ISSN 1108-8931


Year 5-Issue 56, Jan. 2004


Summary of Results

The following is a summary of results from an online survey conducted November through December 2003. The goal of the study was to identify priorities and issues associated with ecotourism consulting, as well as attempt to get a vision for the future of the industry.

A survey was prepared and distributed electronically via email, in addition to being posted on the website. Respondents consisted of various members of the ecotourism industry who are involved in hiring consultants such as consultants themselves, as well as ecotourism and development NGO's. A total of 27 responses were received, which is a low number, but given that this is the first survey of it's kind and one that uses a unique online method, it is reasonable in our opinion. Future efforts in this area should include a pre-survey telephone call to the study population to increase the response rate. A lack of funding in this case did not allow for it.

1. It is interesting to note that ALL of the issues that were surveyed, were rated by the respondent with the highest percent response categorized as Important and Critical. Other choices were: Not Important, Important but not Critical, and Not Applicable. They are listed here in order of importance:

76% Accessing funds in general
69% Long-term planning
65% Developing awareness of ecotourism and ecotourism issues
62% Public engagement / consensus building support
58% Developing new markets for ecotourism products
54% Local guide training
54% Product development (ecotourism)
50% Lobbying government for protection policy support
50% Legal liabilities

2. Methods by which the following ecotourism consulting services are provided by various organizations surveyed:

Conducted internally (using organization's own staff) with base budget
39% Acquiring grants and other funding
39% Cultural and heritage conservation
39% Tourism research
39% E-marketing and web assistance for tourism
33% Environmental conservation
33% Small business management and marketing

Conducted internally (using organization's own staff) with grant:
35% Community development

Conducted externally (hiring contract consultant) with base budget:
39% Ecotourism product development

3. The following attributes were ranked from most to least significant by respondents who hire consultants:
#1 Considerable experience in the related field (10 + years)
#2 Track record of international field work
#3 Business background
#4 Demonstrated commitment to the field through related degree(s)
#5 Strong networks in government and agencies
#6 Ability to speak several languages
#7 An NGO or agency affiliations
#8 An academic institution affiliation

4. The following are common restrictions that emerge when hiring ecotourism consultants:
- Lack of funding to hire a qualified consultant.
- Lack of available qualified consultants.
- Consultant doesn't include all stakeholders in decision-making.

5. Where organizations search for consultants:
#1 Word of mouth within the industry
#2 From working on previous projects with them
#3 Ecotourism organization membership listings (TIES, ECOCLUB, etc.)
#4 Personally received a CV from the consultant
#5 Other

6. Top methods for measuring project success:
#1 Completion of the project
#2 Local population satisfaction
#3 Self-assessment of achieved goals
#4 Independently measured results
#5 Funding agency satisfaction
#6 Other

7. When asked if there should be more emphasis placed on project follow-up to ensure long-term project success, 93% of respondents responded "yes". In addition, one comment that sums up responses was that "...the local decision makers and citizens must embrace, integrate, manage and sustain the program themselves to truly ensure success." (Anonymous respondent)

8. Current hot spots and trends within ecotourism at present:
- Habitat / environmental protection.
- Community-based ecotourism development.
- Cross-sector cooperation.
- Mass "ecotourism" taking over some sensitive areas with uneducated tourists and true ecotourism therefore declining.
- Expansion of ecotourism into Africa, Asia, Sri Lanka and other regions.
- "The Arabian region is diversifying its economy and sees cultural and ecological tourism as having potential." (Simon Wilson, Adelphi Environmental)
- Ecotourism will increase in demand as baby-boomers will soon retire and are a large target market.
- Water issues (Arabia, Florida and other regions).
- Lack of funding to finance projects.
- Costa Rica continues to be a top ecotourism destination.

9. Areas that could be improved upon within ecotourism consulting:
- "Consultants could be more idealistic & cooperative, more focused on genuine ecotourism" (Anonymous respondent).
- More workshops and education about ecotourism principles for: industry, tourists, host communities, funding agencies, governments, NGO's and consultants.
- Increased communication among aid donors to reduce duplication of projects.
- Aid donors should hold consultants accountable if project is not meeting goals.
- "Not separating huge projects into components and having different parts studied by different consultants/teams as no integrated planning results this way" (Anonymous respondent)
- "Increased long-term involvement in projects". (Anonymous respondent)
- More balance by including financial sustainability in projects.
- "Need consultants who are familiar with the local context and longer term contracts-short-term consultancies are not enough to learn the intricacies and politics of a particular place, and that could be damaging to the project in the long term." (Stephanie Thullen, TIES. This comment is not necessarily the opinion of TIES)
- Increased stakeholder involvement so consultants having a better understanding of local policy in the region where the project is based.
- Protection of not only environment, but also culture and local tradition.

OUR Insight…

There is certainly room for more research in some of the above areas; for instance, the items of Important and Critical nature should perhaps be addressed. As well, the issue of more emphasis being placed on project follow-up to ensure long-term project success could be explored further. Within the ecotourism industry, we must continuously monitor important issues as well as future trends in order to focus funding and consultants' work into the best possible areas.

The survey results are presented above without detailed interpretation so that the readers can, at this stage, draw their own conclusions.

We thank all who participated in this first study and we ask that any organizations interested in having input with future surveys or inquiries, please contact us.


for further details please contact

Laura Ell
Joe Pavelka

Mount Royal College, Calgary, Canada




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