Protected Areas Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach to
           Biodiversity Conservation and Economic Growth in Bul...
Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                                           2

Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                                     3

Ecotourism. A subset of sus...
Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                                    4

government and chance or unp...
Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                                     5

Related Support Sectors. Th...
Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                                                                    ...
Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                                                                    ...
Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                                                                    ...
Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                                                                    ...
Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                                                                    ...
Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                                       11

    •   Goal oriented – ...
Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                                                                    ...
Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                                      13

partnerships and competit...
Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                                            14

maintaining tourism...
Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                                          15

    •   An internatio...
Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                                                  16

have shown, t...
Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                                  17

certification programs or env...
Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                                 18

                       GREEN ...
Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                                   19

Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                           20

      area management system linked ...
Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                             21

Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                            22

Ritchie, J.R.B., 1999. Policy Formu...
Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                                   23

Annex 1. BCEG Benchmark: Sma...
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Brands and Standards for...
Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                               25

The standards will be developed ...
Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach                                 26

       •   The development of ...
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Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach

  1. 1. Protected Areas Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach to Biodiversity Conservation and Economic Growth in Bulgaria1 By Dr. Donald E. Hawkins, The George Washington University, USA Abstract This paper focuses on how small ecotourism and related supply chain businesses in gateway communities can be linked to protected areas by organizing them into competitive clusters focused on their comparative advantages and uniqueness. The paper highlights how Bulgaria might develop its ecotourism potential, by replicating a sustainable tourism stakeholder management model developed in small communities near the Rila and Central Balkan National Parks. This model can be enhanced using collaborative tools based upon lessons learned from the model sites and from ecotourism cases around the world—for example, how the Small Tourism Enterprises Program (STEP) approach might be utilized for: (a) a brands and standards system; (b) coaching and technical assistance; (c) walk-in centers to support product development and marketing; (c) operating guidelines for small hotels; (d)an environmental management program (e) financing assistance and an investment fund; (f) volunteer programs and partnerships; and (g ) regional marketing system based upon an “experience” approach. Finally, ways and means of increasing revenue for protected areas though user fees and concession operations are suggested. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach There has always been strength in numbers. Tourism development is no different. In order to be competitive, all destination players must work together by identifying the elements that make up the destination, beginning with the reasons tourists will travel to the area, the services available to them and the activities that support the tourist services. Figure 1 presents a graphic representation of this concept. The focus is on meeting three concurrent goals which must be addressed using sustainable principles and practices: (1) biodiversity conservation: protecting natural and cultural resources; (2) poverty reduction through SME development, job creation, and social equity measures; and (3) business viability through access to capital, return on investment and profitability. 1 Presented at the Forum on Ecotourism, Mountains and Protected Areas –Partners in Prosperity, Sophia, Bulgaria, October 2-5, 2002, Sponsored by the Ministry for Environment and Water and the Ministry of Economy in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of the Republic of Bulgaria, funded by USAID and administered by ARD.
  2. 2. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 2 PA Ecotourism Framework Preservation, Conservation & Enhancement of Natural & Cultural Resources Hotels/ New B&Bs Infrastructure Products Increase New Markets Market Share Bulgaria’s •Birding • Domestic Protected •Education • Regional Areas/ • Adventure Travel • International Communities •Events • Other niches Transport Teleport Attractions Business Viability & Retreat Poverty Reduction-Jobs, Capital, Return on Facilities SME Development, Investment, Social Equity Profitability Key Terms Biodiversity. The variety of life in all its forms, levels and combinations, including ecosystem diversity, species diversity, and genetic diversity. Conservation. The management of human use of organisms or ecosystems to ensure such use is sustainable. Besides sustainable use, conservation includes protection, maintenance, rehabilitation, restoration, and enhancement of populations and ecosystems. Protected Area. An area dedicated primarily to protection and enjoyment of natural or cultural heritage, to maintenance of biodiversity, and/or to maintenance of life-support services. Sustainable tourism. An umbrella concept which embraces all types of tourism which maintain the environmental, social and economical integrity and well being of natural and cultural resources in perpetuity. Sustainable tourism involves the optimal use of natural, cultural, social and financial resources for sustainable development on an equitable and self-sustaining basis to provide a unique visitor experience and an improved quality of life through partnership among government, the private sector and communities
