and future management responsibilities?
Which are the main threats to the protected area?
Has any planning been carried out? Are there any pressures due to
economic development? Which resources are affected by these
How urgent and severe are these threats? What strategies are used
to face identified threats? Are these strategies effective? If not,
Describe current impacts of tourism. For example, can soil loss or
compacting be noticed in the paths, due to tourist passing? Is there
more garbage? Has any attempt to quantify these impacts been
made? Are there any formal impact assessments? If so, describe
them. What are the projections of potential impacts?
Is there any monitoring system in the protected area? If so, describe
it. Is it effective? If not, explain why.
4. Visitation patterns, activities and infrastructure
Given that visitors‘ interest and demand will impulse any future
ecotourism program, it is essential to completely understand the nature
of the current and potential use made by visitors. Much information about
it is not likely to be available; in this case, the effort should be made to
develop a visitor profile poll, be it with current visitors or with visitors to
nearby tourism attractions.
Which are the most important attractions in your protected area? Why
do people visit them? Other than natural resources, are there cultural
resources or other attractions that interest them?
How accessible is your site? Which are the main kinds of
transportation: bus, boat, car, airplane, or other? What is the state of
47. Handbook of Ecotourism
the roads to your site? Is the lack of accessibility an obstacle for the
growth of tourism?
What do the visitors do in the protected area? How long do they stay?
Do they come to relax, or to perform a specific activity? What kind of
food and drinks are available in the area? Do they buy souvenirs? If
so, what do they buy? Describe a tourist‘s day.
Are there any visitation statistics of the protected area? If so, describe
the data collection system. How many people visit the area each
month? Each year? What is the percentage of foreigners and
nationals? Regarding foreigners, what is their nationality? What
languages do they speak and read? What are the growth trends?
What are the estimates about future visitor trends?
Do the majority of visitors come in groups or individually? If the
visitors come in groups, of what size? Do they make reservations in
advance? Once they are in the protected area, do they travel
independently, or with guides? If they use guides, are they protected
area employees, or external guides?
Has any poll been carried out among visitors? If so, when were they,
and with what method? What was learned about the visitors? Why do
they come to this protected area? What do they want to do? What do
they like and what don‘t they, about the area and its installations? Do
they think that the services offered are adequate? Did they give any
suggestions for improvements?
What are the economic effects of visitors in the protected area? Do
they pay an entrance fee or use fee? Do they buy goods and services
in the protected area? Are there any private sector businesses in the
protected area? Does the area have any kind of concession system?
If so, describe them. Do the visitors go to the local communities
besides visiting the protected area? If so, which are the communities,
and what kinds of activities and infrastructure are offered? How do
the communities value these visits?
What kind of tourism infrastructure does the protected area have? Is
there a system of paths (trails). Are there any tourism installations?
Describe each one of them. How are they maintained? Are they in
good condition, or do they need repairing? Are the installations
adequate for the demand.
Describe the protected area‘s interpretation programs. Is there any
interpretation on the paths? Do the tourists go on self guided
48. Handbook of Ecotourism
excursions? Are there any information or visitor centers? What
materials are available? Are there any guides? Do visitors take
advantage of these programs? Is interpretation a priority for the
protected area‘s management agency? Is it for the visitors? How
would you value the effectiveness of the interpretation carried out?
Besides Nature, are there any other attractions for visitors in the area:
cultural ones, pieces of heritage, etc.? Describe these attractions.
5. Tourism plans and policies
Does the protected area have a management plan? If so, does it
include a section on tourism activities?
If so, describe its contents. What are the existing tourism plans for the
area? Is there a zonation system? Is the management plan effective?
If the answer is negative, explain why.
Is there a national tourism plan that includes nature tourism or
ecotourism? If so, describe that section. Are there other national
plans that include nature tourism or ecotourism?
Is there any other kind of declaration, decree, law or policy that
affects tourism in the area? These can be at a national, regional, or
local level. If so, describe them, and describe their relation with
Are the decisions that may affect the protected area or the tourism
made in a participative way? Are there any other options for
participation in the planning and decision making about policies at the
local, regional and national levels?
Are you satisfied with the existing, ecotourism-related plans and
policies? Is there a system of entry fees? Is it effective? What
happens with the money collected through entry fees and other
permits? Are there any policies regarding private sector activities in
the protected area? If so, describe them. If not, should there be any?
How would you change current plans and policies?
Is there any legislation regarding the protected area pending of
approval? If so, describe it. Are there any possibilities of you
participating in that process? Will it be a good opportunity to help
shape the direction of ecotourism in the area?
49. Handbook of Ecotourism
The local population can have an enormous influence upon any
protected area management activity; this is especially true in the case of
ecotourism. There must be a relation of help between the protected area and
the adjacent communities, since each one benefits from the other. Local
communities should get involved in any ecotourism activity in the protected
area, and viceversa. But making this relationship work in an optimum way is
difficult and complex. It is almost as important to have detailed information
about the communities surrounding the protected area as to understand the
natural and cultural resources located within it.
Are there any communities within the protected area or in the
surroundings? At what distance are they from the area? What is the
size of each community? Describe the economic activities of each
community. How are their members organized? How does leadership
work? Does the group have other significant characteristics?
What is the history of the relations between the communities and the
protected area? Has there been much interaction? Has there been
tension between residents and protected area staff? Is there a history
of competition between them both for the natural resources? If so,
Do local residents visit the protected area? If so, what attracts them?
What do they do? Have they encountered difficulties to enter the site
due to the increase in visitation?
Are local residents involved in the nature tourism activities? If so,
describe the engagement in general. Is this engagement recent, or
does it have a long history? How did they get involved? Was it a
planned activity or did it happen spontaneously?
Describe the kinds of tourism businesses in the nearby communities:
hostels, restaurants, guide services, craft shops, taxi companies and
others. Do they offer employment opportunities for local residents?
How many residents own or manage a business? Are the tourism
businesses in the area profitable? Are the products they use local or
imported? How are these businesses promoted among the public?
Aside from economic impacts, what other impacts do residents face
with nature tourism? Have there been any social changes? If so,
50. Handbook of Ecotourism
describe them. Has there been any negative environmental change,
such as an increase in water pollution? Has there been any positive
change, such as better conservation efforts through cleaning
campaigns? In what other ways has tourism affected the area?
What are the residents‘ plans for nature tourism? Are there any
efforts to organize, discuss or deal with tourism issues? Is there any
tourism association or cooperative dedicated to them? Is there any
formal planning process within the communities? Do you know
whether residents wish to dedicate themselves to tourism, or instead
discourage it, in their communities?
Which are your current means of communicating with residents in
order to deal with these issues? Is there an established forum? If not,
can you create a communication system?
7. Strategic alliances
Do you maintain any active strategic alliance with local residents? For
example, the manager of the protected area can recommend the
visitors a certain hostel because he knows that the owner will furnish
the guests some kind of interpretation. Strategic alliances can be
formal or informal. If you have strategic alliances, describe them. Who
started the relations? Are they successful?
Do you maintain an active strategic alliance with government
officials? Do you maintain any strategic alliance with tourism agents?
For example: Do you exchange information? Who started the
relations? Are they successful?
Do you maintain an active strategic alliance with scholars/ scientists?
Can they, for example, carry out research in return for a charge free
place to station at? Do scholars/scientists approach you, or do you
approach them? Describe the relation. Who started it?
Do you maintain an active strategic alliance with actors of the tourism
industry? What is your relationship with local and international tourism
operators? Do you maintain strategic alliances with those who
develop tourism? Do you maintain strategic alliances with those who
deal with transportation services? Describe your relations with the
parties involved in the tourism industry.
Do you maintain active strategic alliances with NGOs? These can
either be local or international, and specialized in conservation,
51. Handbook of Ecotourism
community development, tourism, or other nature tourism related
issues. Do you maintain formal contacts, or informal agreements?
Why and how were these strategic alliances formed?
Of all strategic alliances, has anyone been especially successful? Why? Has
any one of them not worked at all? Why?
8. Marketing and promotion
What are your current marketing activities? Have you studied why
visitors come to the area? Why they go to nearby places? Do you
target special groups? What groups take part in the marketing
Is the protected area known or unknown? Is it known within the
country? And abroad?
How is the area promoted? Is it promoted as part of a national or
regional tourism campaign? Do international NGOs promote your
area? Does the tourism industry? Which are the formal means of
promotion? Have you quantified the incidence of informal promotion
means? Are there other ways of promoting the protected area?
9. Opportunities and obstacles
What new opportunities will affect tourism demand? Consider the
issue of transportation. For example, is there any new airline service
in the country that may yield more visitors? Were any of the roads to
the site recently paved? What other transportation related issues
Have there been changes in the situation of natural resources? Are
the threats greater? Has the government recently improved the
protection status of the area? Have you received new funds for the
management of the protected area?
What has happened with advertising? Has an article about the
protected area been recently published in any popular magazine? Did
a tourism operator start any new excursion on the site?
Is there any new attraction that can bring additional visitors to the
country? How will this affect the protected area? Are there other
52. Handbook of Ecotourism
tourists visiting the region that may be attracted to the protected
What has happened, or is likely to happen, that can affect the
incidence of tourism?
Is there any obstacle for the growth of tourism that must me
considered? For example, has there recently been a political conflict
in the area, or is the potential there for it to happen? Is the area
considered stable? Is there, or can there be political violence?
Has your area undergone any natural disaster, such as a hurricane?
Were there any damages?
Is the national currency considered stable in the international market?
Has it suffered changes that may discourage the visit of tourists?
A tool that turns out to be essential is the GIS, since, ecotourism being a
basically spatial issue, it can be transferred to the computing realm, and
simulations or projections can be carried out, or it can even be used as a tool
for making multiple criteria decisions.(Obadiah, 2000).
