There are many benefits of ecotourism when it is created and managed by local communities, kept under close regulation and understood that its purpose is solely for the local environment's health and the promotion of a genuine understanding of its structure and needs. The hope is that as more ecotourists gain knowledge of a variety of environments, the cause of environmentalism worldwide will gain further traction.
Common Benefits of Ecotourism
With so many delicate landscapes under threat, it makes sense for those communities to turn to ecotourism, which allows them to bring in tourists under controlled conditions and thus continue to make money but still protect the area. One of the biggest benefits of ecotourism is that, with no negative impact being made upon the environment, the communities are reaping the financial rewards without having to shoulder any burden of stress upon the land. Tourism has been good for many economies, but often at a high price to the environment and those people who are dependent upon it.
Another of the benefits of ecotourism that is harder to measure is the opportunity it provides to educate tourists in a unique, hands-on capacity. People who live in cities and suburbs may be sympathetic to the needs of various rural communities worldwide, but it's a very different thing to look at pictures or film versus actually going to a place and experiencing its effects in person. Not only will they spend the money to get that experience, they will encourage others to do the same and many will even be prompted to get more politically involved. If fragile ecosystems are given more support at the governmental level, they are far more likely to survive and thrive for generations to come.
A Chance to Reduce Poverty
It is easy to criticize ecotourism as little more than an opportunity to encourage a kind of voyeurism among the rich. There are also valid concerns that it can still do a level of harm that should be avoided. However, more studies indicate that the benefits are far outweighing potential, or real, drawbacks. Where ecotourism has a stronghold, development is kept at bay, and development is what can kill an ecosystem and drive local or indigenous people into poverty. In fact, studies are showing that ecotourism is reducing poverty and doing more to protect local environments and even improve their conditions. Because people who travel to such far-reaching places want to see something as pristine as possible, the drive is on to reclaim any land that had started to degrade. The more there is to see, the more ecotourists will come. But with a tight hand kept on the management of the tourists, the impact on the system is still negligible.
One concrete example of the improvement possible was seen in Fiji, where ecotourism encouraged the protection of a fishery. The fish population had collapsed, but when ecotourism created jobs, such as diving guides, and the protected area gave the populations a chance to recover, local incomes doubled over five years. When the local community can be active in determining its best course and is given proper assistance from the government - in this case, policing of the fishing zones to prevent sea poaching by outsiders - everyone can benefit.
Ultimately, good conservation requires a concerted and ongoing effort by everyone from locals to government to international policymakers. It takes small steps like establishing ecotourism as an industry to help everyone see what's necessary and what is possible. Many people become easily discouraged by the excess of development and environmental degradation such as deforestation. Efforts like ecotourism show locals and governments alike that land can be reclaimed and is worth conserving for generations to come.