1. Ecotourism

2. What is ecotourism

The term Ecotourism is comparatively new, although the concept is much older. There are a number of definitions of the term, but perhaps the most comprehensive is that created by the American-based Ecotourism Society, which describes it as; "purposeful travel to natural areas; to understand the cultural and natural history of the environment; taking care not to alter the integrity of the ecosystem, while producing economic opportunities that make conservation of natural resources beneficial to local people". This definition fits neatly into the South African context, catering for the need for conservation of both the cultural and the natural environment, and for sustainable economic development - particularly for the benefit of "local people". The South African definition, as formulated by Dr G.A Robinson when he was CEO of SANParks in the 1990s, is very similar and essentially reflects the same values with a somewhat different emphasis:

(1) "the protection of living and non-living natural resources,

(2) the promotion of appropriate and environmentally sensitive development, and

(3) the contribution to the goals of achieving social justice and enhancing the quality of life and stability - especially for the communities in the immediate vicinity of protected area".

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3. What is ecotourism

The international definition of the word Ecotourism implies far more than merely a nature-experience. The term environment in its broader context has come to include the diverse community activities and cultures of a country's peoples, as well as all the natural resources (including biodiversity). Ecotourism, therefore, implies tourism practices that benefit all concerned parties (all people and the entire environment) - rather than benefiting some and neglecting others. The South Africa definition puts more emphasis on people as the key role players. To ensure that Ecotourist activities meet all the requirements in the definition there are a number of prerequisites that must be met to ensure that Ecotourism is sustainable. SOME of the most important are listed below:

? Proper planning before development

? Sustainable use of resources. This means that there must be no negative impact on either the environment and/or local communities (people)

? Economic viability of all tourism products must be ensured, with significant economic benefits flowing to local communities

? The developers must be held responsible and accountable for the environment on which their business is dependent

? The tourism industry and tourists must be properly regulated.

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4. The Key Role Players

Ecotourism involves a large cross section of professionals. It is in fact a joint operation of caring and creative people who combine their experience on many different levels. Each role player has an important function in the development, operation and marketing of Eco-tourism, and of Ecotourism destinations.

The KEY role players in any Ecotourism activity are:

? The authority (such as the State, a local authority, and/or an owner [if the land is privately owned] from whom permission to operate must be obtained)

? The tour operator (a registered company and/or individual who brings in the Ecotourists)

? The local community (the people who live adjacent to and/or in the area of operation)

? The tourists (the individuals who use the facilities and who are the clients of the operator, and/or those who use the facilities themselves).

It is important that all these role players adhere to a strict set of guidelines or values to ensure that all the criteria are met.

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5. New Aspects of Ecotourism Relevant to South Africa

Today Ecotourism in South Africa has also come to include 'tourist participation' in all aspects of the operation. This means that the Ecotourist should not only experience all the natural aspects of Ecotourism, but they should also be exposed to (and involved - where feasible) with aspects of local community life. Thus the Ecotourist should have an integrated and holistic experience, a truly South African episode.

Important experiential aspects include such things as:

? Ethos-bonding. This implies that the Ecotourist wants to do more than just travel and participate in activities such as hiking, snorkelling and/or viewing wildlife, etc. - in fact the entire spectrum of outdoor activities that is part of "the African Experience". The Ecotourist also wants to get "involved"' or "participate" in local community matters and/or interact with "locals" in some way. They want to gain insights into the needs and daily life activities of local people, and to better understand their cultural values.

? Exposed to the New Democracy. A complete change has occurred in South Africa with regards to a new and emerging democracy post-1994. To be exposed to this new stage and process of development in South Africa's history is of interest and enlightening to many Ecotourists. They are particularly interested in aspects of the "peace and reconciliation" process, and how family values and personal freedoms have changed.

? Natural and Cultural Diversity. South Africa has been marketed as "A World in one Country". It not only has a rich diversity of wildlife and scenic splendour, but also an unusual mix of different cultural and ethnic groups, each with their own language, food, religion and customs. This excites foreigners, as the conservation of cultural diversity is now a recognised global issue.

Surveys of South Africa's most popular features reveal that these are:

? scenic beauty which is consistently voted South Africa's most popular attraction

? followed by its year-round sunny climates

? rich heritage of wildlife, and

? fascinating cultures.

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6. Why Does South Africa Need Ecotourism?


6.1 Upliftment

The range of outdoor activities and scenic beauty is only a part of the picture. Given the realities of rural poverty and under-development in South Africa, Ecotourism activities can contribute to the upliftment of rural communities.

South Africa's biggest current challenge is the battle against poverty. There are two pre-conditions required before poverty can be adequately addressed:

? There must be political stability

? There must be economic growth and development

Political stability and economic upliftment are mutually dependent.

Rural Poverty

Some of the poorest people in South Africa live in densely populated rural areas, often adjacent to highly valued natural areas. Much of this land is marginal for farming and ecologically fragile. An estimated 16+ million people live in such rural areas; four-fifths of them live under the "Household Effective Threshold' - the minimum on which a family of five can subsist. Of these 13 million people suffer deprivation to some degree or other, and some nine million are landless.

