Eco-Tourism and Community Development Ecotourism essay

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The lack of resources and personnel, however, has hampered the implementation of many environmental measures. International influence aggravates the problem by undermining the government ability to monitor or enforce these measures (Pat).

Case Study: Ecotourism in India

One of the 12 mega diversity countries in the world is India (Bora 2011). About 8% of the world's biodiversity is found in this country, which is 10th out of 25 in terms of plant species. Its North-Eastern region is 6th among the 25 biodiversity hot spots. Assam, in particular, is among the richest biodiversity zones in the region. Assam also has a number of rainforests, riverine grasslands, bamboo, orchards and numerous wetland ecosystems. Many of these sites are protected by developing national park, wildlife sanctuary and reserve forests. Assam has 5 national parts and 18 wild life sanctuaries. Its forest cover is over 35% of its geographical area. UNESCO declared the Kaziranga National Park or KNP a world heritage site in 1985. It also received the Tiger Reverse forest status in December 2007. It has a central, an eastern and a western sectors consisting of semi-evergreen forested highland, rivulets, marshes, and wide plains. These biodiversity features have made Assam one of the most favored destinations by both local and foreign tourists every year (Bora).

KNP, however, needs to develop a more systematic and scientific approach towards achieving long-term sustainable tourism development goals (Bora 2011). Recurring floods and erosion from rivers bring in pollution to adjacent areas and thus threaten the conservation of biodiversity. Infrastructure of roads, transportation, power and accommodations urges for development and enhancement. Stronger publicity on the goals of ecotourism and sustainable development on a national and international level will be helpful. Banks and other financing institutions should extend more assistance to businesses. For their part, businesses should acquire more training on innovative practices through government agencies. The state government should take more serious steps in developing and promoting tourism development. And stronger cooperation among the state tourism department, the forest department, and the NGOs should be established in order to invigorate tourism. The forest department, in particular, should strictly adhere to the code of conduct of ecotourism (Bora).

Ecotourism in Thailand

The six Greater Mekong Sub-region countries entered into a program agreement of sub-regional economic cooperation in 1992 for the purpose of enhancing economic relations among themselves (Khanal & Babar 2007). Tourism is part of the 10-year strategic framework of the agreement. It is aimed at reducing poverty in the region and in conserving their cultural and natural resources. It established Community-Based Ecotourism or CBET, which is managed by the community. The local community makes the management decisions and profits go directly to it. Thailand has a most successful tourism development program in the region. International tourists who visited Thailand doubled in number from half a million to 10 million between 1990 and 2001. The Amazing Thailand Year accounted most for this achievement. The main objective of the CBET in Thailand is to develop sustainable tourism and quality marketing programs. Its NGOs encourage local residents to perceive ecotourism as a measure to control the development of their communities rather than allow external forces to do so for them. The proclamation of the National Ecotourism Policy in 1998 and the National Ecotourism Action Plan for 2002-2006 in 2001 reinforced this initiative (Khanal & Babar).

Thailand

The country has a well-developed infrastructure, a fertile free-enterprise economy, pro-investment policies and stable exports (CIA 2011). It grew by more than 4% between 2000 and 2007 per year as well as survived the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis. In 2010, the economy expanded by 7.6%. Anti-government protests in 2009 temporarily affected the business climate, including tourism. But tourism quickly recovered and restored consumer confidence. The economy was predicted to continue growing this year and beyond (CIA).

Ecotourism Policy, Sustainable Development and Community Participation

Ecotourism Policy

Its overall goal is to develop a sustainable industry, maintain a healthy natural and social environment and establish self-reliance (Shriphnomya 2011). Related policies are environment, forestry and resource management; sustainable tourism; socio-economic development, community participation and human development. The Eighth National Economic Social Development Plan sets the direction of the country's economic and social development. It serves as an important framework for tourism development as well (Shriphnomya).

Sustainable Development

Among the six General Mekong Sub-region countries, Thailand has swiftly adopted all types of tourism since 1995 (Boonyanate 2007). It has the highest level of acceptability among stakeholders and the community. It had the highest volume of tourist arrivals from 1995 -- 2004 at 65%. Thailand appears to be the only country that has achieved continuous tourism growth in the Sub-region. This achievement is ascribed to Thailand's social, economic and political stability in the past and its developed tourist infrastructure. It is the most progressive in terms of policy and planning and enjoys cooperation among all the stakeholders in the industry (Boonyanate).