  3. 3. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 3 Ecotourism. A subset of sustainable tourism, referring to tourism that is carried out in relatively undisturbed natural areas (a concept which covers a wide spectrum, from pristine nature to more or less degraded habitats) and which serves as a tool for conservation and sustainable development of local communities. The IUCN definition is: "Ecotourism is environmentally responsible travel and visitation to relatively undisturbed natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and any accompanying cultural features - both past and present) that promotes conservation, has low negative visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local populations”. The main components and issues that should be considered in any ecotourism activity are, broadly speaking: nature, local community, economics, conservation, culture, and interpretation. The Competitive Cluster Approach The “competitive cluster” concept is a strategic set of activities and services organized as an effective ecotourism supply chain. The core of the “cluster” is the comparative advantage represented by a protected area’s natural attractions and biodiversity. The competitive cluster is used to examine and support a set of strategic relationships between donors, the private sector and government in a specific program of support to ecotourism development linked to improved management of a country’s protected areas. This concept may have merit as a key element of Bulgaria’s national tourism development as well as an essential element of formulating a National Ecotourism Strategy, as a means of promoting biodiversity conservation and local enterprise development in Bulgaria. A tourism assessment was conducted in Bulgaria as part of a Competitiveness Initiative undertaken by J. E. Austin Associates, sponsored by the Bulgarian tourism industry and supported by the U.S. Agency for international Development from June 2000 to April 2001. This initiative: • Explains the basic concept of competitiveness • Introduces an approach to improving competitiveness • Assists business to recognize strategic gaps and opportunities for improved strategies • Assists business to begin to discuss competitiveness together, identifying common interests • Focuses is on what business can do as an industry group or cluster • Provides a first step in an ongoing approach to improve strategies The strategic issues of cost leadership, differentiation, and focus emerged from the initial discussions on areas of common concern and the prospects for collaborative action. Porter’s Diamond Model was used to develop an outline of possible strategies. Porter affirms that the competitive advantage of a firm or a group of firms is determined by four fundamental elements, which when combined form the four points of the “Competitive Diamond”. These elements and their interaction with one another explain how an industry remains innovative and competitive within a localized area. These factors are (1) factor conditions; (2) demand conditions; (3) related support sectors; (4) strategy, structure and rivalry among firms. In addition to the four principal elements,
  4. 4. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 4 government and chance or unplanned factors also play a large role as described in the following figure: Determinants of Competitive Advantage Firm Strategy, Structure and Government Rivalry Factor Conditions Demand Conditions Related Support Chance Sectors Source: Michael E. Porter; The Competitive Advantage of Nations Factor Conditions. Classic economic theory suggests that an area’s basic resources, which include land, human resources and capital, determine competitive advantage. However, this does not explain why any one area would lead the world in a particular industry. Instead, it is specialized factors, which are not inherited but created by each destination, such as educational systems, technological “know-how”, specialized infrastructure, and other capabilities, which respond to the specific needs of an industry. Within tourism, basic elements such as natural, cultural and archeological resources would allow for product development almost anywhere on earth. However, specialized factors such as trained tourism professionals, infrastructure that allow access to natural resources, availability of long-term capital, personal security, and sufficient public services are what allow one destination to surpass others with similar basic resources. Demand Conditions. It would appear as globalization advances that local demand would become insignificant. However, research has shown exactly the opposite. High expectations by local consumers seem to drive firms to a more competitive and innovative position. In the case of tourism, demand can be from either regional/national tourists or foreign tourists that visit the region. In this industry, instead of exporting products, the consumers travel to the attraction. In order to analyze demand, attention should be paid to the volume and growth of demand, source and caliber of markets, as well as tourist behavior and level of sophistication.
  5. 5. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 5 Related Support Sectors. The existence of specialized and efficient support industries helps foster competition with a destination by allowing the “cluster” to have lower costs, superior quality and rapid product turn-over rates. In order for a tourism “cluster” to be competitive it is vital that there be an innovative, dynamic support system. This includes high quality hotel, transportation and food service suppliers and professional personnel not only within the operation of a tourism product but also in its design and engineering. Firm Strategy, Structure and Rivalry. Competition is dependent upon an environment that promotes innovation and efficiency. An effective cluster forces firms to reduce costs, improve quality, and develop new markets. Within tourism, competition should be analyzed both from a local and an international focus. On a local level, firms compete within each area of the industry, such as automobile rental, hotel availability, tour operation, etc. On the international level, rivalry is between destinations that position themselves with similar tourism products. Additional Factors. More important than each individual sector or element of the diamond is the interaction of each linked together. This creates a complex system where imitation is virtually impossible. Government and chance are also factors included within Porter’s diamond. These play a significant role in cluster development. Chance is nothing more than unplanned events that influence product development. These could include technological advances, market changes, political decisions, terrorist attacks, natural or mad-made disasters, among others. Strong firms should incorporate contingency plans for the unexpected. Of course, government regulation and attitude will influence competitive advantage regardless of the industry. At the same time, government may, in turn, be influenced by the factors in the diamond, as well. The competitive cluster approach is now being employed in developing and transitional countries. "A cluster is a geographically proximate group of companies and associated institutions in a particular field, linked by commonalities and complementarities." 2 Industries tend to cluster. It may seem a paradox but global competition can be fostered with local elements of competitive advantage. A cluster allows SME's to compete globally thanks to a better access to information and specialized resources, flexibility and rapid adoption of innovations. The key for competitive success is strategy. "Competitive strategy is about being different. It means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value"3 The competitive cluster is used to examine and support a set of strategic relationships between the private sector, NGOs and government in a specific program of support to ecotourism development linked to improved management of Bulgaria’s protected areas. The following figure describes these relationships: 2 Michael F. Porter. On Competition. page 199 3 Michael E. Porter. What is strategy? Harvard Business Review. Nov-Dec 96.