Rural poverty in South Africa cannot be turned around by agricultural development because:

? There is not enough suitable agricultural land to do so, and

? Many individuals in rural areas prefer not to be involved in agriculture as a means of livelihood

Ecotourism presents one of the only viable opportunities to generate a livelihood for these people and, significantly, in a less destructive and more productive manner.

Job Creation

Total tourist arrivals in South Africa for 2001 were 5.78 million. In 2002 the total amount of foreign tourists to South Africa increased by 11.3%, and there was a further increase in 2003. Thus the tourism sector is a key South African industry that is growing, and has the potential to grow much more. For every eight tourists in South Africa one job is created. In South Africa there are an estimated 740 000 people (South Africa yearbook 2000/2001) employed in the tourist industry, about 4.5% of the work force. Crime levels (often caused by unemployment) can directly affect all tourism and, therefore, can have a major negative affect on our whole tourism industry. Other problems also affect tourism, so it is vitally important for the State to address any issues that negatively affect the whole industry.

Around the world tourism provides one in every 14 jobs, injecting nearly US$ 4,494 billion in foreign exchange into the international economy every year. Nearly 500 million people around the world go on holiday every year - and every person buys consumer items for the trip before leaving home. They then travel to their destination and use accommodation; they eat, drink and enjoy entertainment, and buy gifts for those at home as well as for themselves.

7. What are our key tourism resources?


Our natural resources are soil, water (marine and fresh), air and all living things (including our ethnic/cultural mix of people), that is our total South African environment and all that is embodied in it. As humans we are involved in the management of all these resources through cropping, ranching, forestry, fisheries, water quality management and supply, soil conservation, wildlife management, air quality control (pollution), economic activities, and a host of human pursuits, etc. What is vital for our future is that we look after these resources, and this is called conservation (= the wise use of resources, or the sustainable use of resources).

The three main objectives for the conservation of living resources are:

? To maintain essential ecological processes such as recycling of nutrients and purification of water (= the maintenance of life support systems) for human development and survival (a group of living things and the physical environment in which they live together is known as an ecosystem)

? To preserve genetic diversity. Apart from the protection of endangered and vulnerable species, this forms the basis of breeding programmes for the protection and improvement of cultivated plants and domesticated animals. Scientific progress (like the development of new medicines) and the security of many industries utilising living resources are also dependent on genetic diversity, and

? To ensure the sustainable utilisation of species and ecosystems (mainly fish, wildlife, forests and grazing lands) which support millions of people as well as many industries.

Resources can be " used" and/or "abused" in the following ways

? Exploitation. South Africa with our superb wildlife and scenery should be a prime eco-destination. If we lose the wildlife, or turn wildlife over to crops, or simply fill the land with people, we will be killing the proverbial "goose that lays the golden egg". It is said in some quarters that we cannot afford to spend too much money on conservation when so many people are living in poverty. However, the destruction of the resources from pollution and over-exploitation also endangers development and human life AND CREATES POVERTY. So one could well ask the question "can we afford to not conserve?"

? Under-utilisation. There is also the danger of under-utilising our resources. If we fail to develop our resources sufficiently OR SOUNDLY we may not be able to provide an acceptable standard of living for all members of our society, and in this turn could result in great social unrest, economic collapse and political upheaval

? Over-development. We may overdevelop where the demand forces large-scale development, which all but destroys the environment. Ecotourism is not a responsible alternative if it degrades the environment.

8. Status of Ecotourism in South Africa


There is a growing awareness of environmental, social and economic responsibility among the members of the tourism industry. Parties that are directly involved in a nature-based tourism experience, such as the National and Provincial Parks, as well as private game reserve owners, are now including the concept of involving and benefiting local communities in their mission statements. Similarly the need for thorough planning it is being emphasised publically and, for example, it is now generally conceded that mining in ecologically sensitive areas can have a major long-term negative environmental impact. Conservation and the careful management of scarce resources is increasingly becoming a National priority.

Responsible Ecotourism is sustainable - which means that it integrates economic, social, and environmental considerations within a sustainable system. A sustainable system is one that survives and continues to function over a long period of time (many decades at least). Being sustainable means using only enough of the earth's resources (air, water, soil, minerals, animals and plants) to meet our needs, and conserving enough of these resources to meet the needs of our children, their children after them, and so on. But the sustainability of the earth's resources as listed above is not a complete list of what must be conserved. There are other non-tangible items like the maintenance of a beautiful landscape, peace and quiet (no noise or light pollution), and a host of human values like culture, religion, and aesthetics that also need to be considered.

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9. Responsible and Sustainable Tourism

Responsible Ecotourism is sustainable - which means that it integrates economic, social, and environmental considerations within a sustainable system. A sustainable system is one that survives and continues to function over a long period of time (many decades at least). Being sustainable means using only enough of the earth's resources (air, water, soil, minerals, animals and plants) to meet our needs, and conserving enough of these resources to meet the needs of our children, their children after them, and so on. But the sustainability of the earth's resources as listed above is not a complete list of what must be conserved. There are other non-tangible items like the maintenance of a beautiful landscape, peace and quiet (no noise or light pollution), and a host of human values like culture, religion, and aesthetics that also need to be considered.

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10. What is Sustainable Ecotourism?

What is Sustainable Ecotourism?