Depending on the results of the survey, the ecotourism project will or will
not be launchable, according to realistic business perspectives; the available
resources and their real appeal, options and conditionings will be known, as will
the options of influencing the decision making that may affect the project, and
the risks assumed.
It is absolutely essential to carry this survey out in a proper way.
Ecotourism is a business, and should be based upon offering a real product to a
public demanding it, and under attractive and competitive market conditions.
3.4 Plan monitoring
In order to monitor an ecotourism project, monitoring should be conducted upon
how its launching has influenced:
1. Improving the natural resources’ state of conservation
2. Obtaining a high level of satisfaction in customers
3. Generating income for conservation
4. Benefiting local communities
53. Handbook of Ecotourism
Monitoring carrying capacity is a usual way of studying the state of the
natural and social resources involved in public use activities. However, it is not
only the management of the experience offered that will count in the degree of
the user‘s satisfaction, but also -and above all- the guide‘s treatment, the
comfort of the installations, and other service related matters. Thus, monitoring
should also fall upon these issues.
Mark (1995) recommended using indicator measurements such as
satisfaction-enjoyment, education learning, attitude-belief change and behavior-
lifestyle change of visitors to minimize negative impacts from ecotourism. Oliver
(2001) has suggested other parameters in ecotourism monitoring. These
Amount of budget per capita allocated by government for conservation and
environmental management purposes
Percentage of the protected areas’ surface in the country
Ratio of number of tourists to the number of local residents
Evolution of the number of tourism enterprise
Number of tourism enterprises that posses an eco-label
Number of tourists per surface of protected areas
Number of rare species in ecosystems that are ecotourism destinations.
54. Handbook of Ecotourism
4. ECOTOURISM MANAGEMENT
4.1 Ecotourism activities
Ecotourism activities in protected areas are based upon three pillars:
Visitor Centers, Interpretive Paths, and Ecotourism Guides. Also to be
mentioned is the previous education of visitors, which must be dealt with
thoroughly, and the interpretive brochures, the making and design of which is
an art of its own. ―Remote‖ tourism enjoyment should also be mentioned, such
as that of students, handicapped persons, etc., based upon multimedia
applications, virtual reality, etc., through the internet or in autonomous
4.1.1 Previous visitor instruction
Previous education proves essential in order to produce the minimum
impact possible upon the natural and cultural environments, and to guarantee
the users the enjoyment of the planned activities. The relevant information
should be furnished by the tourism operator, since it has to be marked out for
To offer educational materials about the sites and human groups contemplated in
the ecotourism activity, aside from emphasizing the importance of contributing
to the conservation of the places to be visited.
To inform about the range of natural and cultural phenomena to be observed.
To inform, ahead of time, about the possible negative effects that their visit may
cause to fragile sites, in order to minimize negative impacts during the trip.
Information to be communicated
Data about the communities and ecosystems to be visited, through informative
brochures. The importance should be stressed of reading all the preliminary
information about the sites before leaving, including selected bibliography and
reviewing supplementary materials for each destination to be visited. These
materials should be very well produced.
Objective and well based information should be used, through examples of the
phenomena likely to be observed by visitors.
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The general ethical attitudes of the trip should be remarked, as far as they
influence tourist behavior within the natural areas and with the local cultures.
Information should be furnished about the most adequate equipment, clothing
and personal items for the places to be visited, including the use of repellents.
Warning should be given about the inconvenience of carrying disposable
materials that can contribute to aggravate the problem of waste overload in the
region. If visitors insist in carrying disposable articles, it is there responsibility
to take them back out of the area.
Warning should be given about the purchasing of products with forbidden or
If it is the case, information should be furnished about accidental carriage of
foreign or exotic species into the ecosystems visited.
Benefits for the visitors
They will have the chance to learn about the range of existing opportunities to
observe wildlife, as well as to learn about the local communities.
They will become aware of the personal responsibility in reducing the impacts
upon the environment and the local cultures before they visit them.
They will bring the clothing and utensils adequate or in tune with the ecosystems
and cultures they visit.
They will be ready to live the experience.
4.1.2 Visitor Centers
These are buildings with different interpretive techniques, dedicated to
motivating protected the visitors of a protected area. Their philosophy is usually
to ―retain‖ the visitors in the periphery of the protected area, and make him feel
that he is in it, as well as to communicate some very basic ideas.
They normally act as the visitors‘ first contact with the protected area, so
the first thing to achieve is that the Center becomes a compulsory gateway, with
its entrance visible and well marked.
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Let us consider some previous questions about interpretation.
Interpretation is the communication way that connects visitors with resources.
Good interpretation is a bridge between people and new and fascinating worlds.
It yields new knowledge, new visions, new enthusiasms and new interests.
Seeking to interpret a protected area within four walls is, from our point of view,
a mistake. Let us no longer speak of Interpretation Centers, let‘s speak of
Visitor Centers, in consistence with the principle defined by Freeman Tilden:
―The final goal of interpretation is not instruction but motivation.‖ Intending to
overload the visitor can be counterproductive, since it can make him/her walk
away from the Center without receiving any message at all. According to the
mentioned author, the accumulation of information is not interpretation, even
though interpretation obviously implies information.
It is adequate to point out that motivating a visitor does not require large
buildings nor costly audiovisual material. From our point of view, a Visitor
Center can not ―compete‖ with the protected area in attention or playing the
main part. It is enough for it to have an adequate design and a clear idea to
transmit, and to use the most impacting techniques to reach the user.
Interpretation intends to provoke changes in attitude, and induce changes in
behavior. It seeks to excite the receiver. That is why it needs to generate
positive, pleasant and unforgettable experiences, staying away from instruction
It is never a question of ―obliging‖ the visitor to interpret everything. It‘s
about reaching the tourist through the sensitive and affective world. Let us
remember the rule of learning: in average, we retain 10% of what we hear, 30%
of what we read, 50% of what we see, and up to 90% of what we do. It is
important for visitors to do things
I. Any interpretation that does not somehow relate what is being displayed or described to
something within the personality or experience of the visitor will be sterile.
II. Information, as such, is not Interpretation. Interpretation is revelation based on information. But
they are entirely different things. However, all interpretation includes information.
III. Interpretation is an art, which combines many arts, whether the materials presented are
scientific, historical or architectural. Any art is in some degree teachable.
IV. The chief aim of Interpretation is not instruction, but provocation.
V. Interpretation should aim to present a whole rather than a part, and must address itself to the
whole man rather than any phase.
VI. Interpretation addressed to children (say, up to the age of twelve) should not be a dilution of the
presentation to adults, but should follow a fundamentally different approach. To be at its best it
will require a separate program.
TILDEN'S SIX PRINCIPLES OF INTERPRETATION
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A usual problem in the designing of Centers is an excess in contents. The
contents to be offered must be selected, choosing the most important ones. These can be
easily obtained by considering the following items:
1. Special or rare natural or cultural resources
2. Specially attractive places, from a scenic or landscape point of view.
3. Main visitor attraction
4. Activities preferred by visitors
5. Other attractive feasible activities, that are compatible with conservation.
6. Use of natural resources: compatibility and problems
7. Experiences in style
8. Previous knowledge of the area by visitors
9. Residents‘ knowledge and attitudes towards the area
10.References to visitors‘ attitudes regarding the conservation of the area
11.Management of the protected area
4.1.3 Interpretive paths
Paths are a way of knowing natural areas. They are very important in
order to facilitate movement within the area while protecting natural resources
and providing the ecotourist with an educational and exciting experience. They
are tracks open to pedestrian use by visitors. They are used both, in the
company of a guide-interpreter and self guided. Their installations should be
minimal (including signposting). They must allow users to have a perception of
well preserved Nature. They are incompatible with the existence of degraded
areas, or of areas under too visible management actions.
Very close up enjoyment of the area (being able to walk on, smell, see,
feel the protected area)
The visit can be an intense personal experience, with a sense of solitude,
and requiring a certain physical effort.
Risk of erosion
Difficulty to control
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Depending on topography, the user might walk off the paths and affect
other sectors of the natural area.
The goal of interpretive paths is that the tourist gets to know the site with
the help of a guide, or, if they are self guided, that s/he receives an explanation
of the way through pamphlets and signs. They must seek maximum satisfaction
of the customer. Even though a whole handbook could be written just on paths,
we will recall a few generalities:
Planning an interpretive path:
To design an interpretive path:
a) What do we want to tell the visitor?
We must collect information about the area, endangered species, easy-
to-watch specimens, and security in the area.
We should not intend to communicate ―the whole‖ protected area. It‘s a
matter of developing partial aspects.
We need to determine the kind of path to be designed, once we know
what resources and kind of terrain are available, and who it is aimed to.
The key points of the path will be selected. Between 12 and 30 points
must be located for interpretation. It is also necessary to put up a map,
on the site or in the brochure that explains the whole route, the name, the
points considered, and the duration of the course.
The path will be completely defined: give it a name and indicate the most
significant features that will be seen, and the general topic.
b) How are we going to build the path?
The construction method will depend on the type of terrain and the path‘s
intensity of use. For paths used by less than 10.000 visitors per year, and
in areas with a smooth slope, concrete may not be necessary.
Auxiliary works (boardwalks, bridges, stairways, etc.) must meet the
security requirements, and at the same time be as adapted to the
environment as possible.
Instead of placing explanation placards along the path, it is
recommended to just place numbers, which will correspond to those in
an indicative pamphlet.
Curves, and not only straight lines, must be included in the course, to
make it more fun.
We must avoid elements (wastebaskets, benches, tables, etc.) that stand
out too much because of their materials, shapes, or colors.
c) What are the limitations or conditionings?
The path must be previously studied through GIS, thus optimizing the
elements to be covered, and designing layouts with minimum slopes.
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Afterwards, it is proper to retrace the path with Global Positioning System
(GPS) al along the course, in order to control the length, as well as the
time it will take visitors to complete it. We should bear in mind not to
produce a very monotonous and long path that could bore visitors. It is
very important that paths are closed to vehicle transit.