  6. 6. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 6 Structure of a Competitiveness Cluster Strategic Market Geographic Location Location of Goods and Services Horizontal and Cooperation, competition vertical connections and strong ties between Core Businesses client and provider (producers and service suppliers) Supply Chain Businesses Public (providers of support goods and services) Sector Private Sector Comparative Advantage (location, natural resources, cultural heritage, local communities, education, technology, public infrastructure and services) After Dominican Republic Competitiveness Project: Chemonics/USAID-2001 The “competitive cluster” concept is a strategic set of activities and services organized as an effective ecotourism supply chain. The core of the “protected area ecotourism cluster” is the comparative advantage represented by the protected area’s natural attractions and biodiversity. Example Ecotourism Cluster Core Businesses Artisans and Guides, Events Restaurants Handicraft Lodging & Food Markets Service Supply Chain Support Businesses Logistical Tour Operators Transportation Support and Travel Food Suppliers Construction (DMO/DMC, Agencies Info) Comparative Advantage Natural Resources Cultural Public Local Heritage Protected Infrastructure Communities Areas Location After Dominican Republic Competitiveness Project: Chemonics/USAID -2001
  7. 7. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 7 The identification and pursuit of those ecotourism niches where Bulgaria can be most successful is essential. The market niches described in the following diagram can be reached through marketing strategies using catalytic events, tour operators and destination promotion. Ecotourism Market Segments Sustainability Ed u e Tou catio tur rism n Na rism u To Hea rism Tou lth sm To ent uri Ev Protected Areas sm To e & ?? uri r Sp entu ?? ? ort v Ad Cu ri sm To ltura ou uri l ra lT sm Ru Can Bulgaria offer a quality, Quality sustainable product? After Dominican Republic Competitiveness Project: Chemonics/USAID -2001 In the cluster development process, it is essential to define niche ecotourism market segments through market research and then to provide services resulting in high levels of customer satisfaction. The focus of market research and analysis should be on all phases of the travel experience that are relevant to forming the cluster, as described in the diagram which follows.
  8. 8. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 8 Demand Segments-Customer Experience Planning Planning Selection Selection On-Site On-Site Post-Trip Post-Trip Other Other  Planning  Price/value  General qualities  Frequency of  Income window decision desired returning to a  Marital status  What things model  Specific needs destination  Age planned in – Accommodations  Length of trip advance  Final – Restaurant  Spending per selection – Retail person per day  Role of travel agent criteria – Entertainment  Destination – Transportation types visited  Information  Preferred before – Activities sources package and  Type of method of accommodation  Trip motivations stayed in on last  Travel partner purchasing trip  Number and types of recent vacations Market Research Domestic market research surveys have been conducted by the BCEG Project to gain a better understanding of the ecotourism market and to provide guidance for the pilot communities. The research program addressed the following questions: • What are the predominant practices related to pleasure trips? • What is the role of travel agents in the domestic market? • What is the outlook for ecotourism products in the domestic and international markets? • What is the public awareness of/attitude towards the Kalofer and Govedartzi pilot areas? What is their market potential? • What are the trends in the development and establishment of ecotourism products? The results of these studies and major ecotourism studies of ecotourism in nine major market generating countries by WTO are reported elsewhere in this Forum. The supply and demand elements resulting from these analyses and cluster development activities need to be harmonized as described in the following diagram:
  9. 9. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 9 Market/Product Match Market Realities ? Product Realities Are these working together? Attractive Segments Attractive Products Entry Conditions Ability to Change the Product Competitive Analysis Relative Competitive Position Take advantage of Market the elements that Product Analysis differentiates Evaluation Bulgaria from other destinations After Dominican Republic Competitiveness Project: Chemonics/USAID -2001 Bulgaria Protected Area Ecotourism Cluster Example An example of a competitive cluster market/product match is the cluster developed by the Biodiversity Conservation and Economic Growth project funded by USAID in Bulgaria. This protected area ecotourism cluster links market demand to the product supply chain requirements. The cluster has been created as a key element of Bulgaria’s emerging national ecotourism development strategy, as well as to promote biodiversity conservation and local enterprise development in rural communities near protected areas. The figure below describes this cluster. Further information about this project can be found at
  10. 10. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 10 BULGARIA’S PROTECTED AREAS ECOTOURISM CLUSTER (Demand Segments/Supply Chain Requirements) SUPPORT ORGANIZATIONS SUPPORT SERVICES • Municipalities • Telecommunications • Mountain Rescue • Reservations & Information • Tourist Union • Banks & Currency Exchange • Friends of the Parks • Visitor Center • Tourism Council FOOD SERVICE HOSPITALITY • Signage and Markers • NGOs • Restaurants • Hotels •SMART INFO System • National Park Staff • Catering •Chalets •Donors • Vendors • Bed & Breakfast • Historic Inns • Youth Hostels TRAVEL Demand LOCAL SUPPLY CHAIN ATTRACTIONS Natural History Exploration TRANSPORTATION TRANSPORTATION • Agricultural Produce • National Parks • Cultural Experiences • Airlines INFRASTRUCTURE • Handicrafts • Museums • Train • Airports • Park Souvenirs • Monuments & •Environmental Education • Metro & Bus System • Highways • Wild Berries Historical Sites • Sightseeing & Wildlife Viewing • Car Rental • Bridges • Herbs • Entertainment • Taxi • Railways • Wine/Brandy • Shopping • Sports & Adventure Activities • Charter Bus • Livestock • Outdoor Activities •Rest and Relaxation •Events: OPERATING AGENTS SPECIAL SERVICES •Destination Management Company • Bicycle Rentals • Receptive Tour Operators • Guides • Specialized Tour Operators • Climbing/Ski Equipment • Ticketing Agents/Systems • Horseback Riding TRAINING • Outfitters PUBLIC SERVICES • Management - University Degree Programs • Safety & Security Services (Sofia University, others) • Hospitals & Health Facilities • Vocational - Technical Training • Environmental Protection & •National Mountain Guide Training Center Management Systems • Language Instruction •Waste, Sewage, Water Systems • Licensing Sustainable Tourism Stakeholder Management Model Some destinations now acknowledge that operating in a sustainable manner can minimize costs and protect the surrounding environment, which in many cases, is the basis for the appeal of their destination to tourists. According to Simpson, “recent attitudes to the sustainability of tourism development have tended to move away from an initial approach which classified all forms of activity as sustainable (‘good’ tourism) alongside another style simultaneously condemning unsustainable (‘bad’ tourism)” (Simpson, 2001). Simpson then explains that the importance of sustainable tourism is to set a “global target to which all forms of tourism must necessarily aspire.” According to Simpson, sustainable tourism development should be: • Comprehensive – including social, cultural, environmental, economical and political implications • Iterative and dynamic – readily responding to environmental and political changes • Integrative – functioning within wider approaches to community development • Community oriented – all stakeholder needs addressed through community involvement • Renewable – incorporating principles which take into account the needs of future generations
