Conceptual Framework of Ecotourism
Ecotourism is defined as a “purposeful travel to natural areas to understand the culture and natural history of the environment, taking care not to alter the integrity of the ecosystem, while producing economic opportunities that make the conservation of natural resources beneficial to local people” (McCormick, 1994). Based on this definition, the conceptual framework was formulated. The operationalization of the framework included an assessment procedure, the ecotourism standards and its corresponding management guidelines. and a communication plan. These tools were guided by the principles presented by Jeffries (1997) on biodiversity and conservation, Kersten (1997) on Community Based Ecotourism and Community Building, Kusler (1991) on Strengthening Resource Conservation through Ecotourism, and McCormick (1994) on how ecotourism can save a rainforest. Furthermore, the experiences gained by Regis et al. (2000) from the Ecotourism project for the two municipalities of Sorsogon reinforced the management guidelines put together based on the Philippine situation.
Characteristics of ecotourism
According to Chesworth (1995), Ecotourism has six characteristics. These are: a) ecotourism involves travel to relatively undisturbed natural areas and/or archeological sites, b) it focuses on learning and the quality of experience, c) it economically benefits the local communities, d) ecotourists seek to view rare species, spectacular landscapes and/or the unusual and exotic, e) ecotourists do not deplete resources but even sustain the environment or help undo damage to the environment, and f) ecotourists appreciate and respect local culture, traditions, etc.
Moreover, Kusler (1991) believes that ecotourism must have a strong “people element”. For example, the travelers should learn about the forest and its people. They should also learn the causes of destruction of the rainforests. The project must also be built through the cooperative action of a variety of key groups because failure to involve even a single group may result in destruction of the resource.
In the development of the ecotourism project for Sorsogon, Regis et al (2000) came up with two attributes of ecotourism: a) Species and ecosystem conservation, and b) livelihood for local communities. For a successful implementation of the project, these two attributes must set a balance to be sustainable. Too much of a) will conserve the resource but will not provide sufficient economic benefits to the local people who will eventually deplete the resource to make a living. Likewise, too much of b) will entice earning profit more than what the ecosystem can sustain, thereby causing degradation of the ecosystem and the demise/disappearance of valuable species that are the attractions for tourists.
One important contribution in the ecotourism framework came from Community-based Ecotourism of Kersten (1997) who defined Community-based Ecotourism as a kind of nature tourism wherein the local community maintains full (or major) control over the management and the profits of the project. Figure 1 shows a schematic diagram of the community-based ecotourism principles. The emphasis of this strategy is community development and participation of the marginalized sector (including indigenous groups) rather than on regional or national development. It also has the following aims:
1. to help preserve ecosystems and natural areas (usually already within protected areas) with a high tourism potential;
2. to cultivate environmental consciousness among the local population by educating them about the dangers of overexploiting resources and unrestricted number of tourists;
3. to promote new economic incentives, e.g. selling of local (environmentally safe) products, crafts, and cultivated medicinal plants thereby create some entrepreneurial skills;
4. to ensure communal ownership and control,...
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Regis, Emelina, Ramona Renegado, Emmanuel Abejero and Melanio Regis
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