Listed below are a number of things that make Ecotourism more sustainable. The list is by no means exhaustive as each operation may and can have unique experiences and/or values, so try to add to this list if you can! Therefore, to have sustainable Ecotourism operators/guides must strive to:

? Be informative as possible. Travellers not only learn about the destination, they learn how to help sustain its character while deepening their own travel experiences. Residents learn that the ordinary and familiar may be of interest and value to outsiders.

? Support integrity of place. Destination-savvy travellers seek out businesses that emphasise the character of the locale in terms of architecture, heritage, cuisine aesthetics, ecology, etc. Tourism revenues give added value to those assets. A value that the locals may not have previously acknowledged.

? Ensure that benefits flow to local residents. In Ecotourism it is essential, and makes good long-term business sense, to employ and train local people, buy local supplies, and use local services. The more the locals benefit from the operation the more they will support the activities, and the better they will conserve the assets.

? Conserves resources. Environmentally aware travellers favour businesses that have active programmes to minimise pollution, waste, energy consumption, water usage, the use of landscaping chemicals, and unnecessary night time lighting (i.e. companies that demonstrate environmental awareness by their actions).

? Respect local culture and tradition. Foreign visitors who learn about and observe local etiquette (including using at least a few courtesy words in the local language) feel a greater empathy with the experience. Local residents in turn who learn how to deal with foreign expectations that may differ from their own also appreciate the additional knowledge.

? Not abuse the product. Stakeholders who recognise that development pressures can deplete resources, and apply limits and management techniques to prevent the "loved to death" syndrome can gain respect. Thus businesses that co-operate to sustain natural habitats, heritage sites, scenic appeal, local culture, etc. are perceived as GOOD businesses that are environmentally sensitive.

? For quality, not quantity. Communities need to measure Ecotourism success not by the sheer numbers of visitors, but by the length of stay, money spent, and quality of experience. More is not necessarily better as every site has a maximum carrying capacity, which should not be exceeded, because if the carrying capacity is exceeded then the resources become depleted.

? To give unforgettable experiences. Satisfied, excited visitors take new knowledge home and send friends off to experience the same and/or similar things they enjoyed - which provide continuing business for the destination.

? Offer a "romantic" experience. Africa has many 'romantic" things to offer such as pre-historic paintings, the African night sky, a unique rhythm of life, etc. One has to be careful of not being too contrived by offering "un-romantic" experiences like over-commercialised "traditional villages", bad cultural experiences, etc.

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11. The Principles of Sustainable Ecotourism

The Principles of Sustainable (Responsible) Ecotourism

From the list above, and from the additional points that you may/will have added, it is clear that to have sustainable Ecotourism there are a number of basic principles that must be followed in order to achieve the levels of responsibility required to enjoy a sustainable operation. What these principles achieve is " to make everyone from government, to the man-in-the-street, aware of the importance of the environment and the resulting Eco-tourism". The principles of Sustainable Ecotourism are that:

1. All resources should be respected and every effort must be made to use them sparingly

2. Education and training of all parties concerned - local communities, the Ecotourists, government and industry - is key to success

3. Participation by the Ecotourist should be encouraged at all levels and in all sectors

4. Value adding by all parties and at all levels is essential for success

5. Partnerships between all parties involved in the venture should be promoted

6. Ethical and moral attitudes, and responsibility towards the natural and cultural environment, should be promoted by all concerned with the operation

7. The long term benefits of the resource, to the local community, and to the operation must be enshrined (benefits may be economic, scientific, social, cultural, ethical or biological)

Ecotourism operations should/must involve big business (external partners) in the form of people and investment for development, but it must also involve local communities and individual entrepreneurs.

Comprehensive training programmes at all levels of the Ecotourism industry are vital, and the quality of this training and the resulting services that are offered must be of the highest standards. These standards must also be maintained and improved over time, and this requires the implementation of a monitoring and evaluation programme. For Ecotourism to succeed there must be a high level of co-operation on the local, regional, national and international fronts, so that everyone benefits to the maximum. This co-operation must also extend into the field of marketing.

12. Promotion of Ecotourism In South Africa


Ecotourism has tremendous potential in South Africa. It must, however, be remembered that it is essentially a service industry. You have to be acutely aware of your market's needs and market aggressively to them to be successful and more importantly, to maintain market share.

Every year millions of people from the "developed world" head for an Ecotourism experience/adventure in one or more of the global biodiversity hot spots. They visit these areas as participants of well marketed and expertly conducted ecotours. However, much of their valuable currency remains in their home country from whence their tours are organised. This is a real problem for those countries that are being visited and are providing the Ecotourism experience. Countries where there are real needs to increase their foreign earnings and standards of living. It is essential for South Africans to break into these niche markets, but this is not easy. The marketing of these tours is highly professional and intensely competitive. Without a hard-hitting and effective marketing strategy we in South Africa will not attract the wealthy, information-hungry and resource-friendly clientele who support these ecotours, and earn most of the money for ourselves. To develop a sustainable Ecotourism industry we need to:

? Provide local communities with strong incentives to participate in and benefit from the industry

? Provide appropriate training in Ecotourism principles and service standards at all levels

? And most importantly launch aggressive and effective marketing strategies that will ultimately maximise local profit share and capture the lion's share of the global Ecotourism market.

13. Advantages of Ecotourism


Ecotourism is the fastest growing sector in the international travel industry.