  11. 11. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 11 • Goal oriented – a portfolio of realistic targets results in equitable distribution of benefits As the principles above indicate, every tourism destination is made up of any number of interested parties that are directly or indirectly affected by tourists visiting their location. Stakeholders range from private sector participants such as hotels, restaurants, transportation companies, and related businesses to public sector including local and regional governments. Stakeholders also include non-governmental organizations, private-public partnership entities and product suppliers, among others. There are those that argue that even the natural environment constitutes a stakeholder. Finally, the stakeholder group most directly affected by tourism development is most often the local community. General management literature has evolved to include an array of stakeholder and participatory theories, including stakeholder theory, organization theory, strategic alliance and network theory, all focused on the basic notion that the “the whole is greater then the sum of its parts.” In 1984, Freeman first presented the notion of stakeholders, explaining that a “stakeholder in an organization is (by definition) any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organization’s objectives” (Freeman, 1984). While Freeman intended stakeholder theory to focus on a firm or company, the underlying premise is very much applicable to tourism destinations. In most cases where tourism occurs, there are groups of stakeholders directly affected. How tourism develops and its subsequent impact on the social and natural environment of a destination is very much determined by the stakeholders that lead the development, implementation or management processes. Although each destination may have a similar group of stakeholders, it is the party that leads or “pushes” tourism development that will determine to what degree the needs of each stakeholder, including the natural environment, are protected. These development “pushers” or “tourism entry points” range from tour operators, resort developers, non- governmental organizations, local/national governments and local communities pushing for tourism development. Additionally, specific situations such as the need to protect a National Park or to manage a coastal area or recover from a catastrophic event such as a natural disaster, war or terrorist attack may serve as a tourism entry point. BCEG Pilot Communities As a result of the pilot projects conducted in the Samokov/Rila National Park and Kerlofer/Grand Balkan National Park areas, “lessons learned” can be derived. The BCEG Project employed extensive technical assistance and strategic planning activities to initiate ecotourism product development and cooperative marketing in 2001 and 2002. NGOs have now been formalized in these areas. Baseline studies are being conducted and a monitoring system is being developed. Complete details are presented in this Forum These lessons learned can be augmented by adapting other sustainable tourism “collaborative tools” linked to protected areas, as described in the following section:
  12. 12. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 12 Collaborative Tool #1: Develop an inclusive stakeholder group. Failure to include all key stakeholders within a destination is the most common cause of discord and ultimately, failure of a tourism destination. In other destinations around the world, tourism has been developed without any attention given to those that will be most directly affected by it. The most effective way, although not always the easiest way, to ensure that all of the needs of each stakeholder are developed in a manner that protects the natural and social environment as well as fosters economic sustainability is to include each stakeholder in the planning process. For destinations to be competitive the stakeholders described below—businesses, government, NGOs, others—need to be organized to form effective competitive clusters. Protected Area Ecotourism Government Government Security/ Security/ Tourist Union Tourist Union Safety Safety Public at Large Public at Large Utilities/ Utilities/ Media Hotels & Hotels & Infrastructure Infrastructure Media Investors Investors Resorts Resorts Guides Guides Transport Transport Employees Employees Concessions Concessions Trails Trails Education Suppliers Suppliers Education (Public & (Public & Stakeholders (food, liquor) (food, liquor) Training) Training) Outfitters Outfitters Rangers Rangers Friends of Friends of Attractions Attractions Cultural Tour Operators Tour Operators Cultural Parks Parks Resources Resources Farms Farms Restaurants Restaurants Churches Churches Customers Customers Small/Medium Small/Medium (Visitors & Local) (Visitors & Local) Enterprises Enterprises NGOs NGOs (Vendors/Crafts) (Vendors/Crafts) (Environment, (Environment, Culture, Nature) Culture, Nature) There are several methods of fostering stakeholder participation. Recently, Conservation International and the George Washington University with support from USAID developed the Tourism Rapid Assessment (TRA) Tool. This took is designed to perform a rapid assessment and analysis of a tourism destination through a participatory planning process. The assessment can be used for policy debates, for developing a conservation strategy, for determining focus areas for development assistance, and for planning and implementing tourism development. This tool is primarily designed to assess nature- based tourism in rural communities in urban communities. This instrument takes into account the importance of large-scale mass tourism, but focuses primarily on smaller- scale, niche market tourism. The TRA is currently being tested in both Ghana and Niger. Further information regarding the TRA can be found at As the world moves towards a global economy and boundaries continue to blur. It is no longer effective to operate with the “each man is an island” mentality. Creating strategic
