INTERNATIONAL ECOTOURISM MONTHLY
Year 6 - Issue 64
The first International Urban Ecotourism Conference, organised by Planeta.com and co-sponsored by ECOCLUB.com, conducted on-line in September-October 2004, concluded successfully with a declaration, drafted and agreed by participants. It is hoped relevant authorities and decision-makers in cities around the world, will be encouraged to plan for urban ecotourism and green cities. Please feel free to disseminate. Full text follows:
& Climate Change in Atlantic Canada: An Industry Perspective
Globally, the Tourism Industry faces very serious issues as a result of "Climate Change". But if one were to ask the average Tourism operator what some of their major concerns were, many would not immediately think of climate change. On the contrary, Ecotourism operators would be more inclined to say that climate change is a major concern for their business, as they are dealing with the first hand impacts daily.
Some impacts Atlantic Canada’s Ecotourism operators have felt in the past 10 years, as a result of Climate Change include:
(a) Long, dry summers & drought, which may limit access to natural areas. In the summers of 2002 & 2003 forest fire index elevations, in some parts of Atlantic Canada, restricted visitations to protected areas, and thus many operators were unable to take visitors to their normal locations.
(b) More extreme weather, such as storms (surges, hurricanes, etc.) which can impact operators’ businesses. For example, in the Winter of 2000, storm surges washed out boardwalks and trails in south eastern Nova Scotia, forcing operators to make changes to their tours during the peak season. In September 2003, Hurricane Juan hit Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, destroying many trees. Point Pleasant Park in Halifax, a popular attraction/green space in the heart of the area’s largest city, became virtually unrecognizable as a result of the hurricane. (Note: The park has since re-opened and is hosting visitors again)
Unpredictable weather creates challenges for operators, making it difficult to plan for the season, as well as product development for the future.
Changes in snow patterns can create challenges for some operators who offer winter experiences. For example, in recent years New Brunswick is experiencing a shift in where snow is plentiful during the winter, as well as a change in the duration of the season in some areas of the province.
Impacts on wildlife such as changes in migration & feeding patterns, means that viewing times may be impacted. For example Whale Watching in the Bay of Fundy is now starting in May and going into late October and early November. Operators are also staring to see some unusual wildlife in the area. In the summer of 2000, the Bay of Fundy had Orca whales (a.k.a. Killer Whales) visit during the summer months (which is unusual for the area, which is traditionally home to Humpback, Fin, Minke, and Northern Right Whales).
The question becomes: how does Industry adapt?
Diversification! Operators need to get creative with their product offerings and how it is delivered. For example, an operator in Nova Scotia recently launched two new winter tours in the National Parks in New Brunswick and Newfoundland (and they already have tours to Bermuda and Iceland).
Operators will need to focus on marketing. For example a whale watching operator in Nova Scotia is going to add photos of whales in the fog to his brochure and website for next year; highlighting how it can be a magical experience to view whales in the fog, as sound (not sight) becomes tremendously important to finding the whales.
Operators must be able to substitute activities when something prevents them from following their scheduled tour. Cultural activities are key to enhance the Ecotourism experience, and are often not subject to weather. In order to prevent cancellations, operators should have contingency plans in place (to ensure the visitor has a quality trip).
Finally, operators should be lobbying tourism associations and all levels of government to advocate for their support the Kyoto Protocol.
Climate change is a major issue for the Tourism Industry in Atlantic Canada (for ALL sectors). Long-term climate changes may have serious impacts on Industry; however diversity is the best way for operators to deal with changes. Operators must practice environmental sustainability and green management principles in their businesses, and encourage responsible travel from their guests.
& Community Based Coastal & Wetland Biodiversity Management in
Wetland resources are crucial to the environment of Bangladesh. Both perennial and seasonal wetlands provide habitats to a large variety of flora and fauna. Wetlands also provide subsistence for a significant proportion of the population through their fishery resources. The fishers of Bangladesh are, traditionally, among the poorest of the rural dwellers. Numerous wetlands plants are harvested for use as medicines, food fodder and building materials. Unfortunately, wetland habitat is under constant threat through human encroachment and by flood control and irrigation schemes.