The main advantages of Ecotourism are:

1. it provides an excellent source of foreign exchange that can be used by the governments of developing countries to finance economic growth and development

2. Ecotourism and its associated activities is a better form of land use than most agricultural pursuits, especially in arid and semi-arid areas

3. It is a form of economic development that can, if managed correctly, spread revenue to the poorest strata of marginal rural communities. In South Africa it can be a source of restitution for disadvantaged rural communities

4. It is an 'industry without chimneys' (that is can promote economic growth with-out damaging the environment) while assisting social and economic development

5. Ecotourism is a 'peace industry' because it promotes respect for other cultures and can only safely occur in peaceful areas

It can also promote business partnerships between the private sector, conservation authorities and residents located in, or adjacent to, wild areas

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14. Some Basic Planning Principles For Ecotourism Development


For the successful establishment of Ecotourism destinations we have learned from experience that there are certain planning principles that must guide the development. Some of these are:

? Apply strict conservation measures to the natural area used for Ecotourism to protect the flora, fauna and ecosystems, and any existing archaeological or historic sites, and local culture

? Establish carrying capacity standards so that there is no over development of tourist facilities, or overuse of the environment - ensuring that the resource is not depreciated

? Develop small-scale tourist facilities in environmentally suitable locations with locally based designs, use of materials, energy saving devices and proper disposal of waste material. Large scale developments are much more difficult to establish in an environmentally friendly fashion. Develop a visitor centre with exhibits about the site and local conservation attractions should also be developed.

? Prepare and distribute Ecotourism codes of conduct for Ecotourists and tour operators, and closely monitor the application of these codes

? Provide well trained tour guides who will give accurate information to Ecotourists to educate them on matters of biological diversity, conservation management techniques and requirements, observe good conservation behaviour during tours, and give them a great introduction to social values

? Integrate local communities into Ecotourism development by providing them jobs and income.

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15. The Ten Commandments of Eco-Travel


From the point-of-view of the Ecotourists themselves they need to understand, or be taught/encouraged, to:

? respect the frailty of the earth by realising that unless they are willing to help in the preservation of unique and beautiful destinations they will not be there for future generations to enjoy

? leave only footprints, take only photographs! No graffiti! No litter! Do not take away souvenirs from historical sites and natural areas

? make their travel more meaningful and educate themselves about the wildlife, geography, customs, manners and cultures of the region they. Take time to listen to the local people

? encourage local conservation efforts

? respect the privacy and dignity of others, for example, inquire before photographing people

? not buy products made from endangered plants or animals. Generally these include items made from ivory, tortoise shell, animal skins, feathers, and even wood, though in some places these products are produced sustainably so request permits in prior to purchase

? always follow and keep to designated trails, do not disturb animals, plants or the natural environment

? learn about and support conservation-oriented programmes and organisations working to preserve the environment (i.e. encourage local conservation efforts)

? Whenever possible walk or use environmentally sound methods of transportation

? Patronise those (hotels, airlines, resorts, cruise lines, tour operators, suppliers, etc.) who use energy sparingly (or better, use energy obtained from renewable resources), and who practise environmentally friendly conservation practices when it comes to the use of water, take care to recycle, deal safely with waste and toxic materials and are aware of the need for noise abatement, have community involvement programmes, and that provide experienced, well-trained staff dedicated to strong principles of conservation

? Encourage organisations to subscribe and adhere to environmental guidelines

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16. Assessing Tour Operators

For Ecotourists to be able to establish the genuineness of a proposed Eco-tour operator the Ecotourist should check the following procedures and practices:

? Research their destination before leaving, so as to be informed of what are the social and environmental problems facing your host nation or community

? Show respect for the people and area by knowing something about their language, culture, beliefs, and social behavioural norms

? Get some background on your tour operator to discover whether he is really conservation orientated and practises what they preach

? Be aware of your impact on the area. How will your presence impact on the local ecosystems. For example on a cruise ship ask what the company does with its waste at sea

? Know where your money goes and how much of the money you spend will benefit the place you visit. What does your tour operator or resort do to support the local environment and/or local community-based projects

? Employment practice. Does, for example, the establishment you will be staying at employ local people, and do they merely fill menial roles with little opportunity for advancement? Ask questions about the provision of education, homes and basic services like clean water and health for employees and their families

? Make others aware by being prepared to lobby politicians, the media and environmental /conservation groups to draw their attention to issues of importance

? Buy carefully and be sure you are helping indigenous economics by buying local products and services. Do not buy curios and mementoes without knowing the source of the material used and whether they have been legally and sustainable obtained (for example Bali has a flourishing giraffe carving industry that is under-cutting African carvers)

? Support a conservation agency by joining or contributing financially

? Question your lifestyle and ask yourself whether your lifestyle at home has any negative affects on the area you are visiting? If so, what can you do to change it?

17. Re-Defining Ecotourism

Let us re-look at the key elements in our definition of Ecotourism: "purposeful travel to natural areas to learn about the culture and natural history of the environment, while taking care not to alter the integrity of the environment, and contributing to the economic value of the local people."

This definition should also include a sociological dimension, by inserting after "integrity" the phrase: " OF THE CULTURE OF THE LOCAL PEOPLE AND...".

