ISSN 1108-8931

International Ecotourism Monthly

Year 4, Issue 43, Dec. 2002

As a fitting close to the International Year of Ecotourism, we invited Ms Pam Wight, Rapporteur to the World Ecotourism Summit, and renown Tourism Consultant, to write the ECOCLUB December Editorial and provide an evaluation of the Year for Ecotourism.


by Pam Wight

Well, this has been quite a year for Ecotourism! In 1999, the year 2002 was declared the International Year of Ecotourism (IYE) by the United Nations in recognition of ecotourism's potential as a development tool which could advance the goals of its Convention on Biological Diversity. The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Tourism Organization (WTO) were charged with jointly working towards a global summit in ecotourism. As a result, as series of Global Preparatory Conferences were held beginning in 2001, culminating in the World Ecotourism Summit (WES) in Québec, Canada, in May, 2002.

IYE 2002 has seen ground-level and government-level initiatives, conferences and workshops, partnerships and promotions, media attention and public awareness building, and the drafting of resolutions, charters, and statements of intent - all related to ecotourism in some way or another. All of these efforts and initiatives have huge potential - potential to improve the lot of places and peoples, or potential to be mere words, hopes, or exhortation. What counts is the transferring of good intentions to projects, of principles to practice, and of words to actions.

How did IYE 2002 fare?: 
In some ways, IYE began the year slightly battered by an undercurrent of criticism, both general and specific. A culmination of this criticism seemed to revolve around the Summit, held in Québec, Canada, in May. To my mind, one of the greatest problems was the lack of easily available information about what was happening during the year - I had an ongoing informal stream of queries about IYE beginning in early 2001 which I could not answer. Such global forums as and helped to promptly circulate information that was more accessible to the interested stakeholders and public, than the official websites.

However, some of the criticisms revolved around more fundamental questions such as "Do we need IYE?", as well as suggestions that IYE and the Summit would involve the promotion and expansion of ecotourism into inappropriate destinations, that IYE would be "greenwash" causing destruction of biodiversity and harm to local communities, and that certain global NGOs were ignoring local people's concerns . It is interesting that many of these critics make sweeping claims about the negative impacts of ecotourism, without providing specifics or correlative evidence. Critics do not present the reality that negative impacts may often come from operations purporting to be ecotourism, rather than those that do adhere to the principles and practices of ecotourism. Indeed, some criticisms are less about ecotourism and more on fundamental problems that plague humankind and challenge us all. Some observations from almost 10 years ago seem equally valid today: Rather than… develop a straw man in "alternative tourism" (or other similar terms) only to knock it down, we should apply ourselves to Jones' (1992) challenge: "Rather than 'is there a "real" alternative tourism?' perhaps the question we should be asking ourselves is 'how can we develop alternative approaches across the whole spectrum of tourism in order to achieve a more real and sustainable industry?" In contrast with the unconstructive critics, The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) welcomed the UN declaration of IYE 2002 as an opportunity to critically assess the status of ecotourism, while urging as open and participatory a process as possible, including the voices of the poor, indigenous, and local communities . This is the type of constructive comment and input that is welcome. In fact, TIES went so far as to propose that rather than provide its own "voice" at the Summit, its place would be given over to the presentation of the issues, views, and solutions of a diversity of stakeholders. TIES achieved this through facilitating a series of regional meetings in parallel with the preparatory conferences held by the WTO, and enabling elected representatives from these meetings to present the outputs of the conferences at WES.

Musings on the Nature of Criticism: 
There is insufficient space, here, to delve into all of the criticisms of IYE, although some have been thought-provoking and valid. However, I have a number of reservations about the intent of certain vocal critics. Previously, I have made comparisons between babies building block towers, and the ability to develop constructive criticism. When babies repeatedly knock down the blocks, early childhood education specialists call this "unbuilding" - infants need to know how things come apart before they can learn to put them together, or to construct. Eventually, babies do grow up and build something. One could wish for the same from many critics who don't make any constructive contributions, or suggest constructive actions - particularly for themselves! The challenge for us all is to come up with approaches or solutions which may resolve some of the problems or barriers that have been identified.

