Environmental Performance of World Ecotourism
McGregor (1998) pointed out the broader issue that ecotourism might cause impact on global crisis such as global warming. He suggested that for world ecotourism, ecotourists should use “… only those operators and suppliers that are making significant effort to practice sustainable ecotourism and green management.”
I looked into the environmental performance of world ecotourism and assessed the extent of the participation of countries all over the world in environmental protection and the measures they use as performance indicators. I looked into some countries that have active ecotourism industry.
In terms of environmental performance, Thailand is leading in the ASEAN Region for having instituted the “Enhancement and Conservation of Environmental Quality Act, NB.e. 2535” (TAT, 1992) which reflects the new paradigm of environmental management. By supporting the environmental and nature-based resources in Thailand, protected areas have been increased, proclaiming new areas and expanding the boundary of existing protected areas, particularly, to protect remaining forests in the country. Not only forest areas but also marine areas have been preserved and today ecotourism attractions are open to the public (TAT, 1992). The Thai government and the private sector are involved in the conservation, interpretation, and pollution control of the ecotourism attractions.
Protected Areas (PA) are the main destinations of ecotourism in Thailand, especially, national parks (NP). According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), there are more than 250 areas, with over 79,700 sqr. kms. proclaimed as Protected Areas in the country.
The Ecotourism Policy of the Kingdom of Thailand was proclaimed in 1958, followed by the National Ecotourism Plan of 2002-2006, developed in 2001. The National Ecotourism Policy provides a main operating framework. The importance of this national framework in Thailand is that it has provided a setting for more specific ecotourism management policies which consist of the following:
- tourism resources and environmental management;
- educational provision and creating environmental awareness;
- local community involvement;
- marketing, promotion, and tour guiding;
- development of infrastructure and tourism services; and
- investment promotions.
Because of all of these government actions, environmental performance on ecotourism of Thailand has been significantly increased and enhanced.
In Kenya, an institutional innovation in ecotourism has emerged which features a new kind of conservation enterprises that contributes to environmental sustainability of ecotourism in Africa. This innovation is called African Wildlife Foundation. It is interesting to note that the social enterprise form of entrepreneurship has been used as being best suited for environmental conservation. The main aim of the Foundation was to develop conservation enterprises for ecotourism such as building eco-lodges, tented camps, and cultural villages within the site (Wijk, et al., 2016).
The Foundation’s contribution to sustainable ecotourism is to supply environment-friendly enterprises managed by social entrepreneurs whose social mission is environmental conservation. This provides an innovative sustainable way in the ecotourism industry.
Wang et al., (2016) remarked that ecological and environmental protection is the core content of ecotourism development. Their study focused on ecotourism environmental protection measures and their effects on protected areas in China.
China, according to Wang et al., (2014) has vast territory and complex topography and climate. Protected Areas in China can be classified into the following:
- nature reserves;
- forest parks;
- national parks;
- wetland parks;
- geological parks; and
- water conservation scenic areas.
Findings of the Wang et al., (2014) study in terms of ecological and environmental quality of protected areas in China showed that soil and water conservation condition are in good condition. In terms of environmental damage, there were negative effects based on the results of their study. Problems of garbage dumping, graffiti and environmental damage, visitors feeding wild animals, and selling of goods made from endangered species were identified.
The quality of ecological environment and the phenomenon of environmental damage were the two performance indicators used to measure the Ecotourism Environmental Protection of the protected areas in China.