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18. The Role of Ecotourism on Community Development


Attention must be given to socio-economic development of adjoining rural areas to provide a basis for goodwill and common interest between conservation activities and local communities. The spin-off of Ecotourism activities is that they draw local communities into the business process. Two main categories of involvement are:

? Direct participation: The community themselves organise and develop forms of economic activity, and in turn gain direct access into the industry. Local people create their own niche and participate directly in the creation of wealth

? Indirect participation: Communities do not actually own any of the Ecotourism business operations and mostly provide peripheral services.

Direct participation

Direct community participation can be extended to include co-ownership of private or state owned game lodges and camps. There exist several successful examples of equity ownership of Ecotourism ventures.

A different situation is possible with emphasis on direct participation in the business process. Local people participate directly in the business decision-making processes. As a result they understand much more intimately the conditions under which the business is likely to flourish and/or fail. Because of a direct and significant stake in the growth of the business the rural people are more interested in creating and maintaining profitable conditions. A drawback to this may be that the company is more likely to be orientated towards the needs of the community and may not offer the best deal for the Ecotourists and biodiversity conservation.

In addition an important effect of direct participation is that local people are employed more widely and not only in the traditional menial positions available in such a business. Joint venture businesses are often linked with community capacity building programmes. Locals are fully exposed to the business process and with training are required to do more than merely menial tasks. This provides locals with experience and skills that enable them to start their own businesses, or they are then better able to sell their skills and expertise elsewhere.

Indirect participation in Ecotourism

Under the indirect model of benefit the Ecotourism venture remains an activity that is not fully understood by the local people. People are unlikely to truly identify with an Ecotourism venture without much insight or direct stake in the business process. Also "deals" with locals have the connotation of a bribe. Such indirect interaction creates dependency on the part of the local communities and is not a good basis for community empowerment and development.

Some game lodges redirect a percentage of their turnover to toward neighbouring communities. This includes developing the ability of locals to provide services such as construction, vehicle maintenance, etc. to the lodges. The idea here is that lodge operations can be effective mechanisms for creating subsidiary economic activities in rural areas.

Tourism serves as a very effective starting point for rural development and growth. Many nature reserves have attempted to promote a mutual economic interest in Ecotourism by:

? Subcontracting certain services and functions to neighbouring communities i.e. Laundry services

? Buying local produce

? Offering cultural activities and services to Ecotourists inside the reserves

? Providing the means for locals to sell their wares: i.e. curios, arts and crafts.

The pros and cons of direct and indirect participation

The more valuable form of direct participation is in terms of community development, yet the value and necessity of indirect participation should not be underestimated. Nor does the achievement of direct participation mean that indirect participation should be neglected or ignored.

For a successful Ecotourism venture the first step is to establish common economic interest between the Ecotourism venture itself and the local community. And it should be noted that indirect means are the quickest and easiest to implement initially.

19. Some Issues Around Ecotourism and Local Communities



Ecotourism is deemed the "peace industry" because it promotes respect for other people's cultures, with the role of "host" being enjoyed by even the most poverty-stricken South Africans. Ask any Ecotourist, "Do you want to see the authentic Zulu lifestyle, the way Zulus cook and their customs?" Or "Would you like to visit Café Africa for a meal? Ecotourists invariably jump at the opportunity to do the "real thing".

Criminal Element

When a tour operator uses a local community as a destination that community should be well known to the operator, and it should be one with whom the operator has established a relationship and trust. This is important both for the authentic experience and also for the personal safety of the Ecotourists. Our crime statistics are extremely high in South Africa and the criminals can show up anywhere and anytime. There may also be factors we are not aware of, such as tensions within the community that need to be understood and discussed with the community leaders beforehand.

Personal Contact

There is no substitute for personal contact. The sense of adventure for the traveller is always memorable, and a vitally important ingredient for Ecotourists visiting Africa. Despite language differences visitors want to communicate, and can communicate surprisingly well with rural or urban South Africans. All it takes is a smile and an introduction through a facilitator. Despite a life of hardship our urban and rural people still show great friendliness when interest is shown in their activities and/or their culture.

Protocol and Etiquette

There is a protocol for making contacts with communities that must be strictly adhered to for reasons of respect and understanding. Protocol is defined as the form of ceremony and etiquette observed by heads of state and politicians. The correct people need to be consulted in the correct manner for any Ecotourism venture to succeed. Etiquette refers more to a social code of behaviour or courtesy. This is simply displaying good manners. Good manners in any culture are the basis for meaningful social interaction and for gaining respect.


Some of the most interesting regions of South Africa are found in the communal lands. It is believed that wildlife conservation in these areas can only be sustained with the acceptance and support of the rural communities. There is enormous potential to develop additional reserves and resorts, particularly in the coastal belt of the old Transkei and KwaZulu-Natal. Such developments should not unduly disrupt traditional land-use, and should provide direct benefits for local inhabitants: for example in the form of a levy.


Most communities will host visitors gladly in exchange for remuneration, which after all is acceptable in a service-based industry. The Ecotourism industry should promote a spin-off to the local community as opposed to a rip-off of the local community. The rip-off comes from local entrepreneurs who exploit a culture by creating a pseudo- or artificial impression of that culture to be presented to visitors. Overseas operators charge high prices in their countries for cultural experiences in South Africa, but mostly the financial profits of the operator are not passed on to the rural people providing the service.