There should be parking spaces close to the beginning of the course.
We must consider that, in average, people are not willing to walk more
than an hour.
Departing intervals should be defined for groups, to avoid them meeting
along the way.
The path should be built keeping the destruction of vegetation to the
We should try to make it circular, so that the ecotourists arrive at the
starting point without going through the same place twice.
4.1.4 Wildlife observation activities
Wildlife observation is one of the main activities to be carried out by nature
tourists. Some issues that should be considered have been underlined by several authors
Visitors want to see the animals from close by, and they frequently like to touch
them and/or feed them.
From this starting point, one must decide how to approach the problem. The
priorities must be to minimize the impacts upon the animals, as well as
maintaining people’s safety.
Managers much use the natural environment as much as it is convenient for the
visitors’ enjoyment. Revegetated areas should be created in the vicinity of the
Visitor Centers, seeking maximum naturalness, and with trees that make shady
paths must be
closed to vehicle
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areas possible. During the visits, users should be allowed to eat or rest in the
In all situations were people can be close to fauna, managers must study how to
In the case of animals being kept in captivity, if they cannot be kept in large
enclosures, and with excellent care, they must never be exhibited. Visitors
strongly dislike seeing animals in inadequate captivity conditions.
Education and interpretation play a vital role. Managers must look for whatever
might impact their visitors through education. If the visitor cannot get to see the
animals from close up, how can the experience be substituted for? Managers
must also consider those features of the animals that are most attractive for
people, as well as the topics of interest as a basis for interpretation, or as a
suggestion to improve interpretation.
Guides are the best method of interpretation. Specialized, knowledgeable and
interested guides are generally the best way to convey information to the
4.1.5 Ecotourism guides
The ecotourism guide in a protected area is an essential element of
nature interpretation. It is necessary to make a short statement about
interpretation: Interpretation inspires, instead of teaching. While its goal is to
transmit information, its message must reach visitors‘ hearts, as well as their
minds. What interpreters do is to communicate, but through their warmth they
should convey affection for the protected area, and conviction of the need to
preserve it. They should develop knowledge, appreciation and understanding in
the visitor, without the burden of excessive information. In other words, the
interpreter must give the minimum information with the maximum impact.
Technically, interpretation is defined as ―the human activity that
translates the means of expression of Nature into the everyday language of the
area’s visitors through specialized communication techniques‖ (Moore, 1985).
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The profile of a guide should bring together the following conditions:
Great knowledge of the place, in particular of the area‘s natural
Knowledge of the addressee group, and of its cultural characteristics.
Ability to communicate his/her knowledge to the visitors.
Ability to speak in the visitors‘ language.
In certain occasions, the psychological knowledge to meet the needs and
requirements of each member of the group.
The guide’s goals are:
To prepare the tourist for meeting the local cultures, and the site‘s flora,
fauna and ecology, facilitating the approach and optimizing the
enjoyment. Therefore, the following techniques/tools will be used:
- Offering good quality orientation. The number of guides should be in
tune with the fragility of the environment visited.
- Offering good quality interpretation all the time, including the
characteristics of local cultures and the description of the site‘s
natural history. To stimulate the interaction with the local population,
closely watching this contact in order to prevent cultural blunders.
- Offering succinct explanations before each stop, that include:
behavior rules, restricted practices and off-limits areas; alerts about
fragile and threatened species; distances to be kept with local flora
and fauna; as well as the site‘s own regulations.
- Make the most of the travel and waiting times to talk objectively with
tourists about the issues of local interest.
One example of fact versus interpretation:
FACT: Yellowstone has around 10,000 thermal features. Its roughly 300 geysers make up 2/3 of
all the geysers in the world. It also includes one of the world's largest volcanic calderas which
measures 28 by 47 miles.
INTERPRETATION: "Yellowstone is, for its area, the most interesting place in the world. It is
situated at the very heart of the continent, where the hidden pulses can be seen and felt to beat.
The geological pages constitute a book, which being interpreted will reveal some of the
mysterious operations of nature."
"Say Something that Matters: The Philosophy of Interpretation" (Carol A. Shively)
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To reduce the impact of visits upon the natural environment. Therefore,
the following techniques/tools will be used:
- Explaining local regulations to the visitors
- Obtaining and distributing available rules for each natural area visited.
- Receiving direct recommendations from the protected area staff.
- Informing the visitors about the adequate behavior on the paths, in
the camps, with the wildlife, and with the threatened species, as well
as the correct management of waste and activity leftovers.
- Informing the travelers about the different levels of difficulty in each
excursion, in order to prevent possible damages to the environment
produced by a lack of experience or by ignorance of the procedures
in little known terrains.
- Informing the tourist about what exists, but not guaranteeing that s/he
will see all of it. For example, informing the tourist that there are
tigers, but that only with luck will they be able to see them, and
- Warning about the inappropriateness of collecting souvenirs from the
natural areas, such as animals, their remains, or traces of their
activity, even in the cases when such practices are allowed by local
- Dissuade from purchasing crafts produced with materials coming from
endangered natural resources.
To reduce the impact of visits upon local cultures. Therefore, the
following techniques/tools will be used:
- Interpreting the values of local cultures and their own history.
- Having a list available of the guidelines designed by the company
about the area to be visited. Obtaining and distributing guidelines
produced by the local communities themselves, when possible.
- Warning about the risks the tourist is exposed to in a certain place.
- Infusing into the tourists the tolerance for the cultural differences, and
their temporary adoption of local habits, as well a wise approach.
- Informing about the best way to take pictures or film scenes.
- Informing about the best way to acquire goods or services, as well as
responding to the situations that may arise.
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Cooperating in monitoring the incidence of tourism. Therefore, the
following techniques/tools will be used:
- Estimating the total number of groups that visit a site simultaneously.
Counting Carrying out counts of the people on the paths or trails
within the protected areas, and being aware of the sites with an
accelerated growth in visitation.
- Notifying the authorities if the number of visitors is growing in an
- Carrying out a close monitoring of the negative environmental
impacts, including the erosion of paths, inadequate waste
management, water pollution, wild species‘ harassment, or the
presence of wild animals that have turned abnormally shy or
aggressive. Notifying the authorities about these facts.
- Cooperating with the area managers in the monitoring of key and
indicator species, or offering logistic help to researchers who work in
projects about tourism impacts.
- Designing itineraries and special offers to avoid overloading popular
destinations, especially those lacking adequate management.
- Being alert about situations of accumulated cultural impact, and
working to prevent them or diminish them. The indicators include:
inflated prices in communities‘ goods; locals‘ hostility against tourists;
black market, drug smuggling and/or prostitution at the service of the
4.2 Ecotourism lodging
4.2.1 Selecting the site
In the first place, we have to decide whether the lodging should be
placed within or outside the boundaries of the protected area. Both possibilities
have pros and cons. As a rule, tourism lodgings should not be created inside
small protected areas (less than 20.000 hectares). Having said this, we must
mention the main advantage: the feeling of proximity the visitor gains. The main
disadvantage is the distance from the local community, which will thus probably
see its source of income diminished. As a suggestion, high prices (for example
100€ per person per day) can be set for interior lodges, so that the turn
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In the case of creating lodging within the protected area, a site must be
selected where environmental impact will be the minimum possible. An
essential factor to be taken into account is observable landscape, which will be
determinant for success. If lodgings outside the area are chosen, the first choice
is whether to build them in local villages or nearby, or to count on the
community to arrange some outbuildings to welcome visitors. This last way is
probably the one that has worked best, even though it requires training and
financial support for local population to be able to undertake the improvements.
4.2.2 Architectural and building design
No specific and concise rules exist in the country about the buildings to
be set up in a protected area, so it will be the promoter‘s responsibility to create
an infrastructure that guarantees the minimum environmental impact. The ideal
would be that the respective authorities would generate rules and regulations
that clearly indicated the parameters within which future ecotourism installations
should be designed within a protected area.
We can discern several models of general design. The ―classic‖ hotel is
based upon a marked hierarchy of edified forms, with modification of the outside
environment (yards substituting for native vegetation), and use of foreign
shapes. The ―community‖ lodging could be looked upon as a small village, with
dispersed unitary buildings following the traditional type, where vegetation
connects the units. A third kind would be the lodging that firstly seeks the link
between visitor and nature, in a way that basically fosters harmony and solitude.
The general design rules (adapted from NPS, 1994) would be the
Be subordinate to the ecosystem and cultural context
o Respect the natural and cultural resources of the site and
absolutely minimize the impacts of any development.
When designing buildings, local construction techniques
should be used (or, this lacking, finishes with local
techniques) and use native cultural images when possible,
and provided that their use is respectful with the
conservation of natural resources.
Use architectural shapes that are in harmony with the
natural landscape, designed with environmental criteria,
and avoiding the superfluous, and excessive comfort or
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luxury. Make use of landscape architecture; the materials
should ―blend‖ into and be in harmony with the
It is desirable that the buildings‘ style is similar to that of the
local inhabitants‘ homes. The buildings should be spread
out enough to allow the natural growth of vegetation and
the wildlife‘s movements.
Altering animal‘s transit areas should be avoided. Building
should take place in the most recondite and hidden places
possible. The natural ecosystem should be kept as little
perturbed as possible, instead of seeking a very flashy
architecture. Competition between the natural environment
and the buildings should never be provoked.
Furniture and equipment should preferably be
manufactured with local products, the use of which does
not affect the conservation of natural resources. It should
be recalled that not all local elements are of sustainable
use. Sometimes, artificial materials are more adequate.
It is always preferable –with the exceptions mentioned- that
the building and decoration are carried out with local
materials and labor force (including local artists and
Local decoration, goods and services should be purchased,
so that the tourists feel a ―local flavor‖.