Who Targetted the Travelling Public in IYE?: 
Another of my concerns about IYE was that the travelling public was insufficiently targeted. Events and publications were largely focused on a range of agencies, industry, destinations, and other ecotourism stakeholders. A notable exception was TIES, which generated packages for the media, including information on their consumer education campaign "Your Travel Choice Makes a Difference". This campaign included a consumer guide, a special section on their website, and a series of advertorials in Natural History Magazine. Consumer education focuses on making responsible travel choices, and how to investigate alternatives, and stresses that travellers can make positive choices if they understand the implications of their choice. The best efforts in ecotourism to adhere to sustainability principles may be for naught if the travelling public does not make more responsible travel choices. This is not to advocate that travellers change to selecting ecotourism trips, but rather, to ensure that they are aware of the benefits or problems in various types of travel experience, and to encourage more sustainable travel choices.

The World Ecotourism Summit: Much of the debate about WES revolved around who should be involved in its planning and execution, and thereafter, how the outputs should be authored and determined. As a rapporteur at WES, I can say that whether or not one wished for changes to the overall process, those working at the Summit and trying to reflect the very varied inputs through a series of Session Reports and the Québec Declaration, did so with the highest degree of professionalism, effort, and respect for participants. The first draft of the Québec Declaration reflected the outputs of the 18 Preparatory Global Conferences, and this was presented to participants at the outset of WES. Thereafter, comments (both written and oral) were received and incorporated on a daily basis, and redrafts were presented to the participants for further improvements, resulting in a completely restructured document, intended to provide integrated and constructive recommendations.

Besides the written outputs, those I spoke to at the Summit really appreciated the event, not only for what was exchanged and achieved on the conference floor, but the opportunities for meeting a huge range of players in ecotourism, and exchanging meaningful ideas and contacts. In addition, a number of bodies used the Summit as an opportunity for public debate in order to advance the thinking on particular ecotourism topics. Examples included the Arctic Tourism Workshop hosted by the Nunavik Tourism Association and Tourisme Québec, the presentation and discussion on Sustainable Tourism Accreditation hosted by the Rainforest Alliance, and the series of educational workshops and events hosted by TIES.

Other IYE Activities: Many organisations also made a conscious effort to contribute to IYE by producing numerous informative and practical documents related to ecotourism. These include the WTO, UNEP, TIES, the World Conservation Union, and various non-governmental organisations. The challenge, in my view, is to make these documents globally accessible, particularly to destinations which can ill-afford high purchase fees.

Of course, IYE did not finish with WES. There were numerous events throughout the year. One of note was the Ecotourism Association of Australia International Ecotourism Conference in October. One output of this event was the Cairns Charter on Partnerships for Ecotourism, which was open for global input through to December. It was based on principles of the Québec Declaration and objectives of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, and focuses on the development of effective partnerships for ecotourism, as well as outlining a post-IYE Partnerships Action Plan.

What Next? Principles to Practice: It is the focus on action which I believe everyone hopes IYE 2002 will have triggered. We, in the ecotourism community, need to do something in destinations, in our plans and policies, and in our operations and marketing, to ground some of the principles of ecotourism in everyday practice. We also need to take responsibility for doing our part in consumer education about responsible travel. We also need to work towards a greater transference of ecotourism principles and practice to more mainstream tourism. In essence, we need to act as a global force to trigger more sustainable practices in tourism overall (which in some places, may mean no tourism!). I think that IYE has stimulated us all to think more about how we can achieve this, and provided us with tools and recommended directions.

Come on, everyone! Have you examined what you do and how you do it? Are your policies / plans / developments / operations / marketing / protection / practices perfect? Couldn't something be changed to improve them in the direction of greater sustainability? Will you do so? I know that I have had cause to re-examine my own activities. Now that we've had a tremendous year of global awareness-raising, education, sincere deliberation, and proposed new initiatives, let's commit to doing something different next year. Let's think a little harder about what we are doing; how and when and where we are doing it; and with whom. Whatever you do, your stand presents your integrity, power, and contribution. Never underestimate the tremendous cumulative power of one person's contribution - you!