It is important that the Ecotourist have an authentic experience. An amazingly powerful inter-action between visitors and local people can be degraded by the greed of a local entrepreneur, who does not possess the common sense (or sensitivity) to realise that the spirit of the local people is what the visitor has come to see and feel. This cannot be achieved by regimented shows on the hour, or when the commentary on entering into one of the huts is rattled off parrot-style.


As an Eco-tour operator seek out the experience for yourself carefully. After a reasonable study of the culture try the product for yourself with your Ecotourist in mind. Trust your instincts and good common sense, and you have a good chance of getting it right. Your client will remember you for it and you will do good business in the future.

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20. The Needs Of Communities


Ecotourism can bring new benefits to rural communities who most often do not have the services, or the level of services provided in urban areas. Such as proper housing, electricity, water, sewage and refuse removal. These are sometimes referred to as the "new big five" of the rural communities. Sadly the very fascination of the First World Ecotourists with Third World people is their struggle for survival and their coping mechanisms (ingenuity) to cope with that struggle. So we must not hide or protect the Ecotourist from the abject poverty that exists in South Africa today, as it is very much a part of the experience. Instead we need to analyse this struggle to understand what the Ecotourist perceives of the present, what they may know about the past, and what may bother them about the future. Sustainable living can only be achieved by a redistribution of resources. The sites of struggle, as perceived by rural poor are basically:

? Land to grow food and to run livestock. Prior to 1994 75% of the population was restricted to 13% of the land, which meant that they were denied a primary natural resource. Five million people were forcibly removed to smaller areas, sometimes where the productivity was poor and with few natural resources. Over-stocking in densely populated rural areas has caused near desertification in many areas. Living in such crowded circumstances brought about extreme poverty, which exacerbated environmental degradation. South Africa has limited agricultural land. Of our surface area of 120 million hectares only some 55% (66 million hectares) receives enough rain for dry land production (and that only in better than average years). Of this land only about 15% is arable. It is also apparent that most black households have little incentive to make viable use of the communal land allocated to them for crop production. Consequently much of the arable land, especially in KwaZulu-Natal is under-utilised because emerging farmers do not have access to land that lies unused by other households. At present the concept of land rental is being introduced so that everyone concerned can benefit. Emergent farmers can expand their operations, while people who do not wish to use their land, gain rental income paid in either cash or kind. This may even be a share of the crops grown, from land that previously generated nothing.

? Energy for fuel and warmth. Over half of South Africa's population relies on non-sustainable use of fuel wood for their energy requirements. Some 80% of urban blacks receive ESKOM electricity, while 50% plus of rural blacks have access but use wood in preference because it is cheaper for them. If the current consumption rates continue all natural wood resources will be virtually denuded by 2020. To reverse this situation 500 000ha of woodlots close to the relevant communities must be planted in the next ten years. Many urban blacks cannot afford electricity and also burn wood or poor grade coal. This creates unhealthy air and contributes to the smog and the escalating chest problems of the township populations.

? Water for drinking and washing. For a long time fresh water has been polluted and reduced in quantity by insensitive building, unsound agricultural development/practices, industrial and municipal pollution, urbanisation, introduction of alien species, unwise afforestation, and the clearing of natural vegetation. Meanwhile in formal urban areas water is generally of high quality and sewerage is water borne. However due to the lack of finance damaged sewerage pipes go unchecked and the general quality of water is fast becoming questionable in all the major cities in South Africa. Despite the best efforts of government many people in the rural areas and in informal settlements still do not have adequate access to water of an acceptable quality. This has brought the inevitable health problems, and is exacerbated by drought.

It is not, therefore, surprising that most rural people have very little concern for the environment when they are simply struggling to survive on a daily basis. There is often an apathy and even hostility at the mention of environmental issues to rural people. Through education and the actions of mainly NGOs there is, however, a growing 'green consciousness' in certain black urban townships. It is obvious that without an acceptable redistribution of land many South Africans will not adopt an ethic for sustainable living.

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21. Partnership Arrangements


Progressive private sector and state conservation agencies have introduced several innovative integrated conservation community development initiatives that provide tangible benefits to communities living in and alongside Ecotourism areas.

Dedication and patience are two key ingredients that are vital in establishing sustainable community-based Ecotourism ventures. Experience gained both in South Africa and abroad show that there is great deal of frustration over the length of time from the birth of the concept, through the planning phase and finally to implementation. This lack of progress often results in would-be investors losing interest and is a real problem to which tailor-made innovative solutions need to be found.

Community-based partnerships are important for the following reasons:

? They benefit the whole community socio-economically

? They demonstrate the value of biodiversity as a key resource

? They engender local ownership of the resource, thus enabling the communities to accept responsibility.

Developing tourism partnerships

Ecotourism has facilitated a major change in the relationship between host communities and developers. Ecotourism and other alternative forms of tourism have recognised that partnerships between local people, the private sector, and government have opened up a wide range of new opportunities. Most of these partnerships are recent and are gaining acceptance because they make good economic sense, benefit all partners and conservation begins to take on a new meaning.

Some partnerships are born of necessity: for example, the need for local communities to market their destination to a wider audience. Other linkages may result from a need for greater flexibility in management where areas are closed off to Ecotourism because of international conservation guidelines that have no relevance to the local community. These sorts of conflicts have led to the development of partnerships between government and NGOs where management is delegated to the NGO who can often better act with the community's best interests as a key goal.