Reinforce/exemplify appropriate environmental responsiveness
o Educate visitors/users about the resource and appropriate built
responses to that environment.
o Interpret how development works within natural systems to effect
resource protection and human comfort and foster less
o Use the resource as the primary experience of the site and as the
primary design determinant
Enhance appreciation of natural environment and encourage/establish
rules of conduct.
Create a "rite of passage"
o Develop an entrance into special natural or cultural environment
that emulates the respectful practice of removing shoes before
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entering Vietnamese home . . . leaving cars and consumptive
Use the simplest technology appropriate to the functional need, and
incorporate passive energy-conserving strategies responsive to the local
Avoid use of energy intensive, environmentally damaging, waste
producing, and/or hazardous materials.
o Use cradle-to-grave analysis in decision making for materials and
Strive for "smaller is better" optimizing use and flexibility of spaces so
overall building size and the resources necessary for construction and
operation are minimized
Consider "constructability" striving for minimal environmental disruption,
resource consumption, and material waste, and identifying opportunities
for reuse/recycling of construction debris.
Provide equal access to the full spectrum of people with physical and
sensory impairments psychological conditions while minimizing impacts
on natural and cultural resources
Also, the design should
Consider phasing the development to allow for monitoring of resource
impacts and adjustments in subsequent phases.
Allow for future expansion and/or adaptive uses with a minimum of
environmental demolition and waste materials; and components should
be chosen that can be easily reused or recycled make it easy for the
occupants/operators to recycle waste
We will also take into account the following considerations for the development
of ecotourism infrastructure of the project (adapted from Ceballos, 1998 and
Installations must be available for cleaning activities (boot cleaning,
outside showers, raincoat hanging areas, etc.) Remember the
specificities of the activities to be developed and build the necessary
It is useful to have coverings to shield tourists from rain.
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Sometimes, it will be necessary to build boardwalks, or apply surface
treatments to the paths communicating the installations.
Storage installations should be provided for travel equipment such as
suitcases, bags, backpacks, rubber boots, hats, etc.
Signs with the adequate environmental behavior codes, for both tourists
and employees, should be posted in visible places of the lodge.
Tourists must be offered a space with reference materials (books,
publications, species‘ lists, maps …), comfortable furniture for reading
and reviewing, as well as a notebook for important fauna and flora
observations, that must be periodically reported to the protected area
Always have a complaint and suggestion book available.
Depending on the case, take into account seismic considerations in the
design, as well as precautions against other natural disasters.
Building specificities regarding fauna /flora/ landscape:
Artificial lighting of the complex should be strictly limited and controlled,
in order to avoid the interruption of the nocturnal light cycles of plants
and animals. Light pollution will be avoided through the use of directional
Design should consider the aspects necessary to minimize the entrance
of insects, reptiles and rodents, and set up mosquito nets on the beds.
Under certain circumstances, when it appears interesting to attract
certain fauna to the installations for it to be observed by the visitors, the
building characteristics will adapt to the needs of the fauna (openings in
the buildings, supports for nests, etc.
If the restaurant is outdoors, and the health legislation allows it, one
possibility is to attract the birds from the surroundings giving them small
amounts of food in nearby, specifically arranged places. Food can be
modified each day, thus allowing the clients to see different species.
Always try to include interpretive elements for visitors in the ecotourism
complex, even if they are small and modest, but make them attractive
and didactic, such as scale models, diagrams, wildlife and flora photo,
craft samples and others.
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Place discreet tags on the ground to identify trees and shrubs that are
close to the lodgings, in order to gradually familiarize the tourists with the
species they will find in the interpretive trails.
A very extended form of interpretation in the Anglo-Saxon world is the
guide‘s talk about the natural resources or their management. They
therefore use small (20 to 30 people) outdoor amphitheatres. Lodging
would appear enriched with this possibility, by taking advantage of
moments when no other activities can be developed.
We need to emphasize sanitary installations (toilets and showers). They
must be properly built, guarantee privacy, and always be in an optimum
state of cleaning and attention.
It is also essential to avoid sources of unpleasant sounds or smells close
to the installations.
It is fitting to offer several levels of lodging. Visitors will seek the best
quality service they can afford with their money. They will not necessarily seek
the cheapest option.
4.2.3 Energy management
How to make use of solar energy
If sufficient sunshine is available at the site, make use of solar energy. It
can be used for:
Heating water with coils placed on the ceiling and keeping the water in
tanks that maintain the temperature.
Solar cells to convert solar energy into electricity for use in the different
activities (basically lighting and small appliances).
How to make good use of wind
If your ecotourism complex is in a very windy place, make use of this
force of nature to generate electric energy through small windmills.
Placing the installations
Place your complex in a way that makes natural ventilation of the
buildings easy. Study the direction in which winds blow, and design the
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buildings with it in mind. You will thus save energy in the future, minimizing the
use of air conditioning.
Some advisable measures to reduce energy consumption are detailed in
Use minimum energy consumption bulbs. Avoid the use of fluorescent
Use air conditioning only in places where computer equipment is kept,
and when absolutely necessary. Use only ozone – friendly air
In certain areas (such as rest rooms) you can install timed switches. You
can also install switches that are activated by the user‘s presence (with a
card, for example).
Place a list of energy-saving recommendations for the visitor in each
room, including the request for the user to turn everything off and close
the curtains when leaving the room.
Keep all maintenance and service appliances off when not using them.
Reduce night lighting to the minimum needed.
Stimulate attitudes among your employees that contribute to save
Carry out trimester maintenances to verify all forms of energy use, and
keep your employees informed about them.
Use isolating elements in building.
4.2.4 Water management
Making use of rainwater
Rainwater can be captured from the building roofs with gutters, and
driven to collecting tanks. During the rainy reason, making use of this will
provide you a less expensive option. Do not forget that mosquito proliferation
and bacterial pollution must be controlled in the tanks.
Apply the following measures to reduce water consumption:
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Specifically train your employees in possible water saving measures,
especially those applicable during cleaning.
Minimize water in the kitchen. Do not use water to defrost food.
Inform about how to reduce water consumption in the guest‘s rooms, and
ask for the visitor‘s cooperation. Use on-demand sheet and towel
o Towels: For towels, put up a sign in the bathroom, saying that if
the guest doesn‘t want the towels changed, they should be left on
the rack where they were found, and if they are to be changed,
they can be left anywhere else.
o Sheets: For sheets, place a card on the night table or close by,
saying that if sheets are not to be changed, the card should be left
on the pillow.
Conduct regular follow-ups of the water conduction systems, to avoid
leaks and losses. Repair faults immediately.
Sow native species in the yards, which require as little water as possible.
4.2.5 Sewage management
The management of sewage usually implies problems that are difficult to
solve. Water is normally poured into a set of several watertight underground
containers (commonly three or four). Wastewater undergoes a digestion
process, and the water obtained in the last tank can be reused for irrigation,
while the organic matter mud from the two first ones can be periodically pumped
out and used as crop field fertilizer.
Since the digestion process is based upon bacterial activity, the use of
cleaning liquids such as bleach, that can eliminate the fauna from the digesters,
should be avoided.
In certain occasions, the purified water (which will still hold a high content
of nutrients) can be flushed through a green filter of vegetation, that can retain
this excess of phosphorous and nitrogen.
4.2.6 Solid waste management
We will be facing a fairly complex problem of solid waste management,
due to the scarce available technology and the foreseeable growth of the waste
per person. You should launch a solid waste management plan. One of the
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main complaints from the tourists is that of filth in places such as beaches and
public facilities. Do not let this happen in your tourism complex.
We will base solid waste management upon the principles of reducing
their production, reusing whatever we can, and recycling as much as possible:
Reducing: reduce the amount of material used. Use what is necessary,
and try to be more and more efficient to consume less.
Reuse: Ask yourself whether the product you are using can be reused,
and if not, ask yourself whether others exist that could be.
Recycle: Use recyclable products as much as you can. Look for recycled
goods‘ buyers in your area. Join forces with other complexes if possible,
to negotiate larger volumes.
Measures to follow
Carry out a regular monitoring of the amount of garbage your complex
produces, and adjust the amount of products you purchase, and serve in
the restaurant. That way you will be able to minimize the waste
Separate the kinds of garbage: organic, paper, cans, glass, plastic, and
dangerous waste. Have marked containers available for guests and
employees to dump the garbage in the right place, and make separating
Make compost will all organic residues, including those coming from
kitchen and gardening. The excess of compost can be sold as fertilizer,
or serve local farmers who grow fresh food for the complex.
Consider spaces and installations for garbage collecting and separating
in the design of the complex.
Take inorganic waste to an adequate dump.
Reuse cans, bottles and plastic whenever possible.
Use returnable bottling in restaurant and bar services whenever possible.
Preferably buy food fresh, instead of canned or frozen. Try to buy larger
quantities of fresh food from farmers who produce organically, and if this
is not possible, try to look for suppliers who produce without using
pesticides. This way, you can enter a healthier food market; consider that
ecotourists will feel much better if they consume this kind of food.
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Never purchase or serve food made of endangered species. Use
wholesale dealers, thus minimizing packaging waste. Bear the product‘s
expiry date in mind, and the number of tourists that will visit your complex
during the season.
Suggest your guests to carry the garbage (such as wrappings) coming
from materials brought in by them back to their home and leave it at
Serve seasonings, sugar, etc. in refillable containers.
Do not use disposable plates or cups, in particular plastic or cardboard
Also reduce the use of products in the office, for example, minimize the
use of paper.
Set up permanent dispensers in the rest rooms, that can be refilled.
Make sure the articles are biodegradable. Avoid paper towel dispensers.
Put up signs in the rooms, inviting guests to reduce waste production.
Remind them not to dump garbage in the paths and surroundings.
For non recycled waste, use compacters to form waste blocks. When you
have a considerable amount, you can pay a collecting truck to take them
to a proper dump.
4.3 The role of local communities
The role of local communities rests upon three basic pillars, without
which ecotourism will not be able to operate properly.
