Ecotourism Year Seeks to Boost Rural Development
28 January There is an old adage among hikers in wilderness areas to
"take only photographs, leave only your footprints," yet there are
growing reports of waste and litter left behind in areas as remote as the
trails up Mt. Everest.
As more people travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations, there are growing
fears that these intrusions can upset the local environment and the local
inhabitants. Yet at the same time, there has been a growing movement in the
tourism business to support the idea of ecotourism that tourism can help
promote natural areas, educate visitors, and benefit the local people and the
This idea has come of age, and to support the movement, the United Nations has
designated 2002 as the International Year of Ecotourism. Although it is still
only a small part of the vast tourism industry, World Tourism Organization
Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli said, at a ceremony at UN Headquarters
marking the launch of the year, that ecotourism is "far from being a
fringe activity." He added, "It should not be regarded as a passing
fad or a gimmick, or even as a secondary market niche, but as one of the trump
cards of this industry of the future-tourism."
This interest in ecotourism continues in spite of recent problems that the
world tourism industry has suffered. Since the attacks in the United States on
11 September, the 7.4 per cent growth that the industry experienced plummeted
to zero. Especially hit hard were the Americas, parts of Europe, and the Arab
and Muslim world-with Egypt suffering a drop in tourism of between 40 and 50
But Frangialli expects tourism to rebound in 2002, and the organization he
heads predicts that in 2010, there will be over one billion international
tourist arrivals, and by 2020, there will be 1.5 billion.
Ecotourism accounts for only 2-4 per cent of the total tourism industry, from
which about 4.4 per cent of the world's gross domestic product flows, and which
employs over 200 million people. The industry generated $476 billion in
"There is a need to get away from the 'bratwurst or peanut butter'
mentality," in order to promote ecotourism, according to United Nations
Environment Programme Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. Although ecotourism
presents a difficult balancing act -considering the needs of the visitors, the
local inhabitants and the ecosystems it can bring benefits to remote and
fragile sites. In particular, he said, the natural attractions can provide the
local inhabitants with an incentive to maintain the ecosystems so that they can
enjoy the economic benefits from the tourism.
Copyright © United
Department of Economic and
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24 August 2006