  13. 13. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 13 partnerships and competitive clusters strengthens a destination and enables it to compete on a greater plain while reducing individual economic liability. Collaborative Tool #2: Provide or foster education and awareness within the community. Indications are that community awareness promotes sustainable practices. Educating the local community, and in some cases, the tourist, is increasing important. By understanding why it is important to protect an area, residents are given the opportunity to make educated decisions about their quality of life and to comprehend the reasons why tourists visit their destination. One of the most common ways of fostering education and community awareness is through benchmarks or best practices. There are many sources of best practices. The World Travel and Tourism Council has developed an on-going series entitled Steps to Success. Steps to Success offers a variety of "real-life" case studies in key areas of management and training. The publication is designed to offer practical information relating to travel and tourism, including customer service training, intercultural training, specialty training, peer training, institutional frameworks, management tools and practices, travel & tourism human resource development. Further information about Steps to Success can be found at An additional tool for best practice identification has been developed by Business Enterprises for Sustainable Travel (BEST). Through a monthly publication, BEST highlights successful business practices utilized by travel and tourism companies that advance their business objectives while enhancing the social and economic well being of destination communities. Examples featured in this series are drawn from BEST's extensive and ever-growing database of the latest sustainable travel and tourism practices. Further information can be found at Collaborative Tool #3: Strengthen legal and regulatory framework. An appropriate legal framework is vital to tourism development. Often the most important legal framework necessary in sustainable tourism development are laws and regulations protecting the social and natural environment and development rights of local residents, including indigenous peoples. Current efforts underway to develop a National Ecotourism Strategy for Bulgaria should focus on relevant legal and regulatory issues as an important element. Collaborative Tool #4: Foster small and medium size business development, entrepreneurship. Large destinations feature large resorts, transportation and other suppliers. However, regardless of the size of the destination, small and medium size businesses (SMEs) play a key role in development. These businesses serve various purposes such as providing an entry point to the economic gains for the local community, help to foster ownership of the destination, provide the tourist with alternative or support services (i.e. diving, horseback riding, traditional cuisine, etc) that are not available directly through the resort. Additionally, SMEs are the key to
  14. 14. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 14 maintaining tourism revenue within the destination, as they are more likely to buy locally and use local infrastructure to develop their product or service. A tool to guide the development of the EEC was developed by George Washington University and Conservation International with the assistance of MSI under the USAID RAISE Consortium. The goal of an ecotourism enterprise incubator is to promote the creation and/or strengthening of strategic new businesses in the area of ecotourism and related industries, as an instrument for the conservation of biodiversity and the creation of jobs, based on the principles of sustainable development. The expected results include: • A network of competitive ecotourism enterprises in strategic pilot areas focused on the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable development. • A pilot model for incubators in ecotourism, potentially replicable in other rural municipalities near protected areas. • A mechanism for assisting in the financing of protected areas • Greater harmony between the financial sector and entrepreneurs in ecotourism, creating possibilities for other interested entrepreneurs. • Sustainability of a nucleus of synergistic enterprises, united by service standards and attention to environmental management improvements and social concerns. The Incubator is described in the following diagram. Further information about the Ecotourism Incubator can be found at In 2001, the Organization of American States (OAS) Inter-Sectoral Unit for Tourism and USAID have engaged in a partnership involving the packaging of a “Caribbean experiences” brand with sites, attractions, events, festivals and related activities of interest to the marketplace. An adaptation of the OAS STEP (Small Tourism Enterprises Project) 4 approach to Bulgaria and other countries linking ecotourism to protect areas might encompass the following elements: • Best practices identification and dissemination. • A coaching system and walk-in centers to support product development; • Occupational standards for small hotels and receptive tour operators; • A comprehensive environmental management program; • An investment fund • Volunteer programs and partnerships; • Needs assessment related to protected areas; and 4 This material is excerpted from STEP Project Update, September 5, 2001, by the Technical Team, Organization of American States (OAS), Inter-Sectoral Unit for Tourism
  15. 15. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 15 • An international marketing system, built upon the “nature experiences” type of brand “World Heritage” linked to small hotel, chalet and Bed & Breakfast types of accommodation. STEP is being used as a key benchmark for the development of SMEs in the BCEG pilot communities during the later half of 2002. Please refer to Annex 1 for further details on how STEP is being developed in the Northern Hemisphere. Collaborative Tool #5: Expand destination management capacity by continually involving the community. In almost all of the other tools mentioned above, ownership is mentioned as a positive result of the stakeholder driven process. While this is essential, it is important to foster ownership not only among the direct stakeholders but also throughout the community in general. Tourists will come in contact with many more people then just the hotel clerk and the bus driver. Therefore it is important that the general public feel a sense of pride in their destination, which will be translated, in a friendly attitude, good customer service and a pleasant experience for both the tourism and the resident. Community involvement and ownership is a result of a planned, well- represented development process which includes providing the destination with as much information as possible as well as having an informed destination manager or destination management organization leading the process. There is no one easy way to develop an educated destination manager or destination management organization. The George Washington University has developed a program entitled Tourism Destination Management and Marketing Certificate Program which offers continuing education courses for professionals in the tourism and hospitality field or those working in areas related to tourism such as economic development, investment promotion, planning, protected area management, historic preservation, cultural resources, performing arts, museums, small business development, sports and recreation, and transportation. GW has joined together with partners’ universities from all over the world to offer the Destination Management program throughout the world. Further information about the Tourism Destination Management and Marketing can be found at Collaborative Tool #6: Establish product diversification and contingency plans. Unfortunately, a great weakness of the tourism industry is its fragility. For example, tourism arrivals to Egypt have been greatly affected by terrorist activity through the last decade, causing a significant loss in revenue. Equally devastating to the industry was the Gulf War in the mid-nineties, which represented the only period of overall tourism decline that decade. Because there is no way to predict those events that will negatively impact tourism development, contingency planning and diversification of the tourism product is necessary to limit this impact. Carefully developed plans that deal not only with the emergency, as it occurs but also how to overcome the crisis and generate new economic alternatives are key to tourism development. It is vital that a destination not completely depend upon tourism as its only means of revenue. As the recent terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington
  16. 16. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 16 have shown, the industry is extremely susceptible to catastrophic events, regardless of where they happen. A tool to assist destinations, as well as small and medium size businesses foster product development and differentiation is the Product Development Workbook developed for ARD, Inc. for use in the gateway communities of the Rila and Central Balkan National Parks. This workbook was designed to provide a step-by-step process from which local participants could strategically develop their own tourism product. It utilized a product development approach designed to add value to the core product which focused on the natural attractions represented by the Rila and Central Balkans National Parks. The approach is described in the flowing diagram: Protected Areas Ecotourism-Product Augmentation Core product Accessibility Physical of the product environment Facilitating Supporting Customer products products Host/Guest participation Interactions Source: Adapted from Gronroos, C. (1987): Developing the Service Offering- A Source of Competitive Advantage, In Suprenant, C. ed., Add Value to Your Service, Chicago: American Marketing Association, p.83. Several tools for contingency planning are currently being developed in the wake of the recent disasters in NY and Washington. The Pacific Asia Travel Association offers a seminar entitled “Managing a Crisis: Are you prepared?” This seminar provides insight into crisis management operations, the needs and demands of the media, action plans for handling crisis and regaining consumer confidence. The program also included recent tourism industry case studies about health, natural disaster and terrorist situations that tested crises plans in action. Information regarding this program can be found at https:// Collaborative Tool #7: Implement an Environmental Management and Certification Program at the Destination Level. Environmental certification programs exist for an array of consumer products. Tourism is no different. Environmental
  17. 17. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 17 certification programs or environmental management systems (EMS) have increased dramatically in the last 10 years. There are two main reasons why a destination or an operating tourism enterprise would wish to involve themselves with a certification or environmental management program. First, consumers may demand a certification of some sort, although at present consumer pressure has been minimal in the tourism industry. Secondly, the implementation of an EMS can save significant resources, including contributing to the “bottom line.” Most the changes made during the implementation of an EMS will pay for themselves in energy, waste removal and sanitary savings. There are many certification programs available to the individual property owner. One example is the Costa Rican Certification in Sustainable Tourism. The Certification in Sustainable Tourism Program (CST) is a product of the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT). CST was designed to differentiate tourism sector businesses based on the degree to which they comply with a sustainable model of natural, cultural and social resource management. CST is regulated by the Costa Rican National Accreditation Commission and consists of a scale of 5 "levels" of sustainable tourism achievement. CST is a program that seeks to categorize and certify each tourism company according to the degree to which its operations comply with a model of sustainability. To this effect, four fundamental aspects are evaluated on physical-biological parameters, infrastructure and services, external clients and socio-economic environment. To measure and fix these different levels, the CST program provides a system of "sustainability levels"", on a scale of 0 to 5, in which each number indicates the relative position of the firm in terms of sustainability. This scheme provides a way to classify the tourist firms in terms of "levels” in a system very similar to the commercial categorization of hotels by means of the well-known stars system. Further information about CST can be found at Another certification program is being developed by Green Globe for destinations. This type of program usually follows the steps outlined in the following diagram:
  18. 18. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 18 GREEN GLOBE Destination Process Stakeholder Commitment & Leadership Training Stakeholder Commitment & Leadership Training SGS SGS Strategic Environmental Assessment Strategic Environmental Assessment Verification Verification (measure current performance) (measure current performance) of of Improvements Improvements Destination Environmental Policy & Objectives Destination Environmental Policy & Objectives Internal Reporting Internal Reporting Implementation Implementation Action Action && & & Planning Planning ProgressAssessment Progress Assessment ResultsMonitoring Results Monitoring Collaborative Tool #8: Develop indicator or monitoring systems. Although the development of a monitoring system might be the least exciting element to tourism development, it is extremely important in the long run. Monitoring a destination allows its stakeholders to adequately access the impact (both positive and negative) tourism is having on the natural, social and economic environments of a destination. A useful guideline for to monitoring development has been developed as part of the Urban Environmental Management Project of the Canadian Universities Consortium at the Asian Institute of Technology under the supervision of Dr. Walter Jamieson. Indicators in Monitoring Tourism in Small Communities is a manual intended for use by those involved in monitoring tourism development in a village or small community. This manual may be used by a community member who has been designated as the person responsible for monitoring tourism change in the community, by a local government official given the same task, by someone from outside of the community who has been brought in to conduct the monitoring or by anyone else charged with this task. This manual has been adapted and used to collect baseline data and to monitor activities initiated under the BCEG Project by the University of Sophia and are reported elsewhere in this Forum. The focus of the manual is on developing indicators to monitor tourism change in a small community. The manual has been written for communities experiencing relatively small tourism development and numbers of tourists visiting. It addresses common impacts affecting small communities as tourism grows and begins to have an effect on community life.
