The role of ecotourism in nature needs half vision

Authored by: Helen Kopnina

Routledge Handbook of Ecotourism

Print publication date:  September  2021
Online publication date:  September  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367431921
eBook ISBN: 9781003001768
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781003001768-27

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Abstract

Critics have pointed out that ecotourism is informed by a particular ‘ecotourist gaze’ that embodies a western perspective, which is naïve in its romanticism at its best, or neocolonial and elitist at its worst. Simultaneously, tourism has become a multi-billion-dollar industry, profiting from ‘ecosystem services’ and ‘natural resources’, and other nature spectacles. In this critique, the wealthy ecotourists embark on transcontinental flights to move closer to nature, and profit from local communities, in effect negating the “sustainability” and “ethical responsibility” element of their activity. This chapter will focus on a more positive side of ecotourism concerned with the implementation of the Earth Needs Half (or Half-Earth) vision. This vision aims to safeguard nature to both halt the loss of biodiversity and to provide long-term livelihood perspectives for local communities. In addition to affording robust natural solutions to the ecological exigencies, the Half-Earth vision suggests that conservationists, scientists, and policymakers should work in concert with local populations. Half-Earth proposes to strictly control or bar most corporate ventures, such as mining, logging, industrial agriculture, and also “extractive tourism” from profiteering at the expense of the natural world and local people. This chapter will present two cases of ecotourism, including Mondulkiri, an elephant project in Cambodia, and seal watching in Vlieland in The Netherlands. As an alternative, it is suggested that domestic tourism by members of local communities, including minority groups, offer a unique and distinct opportunity for ecologically and socially benevolent tourism.

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