Capacity building. The population is normally not aware of the impact of
tourism upon the environment and their own culture. They don‘t clearly
know the tourist‘s requirements either. The responsibility of capacity
building can be assumed by NGOs, Public Administration, or tourism
Steering. The community cannot be left on its own in planning and
management. This responsibility must be exercised and leaded by the
Administration, which must itself count on public partaking bodies. This
takes us to the next pillar:
Cooperation. Through these public partaking bodies, the community
must be fully integrated in the decision making, planning and
management tasks. (Nguyen van Lam, 1999). Promoting participation is
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Participation must take place at different levels, depending on the real
rights of the local communities. A basic aspect never to be overseen is
participation in the planning process, since it implies the development model to
be carried out in that territory, and the community will necessarily be one of its
On the long run, it is always desirable that the main roles in business
belong to the community. This will normally require a long time for company
projects, but small individual businesses such as selling products or crafts,
which require little investment, can be established with a minimum support.
4.3.1 Benefits for conservation
In showing the community the benefits obtained from the conservation
and improvement of the area‘s natural resources, one will be promoting their
interest for environmental conservation.
The local population must participate in the project, not only for obvious
reasons of fairness and equity, but also for the valuable knowledge they can put
into management, guidance and understanding of the area. The entrepreneur
must show the community the economic reasons to preserve it.
An example can be that of the hunters. These people, dedicated to
subsistence hunting, will have a fine knowledge of the wildlife and its natural
environment. They will be able to use their ability to find shy or rare species,
which will be highly valued by ecotourists. In trading the gun for the binoculars,
many local inhabitants with limited viable economic options will gain a new life
option. This way pressure upon the area‘s natural resources will be reduced,
since alternative income sources will exceed subsistence needs.
Outlined, the benefit for Nature conservation and the managers would be
(Eagles et al, 2003):
Fostering heritage appraisal
Generating income(obtaining profits or reducing operational expenses)
Building alliances with the local community
Developing long term sustainable economic activities
Managing resource extraction
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Creating a positive experience
Making visitors repeat
4.3.2 Benefits for local communities
There are two conditions for local communities to obtain significant
economic benefits: the first one, to have products and services available to be
acquired by tourists; the second one, that the outflow of obtained capital is
minimal. Regarding the first one, when communities engage in ecotourism, it is
possible to generate new income sources for the community through individual
employment opportunities. This income can be generated through the
establishment of fees, making lodging or guidance services available, preparing
and serving meals, selling crafts, etc. It is probable –and desirable- that this
income reduces the dependence from unsustainable activities. Minimizing the
outflow of the obtained capital is more complicated, especially at the beginning,
since the investment will frequently be coming from outside the community.
Some guidelines to increase the income of local communities are (Eagles et al,
Increasing the number of visitors can sometimes turn out
counterproductive, due to the negative effects we may have.
Extending the stays: this increases the possibilities of goods and
Attracting markets with higher acquisitive power: it will be achieved
through different marketing and advertising techniques.
Increasing the sales per visitor. This is achieved by increasing and
improving the offer of locally manufactured goods.
Offering lodging. Thus retaining a substantial part of the benefit
generated by tourism, and increasing the time of stay.
Offering guides and other services. Normally, more than one service
will be hired.
Celebrating events. Art, folklore, and festivals will act increasing the
number of visitors, and hence the economic benefits.
Purchasing services and products from the community.
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A very special aspect to be considered is the possibility of achieving
equitable partaking of the whole community through ecotourism. Gender
problems can be significant, since women frequently have difficult access to
paid jobs under the same conditions as men. Ecotourism must include among
its conditions the fostering of equal opportunity partaking. For example,
women‘s work in the ecotourism project should not be identified with certain
activities determined by tradition or socio-cultural restrictions. Equal
opportunities should guarantee access to all jobs according to capacity and the
free market‘s laws of offer and demand.
As communities receive new incomes, the possibility exists to improve
health and education services. These shares can have the long run effect of
improving awareness about conservation within the community and reducing
the threats. Better health services can improve the community‘s attractive
conditions, and give it additional advantages to attract tourism.
Visits to native and traditional communities can become a main attraction
in a trip to a natural area. Natural attractions are increased for tourists if they
can relate to them through the eyes and words of the people living in those
areas. The opportunity to learn from a traditional culture is more and more the
result of the interest shown by the visitors, especially if previous foreign
attitudes tended to despise it. Nevertheless, the success of such visits depends
upon local residents feeling strengthened, and in control of the process and the
The need to offer something ―authentic‖ should also be pointed out. The
offer of cultures or goods that have lost their identity is like offering a road to
climb a mountain: it loses all its interest for ecotourism.
Cultural exchange must be especially careful. If there is a very strong
contrast between the ―rich‖ visitor and ―poor‖ local, there is a real risk of cultural
absorption and loss of the local community‘s identity. Making sure this doesn‘t
happen is a responsibility of the Administration.
Ecotourism entrepreneur’s contribution to the community
The ecotourism businessperson (entrepreneur) must contribute services
and support in different activities. Among these practices, we can mention the
following (Wight, 1999):
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Carrying out the proper actions so that the project contributes to improve
the region it operates in.
Supporting, being sympathetic, and contributing with the local
communities and events (such as donating awards, or developing
Establishing reasonable access fees to his/her complex and/or
ecotourism activity. Managing these fees in dongs.
Provide local community institutions and groups with ecotourism
activities that are cost free or have a discount.
Offer some kind of cooperation way for local school students.
Participate in local agencies and associations.
Offer facilities to carry out community activities and events whenever
4.3.3 Risks and impact reduction
Potential negative impacts
Potential negative impacts that can take place upon the local population
are of three kinds: increases in financial and economic costs; social costs; and
excessive concentration in the activity, leaving the community overexposed to
fluctuations in tourism demand.
Increase in financial and economic costs. It is generated when the
demand of basic services grows, which usually originates increased
costs. For example, it can increase the number of foreign owners, and
make housing more expensive. It is a true and serious risk, since in that
situation the population can look for other, unsustainable ways of
income. The possibility of cost increase must be counteracted with the
Social costs. Visitors can ―compete‖ for recreation areas and other
services. Occasionally, the economic activity itself can generate great
social differences, crime and marginality pockets. The possibility of crime
increasing with the amount of visitors and the population tending the
services should also be taken into account. Measures should be carried
to extremes in order to prevent every form of sexual exploitation.
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Excessive concentration of the economic activity: It is not advisable
for ecotourism to become the only activity in the community. It should be
a complementary activity that seeks socio-economic wellbeing: it can be
the main one, but not the only one. We must remember that tourism in
general suffers sudden fluctuations many times due to external factors
that can prove uncontrollable. In the case of a market fall, the population
would be exposed to a very serious crisis.
Reducing the impacts upon local cultures
The first thing to show the local communities is respect. Therefore,
provide the ecotourists with the information necessary to show respect and
The ecotourism businessperson must see about minimizing the impact of
the visitor upon the local cultures through informative materials, explanatory
talks, giving examples, and undertaking corrective actions.
Bear in mind that the local community must reaffirm its values prior to the
arrival of the tourists. It is recommended to hire a social worker to prepare the
community making it aware of the importance of its values, and of not letting
them change because of the tourists‘ pressure.
The guides in charge of the activity must comply with the following points:
Interpreting the values of local cultures and
their own history.
Having a list available with the rules and
advices about the cultural realm of the area
visited. The optimum is to have rules
produced by the local communities
themselves, whenever possible, or at least
to consult the rules with them, before their
Infuse tourists tolerance of the different
cultures, and even temporary adoption of
local customs, as well as a sensible
Informing the visitors about the best procedures to take pictures or film
Informing the visitors about the best procedure to purchase goods and
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Explaining tourists the appropriate way of approaching the local
Making the visitor understand the local cultures, also avoiding the
intromission in native resident‘s private lives.
Protecting the local culture
Visits to places with access restricted because of cultural sensibility
should be avoided. Sometimes, the community can be more sensitive, and the
tourists can get to influence it. In these cases, the community needs to be ready
for the contact with people alien to its environment.
It is not superfluous to call attention upon the inadequate exhibition of
local communities as if they were simple, more or less colorful attractions.
Respect for dignity must be above all.
Sometimes, there are communities who are not interested in cultural
exchanges with foreigners. In these cases, contact should be avoided, and
even the development of any ecotourism project can be unsuitable.
4.3.4 Community partaking
When a decision has to be made that can affect the community, its way
of life, its culture, or its future, it must be discussed with them, and an
agreement should be reached. Regarding other issues, it is also, discussion is
also fitting and advisable, since communities can provide very useful
suggestions, derived from the better knowledge of the place, and can warn
about the existence of situations that may not be known to the promoter.
Information and training
The businessperson must exchange information with the community.
Bear in mind that the exchange of information is an empowering mechanism
with which the community is going to feel well, since it is being taken into
account. Regarding training, the idea is to help change those practices you
consider inconsistent with Nature conservation, that can take place in
agriculture, cattle raising or fishing, and also improving public services, health,
education, and drinking water.
It is most likely that the local population has no experience in handling
visitors adequately. They need help in developing those skills, as could be, in
the case of guides, training in communication techniques, seeking a better
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relation with tourists. In the end, it is about creating a culture of service, where
the tourist is very well treated.
Training must not generate differences in the fate of the jobs to be
performed by the community. Capacity building must train staff at all levels,
including training for management itself. It is not a question of keeping the
community employed, but also of making it possible for them to be protagonists
in the future.
Contact with tourism: a community decision
When it‘s about the kind and level of contact with tourists, the community
must have the last word. (The Nature Conservancy,1995). One must explain to
them what they will obtain wih the project, so that they can evaluate their
benefits. Vague information can not be given, what they really are going to get
must be stated, in order to avoid misunderstandings in the future. If it is the
case, it is useful to negotiate between the parties to achieve a mutual
Hiring local personnel
Hiring local personnel is one of the pillars of ecotourism. By hiring local
people as workers, or hiring their services for different activities, you will be
contributing to the general wellbeing of the region. On one side, you will be
distributing wealth, and on the other, people will see their traditions and culture
valued, and their self esteem will be increased. It is very important for hiring
conditions to be looked upon by the authorities, in order to guarantee that the
services are paid for properly. The benefits for the businessperson will be to
have labor force and services available, and to create links with the community.
