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Socio-Economic Development through Eco-Tourism

NeW Bureau

“Let us be good stewards of the Earth we inherited. All of us have to share the Earth’s fragile ecosystems and precious resources, and each of us has a role to play in preserving them. If we are to go on living together on this earth, we must all be responsible for it.” Kofi Annan-7th Secretary-General of the United Nations

In any society of the world, natural places provide number of opportunities that human mind need to use in various aspects of life. Enjoying the sights and sounds in the natural environment increasing mental resting, promotes open communication and learning about natural environment itself. Environments with great natural gift will provides number of opportunities that human mind need to use

Increasing populations, together with the impacts of climate change, are putting pressure on natural resources and the issue of sustainable land use is becoming critically important. Ecotourism is one possible sustainable land use which can also assist with both local socio-economic development and biodiversity conservation. Sustainable development is high potential for any community within economic, social, cultural, ecologic and physical constraints. Tourism can be sustainable if development meets the needs of tourists and local residents while protecting future opportunities. Ecotourism offers benefits for local residents, conservation, development and educational experiences. Ecotourism is ‘environment- friendly’ tourism which promotes to fulfill dual goals of economic development and the conservation of natural environment. It has been regarded as a panacea for solving many of the environmental and economic problems of less developed nations.

In developing countries, ecotourism is used as an excellent tool for promoting sustainable development. Today tourism is not just about sightseeing and entertainment but also an agent of economic development of the country. Tourism as an industry is the largest in terms of revenue generation as well as an employer in the world. It plays a very significant role in accelerating the pace of economic development by generating employment opportunities, enhancing social progress and strengthening communities, encouraging the protection of environment and contributing actively to conservation.

Ecotourism stresses on greater public participation in planning and decision-making concerning resource use. The communities form a critical part of ecotourism for the development and the conservation of natural resources, hence it embraces ‘community- friendly’ tourism and biodiversity in return provides the economic incentives to the local community. It ensures the socio- economic development through human resource development to benefit and empower the local communities. Eco-tourism contributes to conservation of biodiversity; sustains the well-being of local people; involves responsible action on the part of tourist and the tourism industry; promotes small and medium tourism enterprises; requires lowest possible consumption of natural resources; stresses local participation, ownership, and business opportunities, particularly for rural people; and above all includes the learning experiences. As it emphasises on public participation and pays back handsomely it is also known as ‘market friendly’ tourism.

Tourism and hospitality creates diversified employment opportunities in different sectors like services and industries that deliver a travel experience including attractions, accommodation, food and beverage establishments, entertainment, business and other hospitality services provided for individuals or groups of travelling away from home. Tourism is extremely labour intensive and a significant source of employment. It is among the world’s top creators of jobs requiring varying degrees of skills and allows for quick entry into the workforce for youth, women and migrant workers. It creates many employment opportunities in different areas like accommodations, transportation, attractions sites.

Ecotourism helps in community development by providing the alternate source of livelihood to local community which is more sustainable. Its aim is to conserve resources, especially biological diversity, and maintain sustainable use of resources, which bring ecological experience to travellers, conserve the ecological environment and gain economic benefit. Ecotourism has the potential for economic development in general and tourism development in particular. It has the advantage of maximum value- addition, as costs of inputs are low. It also serves as a means to promote sustainable development while at the same time creates an economic justification for the preservation of natural areas and well being of local people.

 

Ecotourism encompasses a spectrum of nature-based activities that foster visitor appreciation and understanding of natural and cultural heritage and are managed to be ecologically, economically and socially sustainable. The general trend in ecotourism is to increase experiences by encouraging activities such as long-distance walking, camping, boating, hunting, sight-seeing, swimming, cultural activities, bicycling, observing wildlife and nature, skiing, visiting historical places, and horse riding among others. Generally, instructive activities, for example, wildlife observation, participation in festivals, cultural activities and nature landscapes, attract most attention. Ecotourism as a component of the green economy is one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism industry, and focuses on environmental conservation, socioeconomic development. However, achieving the aims in ecotourism depends on whether they are environmentally and ecologically sustainable and economically applicable.

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