New ways of looking at partnerships between the government and the private sector have allowed the private sector to mange operations and run concessions in places where the government lacked the resources, capacity and/or investment, such as accommodation in National Parks.

New mechanisms and arrangement are constantly being devised with an increasing number of partners, including many often not considered by more mainstream tourism organisations.

However, while bringing many partners to the table offers strengths of the combined organisations, it can make co-ordination and decision making cumbersome. In such cases, Ecotourism development may seem akin to a large integrated development project, with many of the difficulties that these projects face. Projects with fewer partners may be more manageable but may require high levels of co-ordination with other agencies. Ecotourism then provides the catalyst for the development to improve the decision-making processes, while giving an initial framework that may allow attempts to reach sustainable partnerships agreements based on a shared vision.

New developments are dependent on equity to be established in National Parks and other conservation areas that are used extensively for Ecotourism. There needs to be trust and respect between the traditional custodians of the land, the new management agencies, the local people and the Ecotourism users. For this to happen all parties must understand the others' culture, in order to come to terms with each other's interpretation and perceptions of any given situation. This understanding requires facilitation across a significant cultural divide - thus excellent communication and networks are vital.

Ecotourism can offer a clearly defined philosophical approach to partnerships and in so doing has expanded tourism beyond an economic rationale. Ecotourism is able to achieve environmental sustainability and its associated social goals. These goals include minimisation of damage to natural resources, education of Ecotourists to conservation and cultural values, access of the Ecotourism experience once only available to the elite, and the distribution of the rewards and a shift in responsibility to local communities. Ecotourism generates many and diverse benefits for biodiversity conservation, and can often succeed in meeting conditions that cannot be met by other activities. It often allows partnerships to grow where destinations can become competitive, and protected area authorities have the capacity and jurisdictional mandates to design, develop, manage and implement sustainable Ecotourism destinations consistent with their protected area objectives. In this the cost reflects the true cost of Ecotourism and site protection. Thus clear guidelines need to be followed by ALL parties involved in Ecotourism ventures, from a national level down to individual entrepreneurs. Partnerships obviously involve local rural communities and revenue sharing, not only as jobs, but real profit sharing.

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22. Social and Environmental Impact Assessments


Before beginning any ventures they should be supported by both Social, and Environmental Impact Assessments (SIAs and EIAs). These will ensure sustainability both economically and ecologically. Research into the society itself and the local politics can help identify and dispel negativity. These procedures should not be long, drawn-out affairs, but in proportion to the size of the proposed development - as limited finances have to carry the project through this information gathering period. The involvement of conservation agencies may further slow down the procedures.

Basic Components to Include

Be realistic, any Ecotourism venture needs three basic components:

? Attractions

? Amenities (e.g. accommodation)

? Infrastructure (e.g. roads)

An Ecotourism venture should be developed together with, or even after, other economic activities.

Training for Communities

Communities need basic training that is essential for community participation and management of Ecotourism facilities:

? Management skills training

? Training in basic hospitality techniques

? Business skills.

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23. Theme Routes

Theme Routes

A community-based tourism product should be included on your Ecotourism route. Include this destination in all electronic reservation systems. Existing 'well known' routes such as the Garden Route, Wine Route and Banana Route should still be explored, but add to these major tours a side tour to participate in community-based Ecotourism products.

Land Claims

Joint venture operations, where land redistribution brings more equity to the community concerned, should be seen as an opportunity rather than a threat. Tourism developments wholly owned by local people can help with reconstruction and development.

Assistance to Communities

Once the ownership of land is restored to a community, assistance is then essential to enable that community to make well informed decisions about how to best use their land, especially if they are going into an Ecotourism partnership or venture. It has been shown that an Ecotourism venture is a preferred form of land-use in an arid or semi-arid country such as South Africa. The Regional Development Forum (RDF) should be able to provide sound development and planning advice.

The Risk Factor

At the end of the day it is the initiative and responsibility shown by the community that will determine the success or failure of an Ecotourism venture. There are no guarantees. All parties involved have to risk failure and all parties must know this risk of possible failure from the start.

There are FOUR main arrangements that can take place:

Between the State and/or the Provincial Conservation Agencies, and Local Communities

Conservation departments/agencies usually facilitate these initiatives. It has become increasingly clear that most protected areas are located in very poor rural areas, with low agricultural potential, high human populations, and very little if any economic development. State/Provincial conservation agencies realise that to sustain these vulnerable areas neighbourly goodwill is essential. This realisation has prompted conservation/community development initiatives that actually give some economic returns to the community on an on-going basis.

Although fresh meat from the hunting and cropping in the neighbouring conservation areas may provide some economic opportunities, Ecotourism development can (in the long term) be more financially, ecologically and socially acceptable.

An example of a partnership between the state and the local community is the Pilanesberg National Park, managed by the North-West Province's Parks and Conservation Authority. It consists of 30 000ha in a dormant volcanic crater. Local communities receive 10% of gate revenues and a range of eco-development projects have been initiated in surrounding villages. The conservation agency has also helped the local community to establish a community reserve, Lebatlane. A recent survey conducted in the area surrounding the park indicated that over 70% of local people supported the continued existence of the park.