It is a good idea to organize the community for it to create associations; this way
the businessperson will hire the services from the group and not directly from
the individual, which will probably save him/her labor difficulties.
4.3.5 Relations between community and business
The different options that have been used up till now for the relation
between community and company, as well as the results obtained from the
experience are (Denman, 2001):
1. Private tourism companies that employ local personnel. Even
though it is a useful type of employment, it is very important to
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keep away from deficient salaries and conditions, and to make
sure that training, even in administration, is offered the local
2. Local individuals who sell products and crafts directly to the
visitors, or through the tourism companies. This has proven to be
a good way of spreading the benefits within a community.
3. Private tourism companies (internally or externally owned) that
have received an operational concession from the community, in
exchange for an amount of money and participation in the income.
Many examples exist in which this option has given good results.
4. Local individuals who have links with a larger community and who
administer their own small tourism enterprises. Success is
variable, and the lack of training and business knowledge has
proven to be the weak point.
5. Companies owned and run by the community. Sometimes they
suffer from a lack of organization and incentive, but this can be
overcome with time.
It is the Administration‘s role to foster and develop the relations between
the community and the private company. This includes:
Establishing training mechanisms so that the communities can be able to
effectively defend their rights and improve their negotiation capacity.
Make sure that the agreements offer the private companies enough
incentive, and recognize the commercial realities they face. The
agreements should be transparent, simple, and applied consistently,
minimizing administrative burdens and uncertainty.
Establishing committees where the population, tourism operators, NGOs
and the Administration participate, thus ensuring the interpretation and
application of the agreements, and creating communication channels
with the local population.
4.3.6 Interaction between visitors and local culture
Interacting with the community is something that tourists seek and value
a lot. Part of this makes the foreign tourist decide to come and live a new
experience. Therefore, the businessperson is advised to:
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Have a list of the local activities such as festivals or celebrations, and
inform the tourists about them.
Distribute information about the cultural resources. Explain the tourists
the behavior and attitude they should have in sacred or worship sites.
Provide with lists of restaurants, detailing the kind of cuisine served.
Spread the knowledge of the community‘s history, so that people
become interested in visiting it. A recommendable way of doing it is
through publications or exhibits in Visitor Centers.
Promote the acquisition of crafts manufactured according to the
principles of ecotourism, in local shops.
Always reject buying objects made of threatened species or other
―charismatic‖ species with ecotourism value, even if they come from
Inform about distances and time needed to get to the place, and of the
unsafe areas, if any.
4.4 Quality and client care service
Quality in customer service is a responsibility of the tourism entrepreneur
and/or promote, that must be permanently watched by the Public
Administration, or in cooperation with NGOs, through quality or certification
In general, the activity of the ecotourism company must be based upon
the following principles:
1. Transmitting a positive attitude towards all the participants in
2. Identifying the customer‘s needs.
3. Meeting the needs effectively.
4. Working with each client, giving him/her an individualized
4.4.1 Previous activity preparation
Good service to the client must begin before his/her arrival. The
businessperson must bear in mind that the goal is to satisfy the visitor‘s needs,
and must seek the right market to achieve this goal while satisfying the
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individual needs of the visitors. We recommend to design an environmental
code and a goal handbook for the company, and to make it known as
Maintaining a customer service line
Many visitors have doubts before they get to the place, that need to be
answered. The businessperson must therefore maintain a customer service
S/he can have a telephone service operating 7 days a week, with a wide
schedule. This will work for visitors who are already in the country, or
who are willing to make international calls before their arrival.
Have an exclusive e – mail account to answer customers‘ doubts prior to
their arrival at your place. Go through it constantly during the day, and
give immediate response to the doubts that arise.
Have bilingual service available.
Attention must be paid within 24 hours of receiving the question. If you
are overloaded with messages, prepare a message telling your customer that
his information is being processed, and that s/he will soon get an answer. If
your project is small, and you don‘t have the capacity for this, associate with
others, and seek to minimize costs.
Have explanations in promotional materials (brochures, web pages and
videos) that represent the experience the tourist will undergo. These materials
should reflect the following elements: (Wight, 1999):
Main activities to choose from
Educational and interpretive services offered
The region‘s natural and cultural values
Equipment and infrastructure used
Steps to prevent damages to the environment and the communities
Suggestions on clothing and articles to bring
Itinerary of activities
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A page with questions on allergies, physical condition, food restrictions
and special services required
Expenses, payment procedure
The goal of all this information is for the visitor to arrive prepared for the
experience s/he is about to live. Ask yourself what you would need to know
before arriving at your activity, and give your customer that information.
Information must be updated according to new questions and suggestions
4.4.2 Visitors’ expectations
The businessperson must, above all, be realistic. You must offer the
ecotourists what you can give them. You should never offer what you cannot
provide, since you will disappoint the customer, who will feel unsatisfied.
You have to be especially careful with the issue of wildlife observation.
Don‘t say you are going to see animals that have a very low probability of being
encountered; announce the possibility of seeing them, and say that it won‘t
always be possible. You should never announce things that you will not be able
to see. This instruction should be carefully observed by the guides. A very
recommendable alternative is to use footprints, tracks, or dens as ecotourism
Surprise the customer
The businessperson should use surprise to his/her advantage. Not
everything that is going to happen should be said, so that becomes your trick.
Thus, you will be able to surprise with details that were not included:
Souvenirs not include in the plan
Presentations by native local communities
One extra meal or drink
Bottles of water
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Review your advertising periodically
Places‘ conditions change, which is why the advertising means used,
such as brochures and web pages, should be constantly updated. You should
take sufficient time to see how thing are on the site, and how they are
expressed in the advertisements, so that they match. New services
incorporated to the offer should be added to the advertisements.
4.4.3 Offer flexibility
The businessperson must consider that people with different needs are
going to want to live the experience that is being offered. S/he should prepare
different packages for the different types of needs, in order to satisfy them
before and during the experience. (Wight, 1999).
Before the tourists arrive at the place, you must take the opportunity to
find out what they want by carrying out polls. You should be ready to respond
quickly to changes in the market and to suggestions.
Services must be adjusted so that a family with persons of different ages
can carry out the activity. This way, you will take advantage of large groups, and
the whole family will be happy.
Tending to groups is more efficient. It will always be advisable to be in
partnership with a good travel agency.
Staff and infrastructure should also be prepared to serve handicapped
4.4.4 Visitor’s suggestions and comments
During the stay and/or activity
While visitors are in the complex and/or carrying out ecotourism
activities, you must pay attention to their comments and suggestions. Therefore,
they should occasionally be asked:
How did you spend the night?
Did you have any problem?
Is there anything else we could do for you, to make your stay/activity
How has service been so far?
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Did they take good care of you?
Did you find the instructions given clear enough?
Each comment and suggestion must be well received, and everything
possible should be done to please the customer during the stay. We must
remember the principle saying ―the customer is always right‖.
At the end of the stay and/or activity
You must have a comment and suggestion form available for the tourist
to fill in at the end of his/her stay/activity. In this form, you should ask the user:
What was the experience like?
What did you like best?
What did you like least? What would you do to improve it?
How was the guide‘s service?
Was the experience what you expected?
Do you have any comments we should take into account for a future
Answer complaints and gratitude notes
You must have an established procedure to answer complaints.
Therefore, you must notify the ecotourist verbally or in writing that you have
identified the problem and what measures have been taken to solve correct it.
In the comment or complaint sheet, you have to ask the customer to leave a
contact address where future communications can be sent to. You will use this
address to send him/her the comments.
You have to consider that, when solving a complaint, the company must
act fast, since the longer it takes to solve the problem, the higher the desertion
rate will be.
Moreover, it is necessary to ask the customer if s/he has any complaints
(Kotler et al., 1997). You must bear in mind that most of the customers do not
complain. A customer turning in a complaint gives us the opportunity to inform,
and to make the respective changes in the way of operating the given services.
A service guarantee can be established, so that the customer will know that the
company has a total engagement with good customer service.
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You must also have a procedure for answering customers‘ gratitude
notes. The ecotourist will know that his/her gratitude has been heard, and will
feel taken care of. S/he will also be more inclined to recommending your
4.4.5 Staff training
As employees‘ satisfaction, participation, and labor assurance improve,
so does their orientation towards customer service. (Kotler et al., 1997).
Your staff is a clear investment, to which you should pay all attention
possible, because it is worth it. Therefore, take into account that (Wight, 1999):
Staff should be considered more as a resource than as a cost.
Staff‘s partaking in the company‘s policies should be sought.
Teamwork should be encouraged, having every person, at all levels,
contribute ideas. We should never have barriers established in advance.
Clear guidelines should be established about the training necessary to
reach greater responsibility positions in the company.
Staff‘s training and development needs should be supervised
periodically, to check whether the goals are being achieved, and to
modify the system as needed.
A continuous improvement program should be established.
Employees should undergo training at the moment of hiring, and during
their work, to increase their abilities. You should try to have a team within
your own staff which is also dedicated to training.
In the specific case of guides, the best training is to accompany more
experienced guides on field trips.
Employees with several abilities should be fostered.
Delegating decision making
The employee has to be given the authority to make decisions related to
solving the customers‘ problems, as well as the training that helps them know
how to make these decisions. (Kotler et al., 1997). A structure excessively
dependant on the businessperson will not be agile or effective.
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Each person has different abilities and ideas that need to be considered.