Because water plays a key role in the country's life cycle, special care must be taken to maintain a sound wetland environment. Unfortunately, most infrastructure development projects have already altered the natural water regime by interrupting water flow. There is now an increasing emphasis from donors and the government of Bangladesh on assessing environment impact of development projects.
The loss of plant and wildlife diversity has not yet been studied and documented in details. Some individual studies have been carried out to identify threatened plant species and it was found that at least 27 Vascular plants are threatened (Rashid, 1991).
The main reasons for the loss are:
In 2002, the Government of Bangladesh, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), initiated the "Coastal and Wetland Biodiversity Management Project" (CWBMP). The overall objective of this project is to establish and demonstrate an innovative system for management of Ecologically Critical Areas (ECAs) in Bangladesh that will have a significant and positive impact on the long-term viability of the country's globally significant biodiversity resources.
The project aims to support the Department of Environment
operationalise the ECA concept at two main sites. The first, Cox's
Bazar (which includes three ECAs: Teknaf Peninsula; St. Martin's
Island; and Sonadia Island), is located within the country's long and
biodiversity-rich coastal zone, and the second, Hakaluki Haor in the
northeast of Bangladesh, is one of the country's largest and most
important inland freshwater wetlands.
The CWBMP project is now seeking to address the issues raised by
the working groups by initiating a process that integrates communities
from the beginning in ECA management planning and implementation. This
process is being referred to as "Community Mobilisation".
Perfect Model for Ecotourism in India: GOR & JAJAMAN
Tourism undoubtedly, is one of the most important economic activity in modern society. The economic impact of Tourism as an industry is second only to the defence industry. The share of tourism in the GDP of Developing countries is close to 40%. However it is important to take a look at who really benefits from tourism. Let us consider the following facts:
It is important to see where do the tourist dollars actually end up? Do they help the habitats on which they are dependant or do they end up only in the pockets of local elites and multinationals. Ideally it should benefit the locals.
It is an accepted fact that leisure tourism upsets the local environmental balance and benefits the multinationals. Since ecotourism is projected as a better alternative to leisure tourism, ideally it should reverse this trend and favor the locals and the local environment.
Against this background let us have a look at a cultural practice that was followed in India related to Religious Tourism or Pilgrimage tourism. Because of urbanization there was a large-scale shift of population from villages to industrial towns. However all these people had left behind their deities or as they say 'family deity' somewhere in the villages. Now it was a practice to visit these places of worship at least once a year. But where do they stay? where to go for food ? there were no hotels or lodges at that time. It was at his point of time that a concept of 'GOR' [ host] and 'YAJAMAN' [visitor] arrangement was developed. A Gor was a family priest or a Brahmin family who had stayed back and who would act as a host to the visitors - The Yajmans. The Yajmans stayed with their Gor like their family members and all their requirements including visit to the temple, arrangement for performing certain religious rite at the temple ect were taken care of by this Gor. Each of these Gor families had a fixed set of family whom they would accommodate and entertain.
Now if you analyze this system it satisfies all the requirements of an ideal Ecotourism arrangement.
However in certain tourist spots like Goa, a similar kind of system has developed where local residents with addition rooms or staying arrangements accommodate visitors. The only difference to the earlier system is that the set of visitors keep changing.
India, which has tremendous potential for tourism in view of its tradition, culture, virgin spots, historical and religious monuments can benefit a lot but adopting this system may be in a modified form to suit the local tourists. The major advantages are as follows:
Minimal environmental impact.
A special drive at least at selected few tourist spots could be undertaken to develop this concept. Of course selection of the Hosts inspecting their facilities to ensure proper service and some basic training in hospitality would go a long way in popularising this concept and revolutionarise tourism in India.
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