Another example is the Richtersveld National Park, managed by the National Parks Board as a contractual park. Local pastoralists were allowed to remain in the reserve after it became a National Park, and members of the local communities sit on a joint management committee and are planning new Ecotourism lodges.

Last, but not least, is the Mkuze Game Reserve, run by KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife. There are plans to build a Zulu cultural village and education centre, in partnership with local communities, and revenues will go towards social development programmes. Many similar initiatives are currently being developed elsewhere in the country.

Between Private Sector and Community Programmes

In this type of partnership transparency is a problem. Generally private sector developers are not known for transparency. This situation can provide jobs and certainly revenue that is an excellent start. However, to be sustainable the community must eventually be uplifted to manage part of this partnership by being given equity, otherwise it is not a partnership.

Kagga Kamma "Place of Bushmen", a private Game Reserve in the Cedarberg mountains of the Western Cape, could be considered a partnership between the community and Kagga Kamma ownership. It is not clear, however, whether or not equity does exist for the local Bushman community, or whether they are in fact still 'invited guests' on the land, with cultural and educational benefits only.

The same questions may be asked of the Conservation Corporation's Africa Collection of 'elitist' lodges such as Mala-Mala, Sabi-Sabi, Londolozi, Matetsi (in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve), Phinda Resource reserve at Rocktail Bay in KwaZulu-Natal, Ngala in the Timbavati, and their tour operation called Wilderness Safaris. Some social development in nearby villages is enhanced and jobs created, but as to partnership and equity this is carefully taken care of by the Rural Investment Fund. Clinics, classrooms and water provision have been facilitated by funds raised through direct appeal to clients and high profile donors mainly abroad. But genuine community partnerships are apparently lacking and the major profit share of these ventures is not ploughed back into the local areas.

Community-driven Projects

These would certainly qualify as 'true" Ecotourism ventures. The Community benefits by managing the venture themselves, and remuneration if primarily received by the Community. However, in the tourism industry monies are often 'leaked'. This is tourist revenue that is not earned in South Africa but is siphoned off by overseas operators or guides, or to major shareholders who are city dwellers. The result is that there is very little money left for the people providing the actual service; they simply receive the 'crumbs'.

At Kosi Bay, the Community Resource Optimisation Programme (CROP), a non-government organisation assists a local committee to run a rustic tented camp. No other camp owned and run purely by local communities is yet in operation, although others, such as the Lebatlane game farm (NW Province) owned by the Bakgatla people is being planned.

Tripartite Alliance - Government, Local Communities and Private Sector

A good example is the Pongola "Biosphere" Reserve in Northern KwaZulu-Natal. The biosphere started as a private sector initiative, joined by the Government, KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife and local communities. All parties are equal shareholders. Ecotourism is the mainstay of the region's economy. This project showed the local communities and private sector businessmen that Ecotourism could provide more income than farming. Ecotourism is the driving force of the regional economy. This is one of the success stories where local people share all the benefits that Ecotourism can offer.

24. Planning Approaches


There are several basic Ecotourism planning approaches, applied in combination, which underlie the Ecotourism planning process.

? Continuous and flexible approach

The plan should be responsive to changing circumstances, but any modifications needed should be made within the framework of achieving the development objectives and concepts of sustainable Ecotourism.

? Comprehensive approach

All aspects of Ecotourism development must be considered in the planning process. These are the components described in the Ecotourism system: Ecotourist attractions and activities, accommodation, other Ecotourist facilities and services, transportation, other infrastructure and the institutional elements.

? Integrated approach

Ecotourism is integrated as a system in itself, and the Ecotourism sector is integrated into the overall development policies and plans of the area and local plans are integrated into the national and regional Ecotourism policies and plans.

? Environmental and sustainable approach

Ecotourism is planned in an environmentally sensitive manner so that its natural and cultural resources are conserved, Ecotourism development does not generate serious adverse environmental or sociological impacts, the overall quality of the environment is maintained or improved, the benefits of Ecotourism are widely spread in the society and Ecotourism satisfaction levels are maintained.

? Community based approach

To the extent possible, there should be maximum involvement of local communities in the planning and development of Ecotourism, with benefits accruing to the local communities including minority and disadvantaged groups.

? Implemental approach

Ecotourism is planned so that the development can realistically be implemented and implementation techniques are considered throughout the planning process. Planning must also apply contemporary and creative concepts of development. Political realities must be considered but long term development objectives and policies should not be compromised.

? The strategic planning approach

Is sometimes appropriate. Strategic planning focuses more on identification and resolution of immediate issues. It is typically used in a rapidly changing situation, is action orientated and emphasises how to cope with changes organisationally. It is less comprehensive than the long-term planning described above, but can be effectively used within the framework of long-term policy and planning.

25. Local Community Expectations From Ecotourism


Local Communities have the following legitimate expectations from Ecotourism:

? Local communities must be equity partners and their share of Ecotourism revenue must be contractually guaranteed over and above the creation of jobs

? Local communities should be clearly identified

? Local communities should receive priority in terms of jobs

? Their legal access to the resource, through their legal tenure, should be recognised and acknowledged

? The distribution of revenues to local people should be fair, transparent and accountable

? Capacity building for local people should be part of the scheme.