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.
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
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
Who Targetted the
Travelling Public in IYE?:
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!
PAM WIGHT &
ASSOCIATES 14715-82 Ave, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T5R 3R7 tel: (780)
483-7578 fax: (780) 483-7627
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
ECOCLUB.com 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,
- Ampahouse, Mae Hong Son,
- Saga Eco Camp, Orissa,
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
* Mr. Douglas
Trent, Ecotour Operator, Environmental Activist, Tourism
Consultant and NGO Director, based in Brazil & USA.
* Mr. Leon Dempers,
Ecotour Consultant and NGO official, based in South Africa.
IN ECUADOR - A LIVE PRESENTATION
The ECOCLUB.com 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.
ECOCLUB.com Library: New on-line Publication
"RUSSIAN PROTECTED AREAS OF
RUSSIA AS PART OF THE WORLD ECOTOURISM SYSTEM"
New ECOCLUB.com Volunteer
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 ECOCLUB.com team
wishes all a Happy & Eco New Year 2003 !
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...