You must allow that everybody contributes and combines ideas for the
company‘s good. Each and every employee‘s opinion is important. If teamwork
is done, when an employee makes a mistake, the rest of them will try to repair it
before the customer notices it. Also, in the case of a customer needing
something, any person in the team will take care of it, even though the customer
is not his/her direct responsibility. Staff members help each other, improving
If a complaint or comment is made to a person of the team, s/he should
take it as his/her own, and has the responsibility of the follow up and contacts
needed to put the corrective action in place, thus satisfying the customer.
(Kotler et al., 1997).
Training tourist guides the directive team
The training of your directive team must be properly organized, seeking
the achievement of better results. You should take advantage of long time staff
members within the organization, having them train the new people. Periodically
send your staff to official guide development courses, thus ensuring a
You should establish your own standards, which all personnel will have
to meet. Training courses will preferably take place during the low season. The
annual activities‘ timetable must be well organized, so that a special period is
dedicated to personnel training, without harming the development of your
activities. A rotation by groups can be established for training, or services can
be interrupted for an adequate time, for the whole team to undergo training
In order to have a good customer service, all your employees must really
live the experience your activity offers. This way, if a customer asks about some
activity in detail, any person in the organization will be able to satisfy the doubts,
and can even promote your activity without you asking him/her to.
―It is a lot more useful if an employee can give the potential customer first
hand information, than reading a description.‖ (Kotler et al., 1997).
Aside from this, the employees must know all facilities of the tourism
complex, and what is done in the activities. Even if it has nothing to do with their
job, they should have the potential to solve the customer‘s doubts. You must
remember that the customer is going to address any member of the staff to
express his doubts, and everyone has to be ready to answer them, or know how
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to direct him/her towards the right person with the precise answer. It is also
important that the employees know the company‘s history, and the guiding
objectives and goals. They must feel proud of the company they work for, and it
is necessary to stimulate among them the desire to contribute to its success.
(Kotler et al., 1997).
You must remember that staff who is constantly in touch with customers
is a very important source of information. They will know the customer‘s needs
very well, and will be able to help in making new plans to improve the service,
or simply to maintain the strong points being offered. Their mistakes should be
pointed out to them, together with the indication of the right way to do it.
Working by goals
The businessperson should have clear collective and individual goals to
be accomplished within a period of time, and have all his/ her staff know them,
and do everything possible to achieve them. These goals should be written with
the help of the whole team, so that they agree and engage in achieving them.
Staff‘s recommendations should be taken into account at any time.
Contact with other organizations
It is very important to be associated with different organizations such as
NGOs, hotelkeepers associations, local organizations, etc. You must take
advantage of the benefits they furnish, and help each other. You can set up
exchanges where staff from your company goes to another one, and vice versa.
If the company wants to have the staff oriented towards the customer, it
must reward certain attitudes or facts of this staff. Compensation systems
based upon evaluating customer satisfaction represent a method to repay your
staff oriented toward such service satisfaction. (Kotler et al., 1997).
You must constantly congratulate your employees for well performed
tasks. You must be specific. Do not congratulate in general. Congratulate
saying what you liked, and encourage the person to keep on doing it.
When a customer lets you know, be it verbally or in writing, of the good
work carried out by someone in your staff, transmit that congratulation to the
person. Reward the best employees, and stimulate the rest to improve.
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4.4.6 Quality plans
They are a mean of controlling quality in the whole business; evaluating
all tasks carried out, from the beginning of advertising till the product is used by
the consumer, as well as all places linked to the business. The concept of total
quality control is tightly related to the quality cycle, and involves activities
directly and indirectly related to quality.
The quality indicators that will normally be used are linked to training,
technology, services, consistence with ecotourism principles, etc. Certification
of tourism quality must always be carried out by independent agencies or
The quality plan, when it comes to customer service, is very specific.
Customers will arrive at the company, and will ask about the products or
services available, and based upon the information, the impression, and the
treatment given, they will make their decision whether to buy or not, to come
back to the company or not. From the very moment the customer contacts the
company, the impression must be given that s/he will receive an excellent
service, and that the product offered will completely satisfy his/her needs.
Controlling the whole process can ensure the quality of the offer.
4.5 Promoting ecotourism projects
4.5.1 Market studies
The first thing the promoter must do is to identify the potential tourist s/he
wants to attract. Market segmenting is a procedure by which people with similar
needs, motivations and characteristics are sought, in order to identify the target
market. Market segmenting is a process made of two steps (Mill and Morrison,
Deciding how to group potential visitors (market segments)
Selecting specific groups (target market)
A poll presented by the International Ecotourism Society can prove very
useful, as it shows the profile of the ecotourist:
Age: 35 – 54 years old, bearing in mind that age varies with the activity
and with other factors such as cost.
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Gender: 50 % female and 50% male. Nevertheless, clear differences
were found, depending on the kind of activity.
Education: 82% were college graduates.
Travel group: The majority, 60%, of experienced ecotourists (tourists that
have been on at least one oriented ecotourism trip), prefer traveling with
their couples, 15% with their families, and only 13% by themselves.
Travel period: most experienced ecotourists prefer trips that last between
8 and 14 days.
Expenses: experienced ecotourists are willing to spend more than
conventional tourists; the largest group (26%) said that they were ready
to spend US$2,000 – 3,000 per trip. This is 8.5% more than the average
paid by traditional tourism.
There are a series of features that define the new tourism consumer
The new tourist appears ever more demanding. His/her growing
experience in the purchasing and consumption of tourism services and
higher cultural level, the variety of commercial offers available, and the
greater easiness to search for and obtain information – thanks to the
application of the new technologies in the sector- cause the customer to
demand ever more specialized products, with the best quality – price
They seek full satisfaction in their consumption. The satisfaction today‘s
consumers look for is the result of the satisfaction obtained in each
moment of the process. That means, if we decide to carry out a trip, the
final result of that experience will depend upon each and every tourism
product consumed between departure and return: the safety and comfort
of the transportation used; the quality of the service tended at the chosen
hotel; the kindness of the staff looking after us at each leisure site of the
tourism destination; cleanness and order of the squares, streets and
beaches of the geographic area visited; etc. From the moment one of
them fails, the global experience will be diminished. It is not a question of
generic and standardized satisfaction, like it used to be not many years
ago with massive tourism, but a question of segmented, specific,
personalized, multi-topic and intensive satisfaction. A complex and
They are more active and participative in the search for tourism
information, in the preparation of the trip, and in the consumption of the
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acquired services. On one hand, the usually cooperate actively with the
travel agent in the making up tailored tourism products. On the other
hand, there is also the trend for the consumer to autonomously organize
his/her own trip or excursion, by contacting directly with the main dealer
of the sought service, thus avoiding the presence of a mediator – the
advertising agencies- in the commercial process.
They are multi-consumers, which means, during a trip they wish to
respond to different motivations. The tourist hopes to intensely enjoy all
possible leisure options that take place during his/her stay at the chosen
destination: native gastronomy, traditional festivals, culture and art,
natural parks, amusement parks, sun and beach, etc.
The show strong ecological awareness. Tourists develop an increasingly
protective and respectful behavior towards the environment. Facing the
pollution, noise and stress of the city, the tourism consumer values those
products that allow direct contact with Nature, in search of the harmony
and balance typical of natural environments.
They are prone to be tempted by new creative and original tourism
products. The tourist demands innovative surprising products, with a
constant component of creativity and variation. Tourist‘s consumption
has matured with time, and values the originality of the services offered.
Safety during trips becomes a first order attribute. The unceasing
deterioration of world peace, situation of which we are witnesses through
the media, causes in tourists an attitude of fear of trips. Wars between
countries and terrorist acts (such as the case of September 11, when two
commercial airplanes were kidnapped and deliberately crashed by
suicidal pilots) cause such social alarm that they affect the behavior of
Considering the privileged situation of the ecotourism consumer, as far
as control exerted upon the commercial process due to the capacity of choosing
and the great variety of offers, there is an obvious need to orient company
management towards the customer, that is, let the customer be the beginning
and end of the whole business strategy.
Fostering this idea is understanding that, as a previous step to any
business action, it is compulsory to have exact knowledge of the market we will
be directing the product to. Delving into the potential consumer‘s needs, tastes,
preferences, attitudes, and habits is preparing the way to success.
With this plan in mind, some of the communication strategies to be
carried out according to the needs and motivations identified in today‘s tourism
consumer are the following:
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1. In the first place, the company must reach an agreement with its product‘s
consumer, that is, knowing exactly what it is that the customer wants
when s/he buys. There has to be a fitting correlation between what the
company sells and what the customer really buys. It may well be that the
owner of a lodge on the Mekong considers that his products are the
rooms that he has daily available for his customers. Nevertheless, the
consumers may understand that the product the pay for is something
more that a clean room. Thus, a well preserved and clean environment, a
friendly and caring staff, and a management consistent with the
conservation of resources, as well as the possibility to hire a local guide,
will complete the global offer they perceive.
In short, it is a question of knowing how the customer perceives the
product. Only this way can effective messages about the offer be sent.
2. On the other hand, taking into account the intangibility that characterizes
tourism services, it is fitting to point out that what a tourism company really
sells through its communication actions are promises. That is, when we
offer a trip to Ha Long Bay, what we really are selling, largely, is the
promise of living a unique and unforgettable experience in an exotic
country, in a beautiful and pristine natural setting. This particularity
emphasizes the tourism company‘s need to give an image of believability
and confidence that can convince the consumer public.
Communication actions oriented towards the final consumer should
present the tourism products pointing out those attributes that intensify,
activate, enhance and personalize the experience.
3. Considering the need for evasion and self realization of the individual
demanding tourism products, the advertising of these must refer to unique
experiences, full pleasure, disconnection and liberation.
Bearing in mind that we face an ever more demanding tourist, the need
to meet the created expectations becomes even more extreme. Thus, the
quality received must match the quality promised. That is, not more should be
promised than what one can give or is willing to give. The quality of the
customer‘s experience, or of any part of it is defined as ―the difference between
the expected quality and the received quality‖. Obviously, the more the
expectations are surpassed, the greater the quality perceived by the consumer
will be, and consequently, the more gratifying the experience. .