  19. 19. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 19 Conclusion For a protected area ecotourism cluster approach to work, it is essential to establish resource rents, taxation regimes and other financing mechanisms to support improved environmental management and protected area systems The Caribbean Group for Cooperation in Economic Development and the Environment Department of the World Bank in collaboration with The European Union (Tourism and the Environment in the Caribbean, June 2000) called attention to the relationship of improved environmental management to the ability to continue to generate revenues for Caribbean countries. Their report concluded that there is an argument to be made for the existence of resource rents arising from tourism assets, and for taxation schemes to capture these rents. These resource taxes should be considered as fees or user charges for the enjoyment and preservation of the environment—e.g. the fee systems used for the Bonaire Marine Park or in Costa Rican National Parks. The recommended model for taxing tourism resulting from their report follows; these recommendations may be applied to other natural resource dependent destinations in developing countries worldwide: • Eliminate tax holidays for tourism investments; • Design a straightforward and moderate-rate corporate income tax, as well as moderate tariff rates for tourism inputs; tariffs on materials and equipment during the construction phase of tourism projects could be waived (and preferential tariff rates considered for environmentally friendly equipment or investments) • Establish arrivals taxes for cruise ship passengers (but explicitly identify part of these charges as environmental or resource user fees); • • establish a room tax as the primary resource rent tax (this is preferred because the tax is proportional to resource use); room taxes may need to be harmonized with existing value added taxes; • Use a departure tax designed to collect resource rents to supplement room taxes; this tax should be reduced or waived for residents. Identifying some portion of these departure taxes as explicitly environmental charges would help to decrease consumer resistance, and provide earmarked funds for environmental management; • Charge user fees for sites where access is limited; these fees may be 2-tiered, with different rates for residents and visitors. • Develop opportunities for small business investment and operation of concessions at World Heritage Sites, with a percentage of gross revenues returned to the Site for management, infrastructure improvements, interpretation and related management expenses. The approach outlined is this paper could be adapted to conditions in Bulgaria and the South-Eastern European Region as a re-positioning strategy focusing on niche markets from major market generating countries. A well-funded protected
  20. 20. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 20 area management system linked with quality ecotourism products would be right step forward for Bulgarian to celebrate 2002, the Year of Ecotourism!
  21. 21. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 21 Selected Bibliography ARD, Inc. Tourism Competitive Cluster, Biodiversity Conservation and Economic Growth Project. Website: October, 2001. Bosselman, F.P. et al. 1999. Managing Tourism Growth: Issues and Applications. Island Press, Washington, DC. Business Enterprises for Sustainable Travel. Best Practices Website: October, 2001. Caribbean Group for Cooperation in Economic Development and the Environment Department of the World Bank in collaboration with The European Union, Tourism and the Environment in the Caribbean: An Economic Framework Discussion Draft, Report No. 20453-LAC June 2000. Freeman, R.E. 1984. Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach. Pitman, Boston, USA. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador Tourism Growth Case Study, Adapted from the Juneau Tourism Management Planning Process. Prepared by Egret Communications/ARA Consultation, July 2001. and George Washington University. Tourism Destination Management and Marketing Program. Website: October, 2001. George Washington University, International Institute of Tourism Studies. “Travel and Tourism and the Environment: A Study of the Industry” SGS/Green Globe, London, UK 1999. Jamieson, W. Indicators in Monitoring Tourism in Small Communities. Urban Environmental Management Project of the Canadian Universities Consortium, at the Asian Institute of Technology. Lindberg, K., A. Molstad, D. Hawkins, and W. Jamieson. 1999. Sustainable Tourism and Cultural Heritage: A Review of Development Assistance and its Potential to Promote Sustainability. Nordic World Heritage Office, Oslo. Porter, Michael, Competitive Advantage of Nations; On Competition, What is strategy? Harvard Business Review. Nov-Dec 96.
  22. 22. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 22 Ritchie, J.R.B., 1999. Policy Formulation at the Tourism/Environment Interface: Insights and Recommendations from the Banff-Bow Valley Study. Journal of Travel Research, Vol. 38, November 1999. Simpson, Ken. 2001. Strategic Planning and Community Involvement as Contributors to Sustainable Tourism Development. Current Issues in Tourism, Vol. 4, No. 1. Szuchman, Paula “Preserving Paradise” Conde Nast June 2001. USAID Ecotourism Business Incubator. Washington, DC. Website October, 2001. USAID Tourism Rapid Assessment. Washington, DC. Website: October, 2001. World Travel and Tourism Council. “WTTC Year 200 TSA Research Tables: World Analysis”. Website:, March 2001. World Travel and Tourism Council. Steps to Success. Website: October, 2001.
  23. 23. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 23 Annex 1. BCEG Benchmark: Small Tourism Enterprises Project (STEP)5 In 2001, the Organization of American States (OAS) Inter-Sectoral Unit for Tourism and USAID has engaged in a partnership to extend the OAS Small Hotels Project to encompass sites and attractions over the next several years. Consistent with the new partnership with USAID, it has been agreed to change the name of the project to the Caribbean Small Tourism Enterprises Project (STEP). This reflects an orientation that foresees support programs, not only for small hotels but also for small tourism enterprises. A key feature will be the packaging of small hotel experiences with sites, attractions, events, festivals and related activities of interest to the marketplace. To date, the project has focused on technology training for small hotels. The OAS has been able to deliver over 30 specialists to the region, assisting over 300 small hotels with technology needs ranging from computer upgrading to web site development. More recently, they have developed an operations training program involving the deployment of hotel operations and management specialists through the Canadian Executive Services Overseas (CESO). The first deployments were in Belize, Trinidad and St. Lucia.... A key feature of the project involves the development of regional brands and standards for small hotels to facilitate success in the marketplace. The brands have been developed in draft form and reviewed in Europe and North America with selected travel trade and hospitality sector representatives…During 2001, the STEP focused on developing the tools and structures for implementation of: • A brands and standards system; • A coaching system and STEP walk-in centers to support product development; • Occupational standards for small hotels; • A comprehensive environmental management program; • An investment fund for small hotels; • Volunteer programs and partnerships; • Commencing a needs assessment for small tourism enterprises (sites, attractions, community tourism); and • A regional marketing system, built around “Caribbeanexperiences” as the overall brand for the small hotels sector. Specific activities conducted in 2001 are summarized below: 5 This material is excerpted from STEP Project Update, September 5, 2001, by the Technical Team, Organization of American States (OAS), Inter-Sectoral Unit for Tourism