Community Participation

Community participation is the key element in ecotourism in Thailand, which receives large consideration among developers (Leksakundilok 2004). It is strongly focused on social development. Many communities are highly self-managing and reliant in offering tourism services. Community ecotourism organizations operate and provide these services through a collective management process. Many of their practices run in similar patterns and involve similar processes. But no one model uniformly applies to all communities. Most of these practices draw from cooperative decision-making and action of stakeholders better able to run tourism businesses. Marketing demands and management conflicts present as the weakest points of local communities (Leksakundilok). The European Tour Operator Associations and the Corporate Social Responsibility and Market Access Partnerships for Thai Sustainable Tourism Supply Chains Project signed an agreement in March last year to support the sustainability of the Thai tourism industry as well as meet the product requirements of European visitors (ITB 2011). It will enable Thailand to lead further lead by adopting the principles of responsible tourism (ITB).

Sentiments of Local Communities

They objected to the establishment of coal, nuclear or gas power plants (Nattayai 2011, Heinrich Boll Stiftung 2011). They also urged for the suspension of the Egat's solar power plant project at Thap Sakae without the full disclosure of the site's development plan. Nuclear power plants are simply not an option to them (Nattayai, Henrich Boll Stiftung).

Sirinart Rajini Mangrove Ecosystem Learning Centre

This is Thailand's first mangrove forest plantation revived from old abandoned shrimp farms (Sirinart Rajini Centre 2011). It is located in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province. It evolved from the plan of the PTT Public Company Limited to restore the forest area and convert it into a learning center of the mangrove ecological system. It is intended for the sustainable use of the forest and the area by locals as a national and regional study center of mangrove forest (Sirinart Rajini Centre). #

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Boonyanate S. 2007, 'Ecotourism for sustainable development in Thailand,' Oklahoma

State University [Online] Available at http://internationalagprograms.okstate.edu

Bora, B 2011, 'Biodiversity conservation and sustainable eco tourism -- case study of Kazhhanga National Park, a World Heritage Site in Assam, India,' Gauhati University

{Online] Available at http://www.culturaldiplomacy.org/culturaldiplomacynews/content/articles/participantpapers/2011/april/biec-roa-nua/biodiversity_conversation_and_sustainable__eco_tourism_-_case_study_of_kaziranga_national_park_a_world_heritage_site_in_assam_india_-_dr._bora.pdf

CIA 2011, 'Thailand,' Central Intelligence Agency [Online] Available at http://cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/th.html

Heinrich Boll Stiftung 2011, 'Thai local communities: nuclear power plant is not an option for Thailand,' The Green Political Foundation [Online] Available at http://www.boell.de/worldwide/asia/asia-thai-local-communities-nuclear-power-is-not-an-option-for-Thailand-11558.htm

ITB 2010, 'Europeans to fund partnership to enhance sustainable tourism in Thailand,'

Tourism Authority of Thailand [Online] Available at http://www.tatnews.org/ITB2010/4769.asp

Khanal, BR and Babar, JT 2007, 'Community-based ecotourism for sustainable tourism development in the Mekong Region,' CUTS Hanoi Resource Center [Online]

Available at http://www.cuts-international.org/HRC/pdf/PB-1-07.pdf

Leksakundilok, A 2004, 'Community participation in ecotourism development in Thailand,' University of Sydney [Online] Available at http://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/bitstream/2123/668/2/adt-NU20050909.15473601front.pdf

Nattayai, N 2011, 'Anti-coal activists fight for ecology, democracy,' Bangkok Post

[Online] Available at http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/25946/anti-coal-activists-fight-for-ecology-democracy

Paige, A 2011, 'Advantages and disadvantages of ecotourism,' Demand Media, Inc.

[Online] Available at http://www.ehow.com/list_6134492_advantages-disadvantages-ecotourism.html

Pat, W 2002, 'Case study: tourism and biodiversity (a case for Belize),' Ministry of Tourism [Online] Available at http://www.unep.org/bpsp/Tourism/CaseStudies (pdf)Belize (Tourism).pdf

Stone.

MJ 2002, 'ecotourism and community development, case studies from Hainan,

China, University of Waterloo [Online] Available at http://etd.waterloo.ca/etd/mjstone2002.pdf

Sirinart Rajini Mangrove Ecosystem Learning Centre 2011, Prachuap Khiri Province

Sriphnomya E, 2011, ' Ecotourism policy in Thailand,' Chapter 28, Asian Productivity

Organization [Online] Available at http://www.apo-tokyo.org/gp/e_publi/gplinkaco/30chapter28.pdf

TIES 2010, 'What is ecotourism?' The International Ecotourism Society [Online]

Available at http://www.ecotourism.org/site/e.orLQKXPCLmF/b.4835303/k.BEB9/What_is_Ecotourism_The_International_Ecotourism_Society.htm[continue]

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