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Thus, it is necessary to efficiently communicate all that the company can
do for its customers, so that they know exactly how much they can demand.
4.5.2 Promotional programs
The first thing to carry out in order to develop a promotion program for
the ecotourism project, is to select the target market for the offer, as previously
Adopt a trademark
For the tourists to get to know the complex, you should develop a
trademark that differentiates it from the rest of the tourism projects. It should be
short, precise and concise.
The trademark should include the following components.
Name: how is the ecotourism complex or business going to be
Term or slogan: a sentence through which it will be recognized,
that expresses what the business offers.
Logotype: a sign or symbol that will identify it without needing to
have the name.
Marking the promotional goals
The development of the promotional goals should be based upon their
target market. Goals should be measurable, realistic, and have a fulfillment
In order to establish the goals, we should bear in mind the moment of the
product acquisition process the customers are in:
Attention: Communication needs to be established with the
customer to draw his/her attention. A slogan or sentence arising
curiosity can be successful in drawing attention. Therefore, the
adequate way for the business to attract the ecotourist‘s attention
has to be sought. Many of the tourists don‘t know where it lies,
geographically, or what it has.
94. Handbook of Ecotourism
Understanding: If the process of attention or lure has been
successful, the tourist will be in search of greater information
about the destination site. This is the moment to provide the
largest amount of information so that the ecotourist knows the
place, and to direct him/her towards the buying process. The
mean of communication is crucial at this stage. We have to
choose means that allow to give a large amount of information,
and that are efficient, such as brochures, the internet, magazines,
and specialized, extensively distributed newspapers. We must
show the ecotourist all the benefits s/he will obtain by living the
Attitudes: At this stage, the tourist has a positive attitude, or
interest for the place of destination. You need to create or
reinforce attitudes or existing positive images, and to correct the
negative ones. We will place as much attention as possible on
having the tourist develop the adequate image, making sure to
have awakened his/her interest and to provide all necessary
information. This way, the ecotourist will know if the benefits
offered satisfy his/her needs.
Evaluation, preference and desire: After the tourist has
evaluated several alternatives, s/he will develop a preference or
desire towards a destination in particular. At this stage, the use of
testimonies from people who have enjoyed the activities can prove
convincing. At this stage as well, we can highlight how natural,
exotic and unknown the destination is, as opposed to traditional
Intention and conviction: At this stage, the tourist is convinced
that his/her needs are satisfied by the benefits that are being
offered. This moment is immediately prior to the buying of the
Acquisition: Here, the barrier to be surpassed by the ecotourist is
the amount of time and money. Thus, packages can be offered
from the place of origin, with tickets and transportation included,
different types of plans that adjust to the amount of time the
ecotourist is willing to spend at the site, among other things.
Adoption: After the tourist has bought, you need to convince
him/her that this has been an adequate decision. Therefore, as
soon as the tourist has bought the package, begin a customer-
95. Handbook of Ecotourism
After having the promotional goals ready, they must furnish you with the
information necessary to establish the promotion budget. Therefore, distribute
the available money among the goals, prioritizing the most important ones
depending on the stage you are at. Your budget must be flexible facing
changes, try to have a contingency budget and a plan in case things do not turn
out as expected. The cooperation between institutions and companies is of
great benefit here; this way you can work with local hotels and tour operators,
NGOs, and, in general, the protagonists of ecotourism.
Choose a message
Use research techniques such as focal groups, interviews and polls to
get to know the perception, needs, reasons and expectations of your target
market. With the results, determine what you are going to communicate in the
message. You can do tests, to see which one adjusts best, and make the
corrections during the process, before the message is fully established.
The goal is to choose a format that effectively communicates the idea of
the message in a way that is understandable, distinctive and believable for the
target market. Alternative formats that can be used are:
Analogies, association and symbolism
Ways of life
After having chosen the format to be used for the message, develop
multiple alternatives to be tried. Therefore, have a test group that you can have
analyzed after being exposed to the message, and see the different reactions.
Combination of promotional elements
96. Handbook of Ecotourism
There are five main elements of the promotional combination, which can
be used either together or separately:
Advertisements: Paid presentation of ideas, goods or services.
Personal sales: Oral conversations, be it by phone or in person,
between the seller and the potential tourists.
Sales‘ promotions: The buyers are given a time of induction for
them to carry out a purchase or immediate reservation.
Materials used to stimulate sales, such as brochures, posters,
pictures, and other promotional elements.
Public relations and advertising: These are the activities that
maintain or increase the relations with other organizations or
individuals. They are relations where there is non-paid
communication about the destination or the organization‘s
We will bear in mind that a different combination of the promotional
elements should be used for each of the different target groups of the message:
Intermediaries (travel agencies, tour operators)
Press media (newspapers, magazines, television, radio)
Local community (residents, NGOs, government agencies)
To communicate the message, select the appropriate mean of
communication, among which we can list:
97. Handbook of Ecotourism
We should choose the mean that is most appropriate for the ecotourist,
and that adjusts better to the company‘s needs. To choose the most appropriate
mean, and carry out the respective comparisons, we recommend bearing the
following criteria in mind:
Cost per person contacted in the target market
Cost per person that gets in touch with you
Geographic selectivity, to get to specific places
Time for which the target market will be in contact with the
Selectivity to communicate with the target market
Amount of competition in the realm
Rate of people sharing or passing on the materials to other
people, as in the case of magazines
Total number of people exposed to the message
Time in which the message will arrive
Total cost of message development and communication
Visual quality, especially when it is in color
Make use of great-coverage publications
In what follows, a brief description of the qualities of each mean of
communication will be given:
Television: Even though the cost per contacted person is low, the
total cost is high. Television allows you to have geographic
selectivity, and to select the target market through different kinds
of programs. The quality of the advertisement you can achieve
through this mean is a fairly good one.
Radio: This mean is less expensive that television. It also
geographic and target market selectivity. The advantage is the
quickness with which your advertisement can be presented, from
the moment you contact the radio station.
Newspapers: with this mean, you have high geographic
selectivity, low total cost, and quickness to present the
Magazines: The market selectivity can be fairly high, due to the
different kinds of orientations they have. In this case, look for
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magazines that have articles on ecotourism, or magazines
oriented to nature tourism.
Internet: this variety has seen increase in the last five years, and
contributes more and more to the promotion of tourism sites. Web
pages reach a larger number of people than printed brochures, no
physical distribution is required, the access cost is much less than
the cost of printed brochures, mistakes in the internet can be
corrected faster, and frequently, compared to reprinting brochures,
the costs of design are lower. Also, it is very useful to attract
international visitors. Therefore, you can develop your own web
page, associate with other institutions, or have advertisements in
other places. In order to succeed, advertise yourself in the most
used general and travel-oriented searchers, have links with other
sites, and manage the page well. As mentioned before, have a
contact e-mail in this page, for doubts and reservations.
Make use of free advertising
To make use of ―free‖ advertising, you can invite the media (as in the
case of news or travel programs, press, travel agents, etc.) to your place, for
them to know it. Treat them very well, and make profit of the benefits and
publicity they will furnish you with. If you have the capacity, sponsor events that
are highly attractive, and can report good publicity through other mass media.
You can even offer them free stays at your complex, or experimenting your
activities, cost-free for travel agents and tourism operators.
4.5.3 Team work
Look for a way of team working with tourism operators, travel agencies,
the government, private companies and NGOs. Look for the benefits you can
share, and this way work jointly to promote the country, the region, the city, the
protected area, etc.
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100. Handbook of Ecotourism
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Guidelines summary flowchart
A Considering whether
ecotourism is an
1 Considering the potential conservation gain
2 Checking the preconditions for ecotourism
3 Adopting an integrated approach
B Planning ecotourism
with communities and
4 Finding the best way to involve the community
5 Working together on an agreed strategy
6 Ensuring environmental and cultural integrity
C Developing viable
7 Ensuring market realism and effective promotion
8 Putting forward quality products
D Strengthening benefits
to the community and
9 Managing impacts
10 Providing technical support
11 Obtaining the support of visitors and tour operators
12 Monitoring performance and ensuring continuity
105. ANEXO: Short Description of Various Visitor Management Models (from McArthur & Sebastian, 1998)
Determines the threshold level of activity beyond which will result in the resource base
Has main dimensions are bio-physical, socio-cultural, psychological and managerial.
Is used for planning, site design and development, and administration.
Creates a diversity of experiences by identifying a spectrum of settings, activities and opportunities that a region may
Helps review and reposition the type of visitor experiences most appropriate to a heritage site.
Focuses on reducing or controlling the impacts that threaten the quality of heritage and visitor experience.
Uses explicit statements of management objectives and research and monitoring to determine heritage and social
conditions, then generates a range of management strategies to deal with the impacts.
Focuses on the management of visitor impacts by firstly identifying desirable conditions Change (LAC) for visitor activity
to occur, then how much change is acceptable.
A monitoring program determines whether desirable conditions are within acceptable standards.
A decision making system determines management actions required to achieve the desired conditions.
Is a planning system that integrates visitor needs with resources to produce specific visitor opportunities.
Is designed to resolve conflicts and tensions between visitors, heritage and heritage managers.
Requires heritage manager to identify, provide for, and market to designated visitor groups.
Instead of limiting activity it focuses on achieving optimum performance by addressing the sustainability of the heritage,
viability of the tourism industry, and empowerment of stakeholders.
Covers environmental and experiential elements, as well as characteristics of the tourist market, economic conditions of
the tourism industry and socio-cultural conditions of the local community.
Contains three main parts; context analysis, a monitoring program and management response system.
The Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC)
Visitor Activity Management
Tourism Optimisation Management
Recreation Carrying Capacity (RCC)
The Recreation Opportunity Spectrum
Visitor Impact Management Model