Challenges in the implementation of ecotourism model and practices

By Riya Jain & Priya Chetty on September 22, 2021

The ecotourism model in the tourism industry comprises a number of stakeholders such as small and medium-sized local communities, businesses, and NGOs (non-governmental organisations). These organizations focus on the implementation and development of ecotourism projects and programs in remote destinations (Wood, 2002). Ecotourism is encouraged all over the world as it is believed to bring an end to destructive activities harming the ecology. This tourism is also expected to fund scientific research, benefit local people, and contribute to socio-economic development by raising ecological and cultural awareness. However, the theoretical contribution in the conservation has vast discrepancies in reality (Weaver & Lawton, 2007).

The previous article showed the contribution of ecotourism in the social, psychological, and economic empowerment of local communities. However, increased promotion of tourism even for nature-based activities tends to impose a long-run cost on the economy. Moreover, the lack of a regulatory framework around ecotourism in India limits the efficiency of implementing these projects.

Economic, environmental and sociocultural impacts of the ecotourism model

Ecotourism is regarded as travel to fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas by minimizing the detrimental impact on the environment. The ecotourism model helps in:

  • educating travelers about ecological footprint of their activities,
  • providing funds for conservation,
  • enabling economic development and empowerment of local communities, and
  • fostering respect for human rights and different cultures (GBP, 2020).

However, the ecotourism model has negative impacts too. Ecotourism is sometimes considered detrimental to the cultural heritage, pollution and the exploitation of wildlife.

Impacts typesPositive impactNegative impact
EnvironmentalThe maximum incentive for natural areas conservation.
Conservation with development.
Educate locals and tourists about environmental ethics.
Indirect vegetation damage.
Disturbance to wildlifePollution in form of air, waste, and noise.
Commercialization of natural resources.
New species invasion.
EconomicForeign exchange means.
Proper income distribution in local communities.
Infrastructure building in a sustainable manner.
Local economy promotion.
Creation of job opportunities.
Income leakage.
Unhealthy economic competition. increases.
The economic gap rises among locals.
Socio-CulturalConservation and promotion of local culture, arts, tradition, music, and other heritages.
Awareness about cultural relevance.
Cultural exchangeDiversification of activities.
Cultural degradation from foreign invasion.
Social problems arise.
Undesirable behaviour of visitors.
Undesired commercialization of religious and cultural assets.
Table 1: Ecotourism contribution in the environmental, economic, and socio-cultural manner (Choudhary, 2019)

Challenges of the ecotourism model

Day by day importance of ecotourism is increasing. This is not only due to the increasing awareness about sustainability but also because it addresses social, cultural, and economic issues. Local and indigenous communities also work on supporting ecotourism but the efforts supporting them is inadequate. However, WTO, UNEP and other agencies consider various challenges (Yogi, 2010).

Challenges of the ecotourism model
Figure 1: Challenges of the ecotourism model

Complex model

Ecotourism is a complex model wherein not just the environment but economic, and social imperatives are also addressed. Thus, interconnected principles and theories require rigorous analysis, deeper investigation, and more careful planning. This complicates the procedure of managing ecotourism (Choudhary, 2019).

Prone to misuse

The term ecotourism can be loosely used to define all types of tourism. This mechanism leads to the degradation of the core values of the ecotourism model. Hence, various initiatives fail to fulfil their purpose (Honey, 2009).

Lack of certification

Although ecotourism is one of the significant issues today, there is no clear standard set of governing guidelines. There is also no accreditation mechanism for regulating and ranking its operations. Thus, there is a major challenge of certification which includes complexity and difficulty in applying broad standards at the local level (Lindsay, 2003).

Capacity building

Capacity building in local communities is mainly run by different NGOs’. These organizations work on short term projects and are mainly fund dependent. Thus, the long-term benefits for communities are not assured, decreasing the positive impact in form of socio-cultural empowerment (Yogi, 2010).

Leadership and strategy formulation

To accomplish the main goal of the ecotourism model, concrete leadership and strategy is required. It helps facilitate communication, access to development resources, support and participation, and maintain capabilities. However, the availability of active participation and involvement of local people, tourism organizations, and state bodies is often cumbersome and time-consuming (Baromey, 2008).

Implementation deficit

The implementation process needs consideration of various issues like eco-marketing, eco-business, proper waste management, sustainable energy system, empowerment, political instability, controlling social problems, and even management of conflict. This hampers the implementation process (Choudhary, 2019).

Obstacles in the path of successful implementation of the ecotourism model

In order to minimize the negative influence of ecotourism and to maximise the conservation and sustainable development possibilities, acknowledgement of obstacles is essential. Obstacles in the successful implementation of ecotourism activities are as follows.

Obstacles or barriers in the implementation of the ecotourism model
Figure 2: Obstacles or barriers in the implementation of the ecotourism model
  • Lack of capacity and skills constraints: Ecotourism could create jobs for the local communities. However community members are often struck with low pay jobs and low skills due to lack of bargaining power (Das & Chatterjee, 2015a, 2015b). High skill jobs are given to foreigners. Women are particularly at risk of denied tourism employment due to skill constraints (Kim et al., 2014).   
  • Lack of motivation and knowledge of professionals: Often the organizations and professionals managing ecotourism projects are dedicated to their cause. However, due to lack of business knowledge their efficiency suffers (Wittmer et al., 2015).
  • Lack of motivation from communities: True participation is when communities are given the right to decline their involvement in ecotourism. However, though local communities consider participation, they are demotivated with regard to their involvement (Kim et al., 2014). Furthermore, there is a lack of motivation to coordinate, share responsibilities, and resistance to work which tends to decrease community’s motivation.
  • Benefit leakage: Misuse of benefits from the ecotourism destination serve as barrier to success. Inequitable distribution of benefits within community and between stakeholders tends to raise the negative impact of ecotourism (Das & Chatterjee, 2015a, 2015b).
  • Faults in job creation: The ecotourism sector is seasonal in nature. This creates risks associated with political instability, currency fluctuation, and vulnerable risks and shocks. These aspects lead to increase in migration among people and increasing unemployment rates (Jalani, 2012; Novelli & Gebhardt, 2007).
  • Lack of financial capital: Ecotourism projects have huge potential for being profitable. However, benefits can only be derived though adequate financial support. Local communities often suffer from absence of financial support and low income. This tend to make them dependent on foreign ecotourism investors or make do with little resources (Loon & Polakow, 2001).

Ecotourism is a way towards sustainable future

The UN’s 2030 vision for a more sustainable world through 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has shifted focus towards the promotion of activities supporting sustainable working. The tourism sector is an important component of economic development. It helps in the generation of employment opportunities and increased revenues. Ecotourism is a good way to address the negative impacts of tourism. It contributes positively to economic, socio-cultural, and environmental elements. However, the negative impacts and obstacles like lack of skills and financial resources tend to reduce the efficiency of ecotourism. Thus, local communities and legal authorities should work on the implementation of effective strategies.

  1. Governments should abolish norms that restrict entry of tourists for supporting ecotourists to plan their trip conveniently and enthusiastically.
  2. Regulatory framework should be designed for controlling, managing, and funding ecotourism projects.
  3. Government, NGOs and local communities should keep strict check across all regions for preventing any illegal activities.
  4. Problem of insurgency should be tackled meticulously with minimum harm to locals.
  5. Preventing the natural biodiversity and landscape damage, eco-tourism practices should be practices.
  6. Local community must be educated and trained as per the needs of the tourists.
  7. Proper check should be enforced on the pollution level due to tourism practices.


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