Ecotourism is an environmentally responsible exploration of natural areas aimed at enjoying and appreciating nature. Nature includes the natural environment or the cultural features of a society. This paper analyzes two companies which include SeaCanoe and Siam Safari. It outlines the characteristics of ecotourism, compares and contrasts the principal characteristics of ecotourism among the two companies and identifies threats posed to the sustainability of ecotourism.
- 1. Characteristics of Ecotourism
One of the primary features of ecotourism is that it focuses on minimizing the behavior that causes an impact on the natural environment. The ecotourism activities should not result in environmental degradation. It also does not interfere with the culture of the locals. It seeks to conserve the natural scenery (Parks, 2006).
Promotion of Positive Environmental Ethics
Ecotourism fosters positive environmental behavior in the participants. It enlightens the visitors and the local community on the favorable environmental activities. It seeks to enhance environmental friendly values. They portray this feature by conducting environmental awareness.
Ecotourism is centered on the surrounding society. It involves visiting the scenic environment around the community or the culture of the people. Ecotourism involves the local members of the society in making decisions about development plans. The community is an important stakeholder in the activities of ecotourism (Singh, 2010).
Provision of Sustainable Benefits to the Local Community
Ecotourism recognizes the importance of the local community. As they are key stakeholders, they share in the benefits of ecotourism. Eco tourism offers the local community vast benefits. An example of the benefits may include business opportunities and employment offers (Badan and Bhatt, 2007).
- 2. Principle Ecotourism Characteristics In Seacanoe And Siam Safari
Ecotourism activities in SeaCanoe aimed at avoiding degradation of the environment. When SeaCanoe realized that too many Kayaks could crowd and impose burdens on the environment, they reduced the number of tourists they handled per day. They also enforced regulations that outlawed smoking, drinking, taking souvenirs and eating among its customers. On the other hand, Sea Safari altered the natural habitat o animals. They changed the habitat of elephants from their natural set up to rear them in camps. The company could not provide enough food and water during the drought. The trend greatly endangered the elephants (Shepherd, 2002).
SeaCanoe fostered positive environmental ethics. A guide staff could paddle off to collect floating garbage for proper disposal. On the other hand, Siam Safari embraced poor environmental ethics. The company introduced elephant treks that removed the animals out of their natural habitats and changed their natural behavior.
SeaCanoe provided sustainable benefits to the local community. Its statement of purpose indicated that it develops sustainable business opportunities to the members of the surrounding community that promote environmental conservation. They provided recreational adventures that specialize in cross-cultural education and natural history. Siam Safari also provided benefits to the local community. They took tourists to the Southern Thai villages to showcase the lifestyle of the locals in exchange for pecuniary gains.
SeaCanoe offered opportunities for the locals to participate decision making. It involved locals its share structure. On the other hand, Siam Safari did not involve the community in her decision-making process. In the elephant treks, it did involve locals or seek their viewpoints on their operations.
- 3. Threats To Ecotourism Sustainability
Expansion of Infrastructure
Ecotourism increased the development of Thailand. The development posed a great threat to ecotourism. The governments build major roads in the islands to replace the dirt tracks and paths. The roads scattered the islands and made touring less exciting (Shepherd, 2002).
Destruction of Natural Habitats
Commercial logging was a common activity in Thailand. The activity destroyed natural habitats for wild animals. Forest coverage reduced from 95 percent to 20 percent. The wild animals such as elephants took to cities such as Bangkok. The movement of the animals out of their natural habitats eroded the natural experience.
As the ecotourism activity in the bay became more attractive, many sea Kayaking companies entered the industry. The companies took a large number of low paying customers. The Kayaks could carry up to double capacity. The large capacity caused traffic jams around the caves and eroded the natural experience. The Kayak operators disregarded conservation policies and scared off wildlife.
New Forms of Tourism
The increased competition and mass tourism resulted to new forms of tourism. Some companies such as Sea Safari began conducting tourist treks. In this form, they took elephants out of their natural settings and carried them around in Jeeps. They fed them with artificial foods that changed their natural behavior. They also stopped involving the community in the ecotourism activities.