  24. 24. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 24 Brands and Standards for Small Hotels. Under the overall umbrella brand of Caribbean Experiences, the brands are a region-wide approach to marketing small properties. Proposed brands include examples such as Bed and Breakfasts of the Caribbean and Plantation Inns of the Caribbean. These have been developed in draft form and reviewed with international travel trade representatives in Europe and North America. Based on a combination of AAA (US) and AA (UK), the standards include a rating system for hotels. An October, 2000 workshop in St. Lucia attended by tourism industry representatives confirmed the general approach and the “Caribbean Experiences” overall brand…Next steps include the completion of the proposed “nature lodge” brand (this was not able to be developed in the first stage of the brands effort) and presentation of the brands region-wide once the review is completed. The brands form the core of the project. They define what will be presented to the marketplace through the Caribbean Experiences marketing effort and they set a benchmark based on internationally accepted (and understood) standards for product development assistance. STEP Resource Centers. The current technology walk-in center system will be transformed into STEP resource centers for small hotels and small tourism enterprises. These will be enhanced to incorporate resource materials for the small tourism enterprise sector, initial equipment such as a printer, scanner and digital camera, access to the Caribbeaninnkeeper, and project information including brands and standards for small hotels, coaching toolkits, environmental management information and occupational standards. Prototypes will be implemented in selected countries in the spring and early summer to test how the small hotels community receives the resource centers. Following that evaluation, implementation throughout participating countries will proceed. The Coaching System. Project implementation will include coaches to work with small hotels, facilitating management and operations improvements, product repositioning, expansion or upgrading, technology adoption and staff training. The coaches will have a number of resources available with which to work. These include the STEP walk-in centers, an updated Caribbeaninnkeeper web site including a hotel advisory service on- line (the hotel “doctor” on-line concept), the volunteer programs delivered by the OAS for both technology and non-technology assistance (e.g., food and beverage and hotel management) and a Coaching Toolkit. Developed specifically for the small hotels sector, the toolkit will address “how to” information on room upgrading, financing improvements, environmental management, landscaping your property, and other material. Based on the needs expressed by the small hotel community in the 1998 surveys, the intent is not to duplicate existing information but rather to supplement it with “how to” information not typically available in training programs. Occupational Standards for Small Hotels. STEP is negotiating a license for occupational standards for hotels. The selected system will be adapted by STEP to be specifically relevant to small hotels and will form the basis for all human resource training relevant to standards and certification for participating small hotel employees.
  25. 25. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 25 The standards will be developed in collaboration with CHTI and with the support of the CIDA CPEC project. Environmental Management Programs. Environmental management programs will be developed to assist the small hotels sector with achieving cost savings and sustainability benefits through stronger environmental management practices at their properties. Examples include the development of an environmental “walk through” system to alert small hoteliers to areas where they can achieve cost savings, and an environmental certification program for those interested in proceeding to achieving environmental certification. STEP will work in association with Caribbean Action for Sustainable tourism (CAST) on the development and implementation of this program. Investment Fund. STEP intends to assemble an investment fund during 2001 to be available to small hoteliers showing the brands and standards and requiring upgrading in 2002. At this time, it is anticipated that the fund will include both debt and equity instruments and serve as a venture capital fund. CSTEP will also work with USAID to examine how integration with USAID’s proposed environmental revolving fund might take place. Continued Delivery of Volunteer Programs and Expanded Partnerships. The success of the NetCorps and CESO programs has led the OAS to include provision for continued delivery of volunteer programs in support of STEP. In 2002 the project includes provision for additional NetCorps and Canadian Executive Service Overseas (CESO) volunteers. In addition, the OAS will be negotiating arrangements with other volunteer programs including International Executive Service Corps (IESC) and Netherlands Management Cooperation Program (NMCP). The project will rationalize and strengthen partnership programs already in formative stages such as those with Cable and Wireless. The focus will be on programs that offer a competitive advantage to small hotels and/or cost savings. Inventory and Needs Assessment for Small Tourism Enterprises. In 2001, a needs assessment was completed in anticipation of implementation of the new marketing channel for small hotels through Caribbean Experiences. A similar support program will be developed for sites, attractions, and communities and packaging of these experiences with small hotels will be facilitated. Regional Caribbean Experiences Marketing System. Small hotels will be marketed under the overall brand of Caribbeanexperiences. To round out the existing draft brands and standards, a nature lodge’s brand will be developed in 2001. The brands and associated standards become the benchmark for participating properties and the basis for specialty niche marketing anticipated by the project. Within this brand, other specialty experiences such Bed and Breakfasts of the Caribbean; Plantation Inns of the Caribbean will be matched to specialty markets. The marketing effort will include two main strategies:
  26. 26. Protected Area Ecotourism Competitive Cluster Approach 26 • The development of a Caribbean Experiences web portal including reservation systems capability. This portal will feature the brands and participating properties and will include provision for packaging small hotels with experiences offered by other small tourism enterprises. • Direct marketing to specialty markets, matched to the brands. The STEP project intends to establish a regional mechanism at the end of 2001 to serve as the vehicle for project implementation and ongoing sustainability. It will be based in the Caribbean region and will perform three main functions: 1. Delivery of product development and training programs for participating small hotels (and ultimately other small tourism enterprises). 2. Marketing of the brands and standards including management of the Caribbeanexperiences ( web portal and all marketing arrangements related to the small hotels brands. 3. Packaging of the experiences offered by small tourism enterprises with small hotels and including such packages in the marketing programs.