Pamela Wight

PAM WIGHT & ASSOCIATES 14715-82 Ave, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T5R 3R7 tel: (780) 483-7578 fax: (780) 483-7627 

Give your views on the International Year of Ecotourism - Click here!


ECOCLUB proudly announces that it has been appointed the "Official Internet Promoter" for the Ecotourism Advisory Service of the Wildlife & Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA). WESSA is South Africa's oldest environmental NGO and a founder member of the International Conservation Union (IUCN). In turn, Mr. Leon Dempers, head of the Wildlife Travel Service of WESSA has been accepted at as an Expert Member, and will be happy to offer his insight on Southern Africa at:

New Ecolodge Members

This month, we warmly welcome three genuine Ecolodges into the club: (in the order of joining)

- Bathurst Inlet Lodge, Nunavut, Canada
The Kingaunmiut Community guide you to the Arctic.

- Ampahouse, Mae Hong Son, Thailand
Entry Point to the Hill Tribes and the Golden Triangle

- Saga Eco Camp, Orissa, India
Go eco camping on India's largest lake, a protected area.

New Expert Members join our Experts Team

We welcome the following Experts to our Expert Member team:

* Ms. Lydia McConnell - Lekakou, Wine Tour Expert and Author, based in Greece & USA
Contact at:

* Mr. Douglas Trent, Ecotour Operator, Environmental Activist, Tourism Consultant and NGO Director, based in Brazil & USA.
Contact at:

* Mr. Leon Dempers, Ecotour Consultant and NGO official, based in South Africa.
Contact at:

took place on Thursday the 12 th of December at the Live Chat Centre. Our distinguished Speaker was Ron Mader of, live from Oaxaca, Mexico. Ron was just back from Ecuador and the Pacific Ecotourism Conference (PECC) where he gave a presentation on "Using the Web to facilitate Ecotourism" and a workshop in Quito, Ecuador. Other Ecuador Ecotourism Experts including our Ecolodge Members Black Sheep Inn, also participate and a lively and informative debate followed.

The Live Chat Centre is at the disposal of all members to organise similar presentations and debates. A regular weekly chat takes place every Thursday, at 15:00 GMT, and the undersigned will be there to hear your views and take your questions. Library: New on-line Publication


by Larisa Basanets, Post Graduate Researcher, Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow,
and Volunteer Associate.

Read at

New Volunteer Associate
During the past month we have accepted one more Volunteer Associate, Ms Ana Victoria Wo Ching, who has already and kindly offered her time for the club. 
We welcome more volunteers in the fields of web design, news reporting, translations and promotion - for details email:


"...In developing countries, conservation cash often comes as subsidies for ecotourism, green agriculture, education or irrigation. This is "conservation by distraction". Instead, conservation money should be used to buy biodiversity, through leasing land, for example. "The cheapest way to get what you want is to pay for what you want, rather than pay for something indirectly related to it...''. 
thus wrote: Ferraro, P. J. & Kiss, A. Direct Payments to Conserve Biodiversity. Science, 298, 1718 - 1719, (2002) - N.B. Paul Ferraro of Georgia State University, Atlanta, and Agnes Kiss of the World Bank.

Our comment: How "clear" is the mind of some economists... They just assume something, and then it happens. Ecotourism is a..."distraction" ? They will just pay for biodiversity and ignore the people, the farmers, the students? Will that be the new policy of the World Bank? Just a little thought: have they thought from whom they will buy this biodiversity from? And then I suppose they will start trading "biodiversity", like they do with carbon credits (aka "hot air"), what a delightful opportunity for more papers, econometric models, personal fame and fortune...

The team wishes all a Happy & Eco New Year 2003 !
- Antonis Petropoulos, ECOCLUB S.A.

*Cum Grano Salis: latin for "with a grain of salt", phrase appears in Gaius Plinius Secundus's "Historia Naturalis". Plinius suggested we take everything with a grain of salt...

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