This is my answer to a Belgium student who wrote me Andy Graham a question wanting to learn about bad ecotourism practice in Kenya or South Africa.
The Question from Student:
I am doing a research for school, and I just wanted to know if you could help me. I am trying to find bad tourism practices in Kenya and south Africa. In other term what are Kenya and South Africa doing bad for the environment. Thanks for your reply,
Answer from Andy Graham
First, I have never been to South Africa, so this is only for Kenya.
Number one problem with any eco-tourism is the construction of buildings inside the eco-area. I believe all eco-tourists should stay inside urban area hotels and drive into the eco-tourist location. In Kenya, they are building resort destinations, then moving the animals to the location. More or less they are creating eco-resorts, the final destination, an all inclusive, you see the animals, and the fake authenticy, of say the Masai warriors who work their clothing that they do not wear at home.
The goal of eco-tourism was to replace some bad practices, and if you can stop a big game hunter, by making him a photographer, then that is eco-tourism. Then to employ people who are harming the eco-tourist location by their practices. A job as an alternative to what they was doing....
Generally, eco-tourism is a joke on the planet, there is a label only used for marketing.
Do they employ farmers that is harming the area, no they hire someone who best can be used as a guide.
Kenya, by building resorts all over the country in isolated locations is effectively removing land, building on land destroys the environment. But worst is the digging of ponds to attract or keep animals, and changing what is natural for something that will one day stop when the resort is older.
In parting, the best eco-tourist stays home, the more you travel, the more extra rooms are built, the more you destroy the enviroment with hotels or resorts.
I am not an eco-tourist, and refuse to give money to any company that tells me they are an eco-tourist tour. I see this as scams and marketing, and nothing to do with this noble idea.
In my 13 year, 11 months of perpetual travel, I have never talked to one tour company that was selling eco-tourism tours that understood any of the principles of ecotourism.
Andy Graham of HoboTraveler.com
I totally agree that the notion of Eco-tourism has just become one massive marketing ploy - similar to the joke that paying more tax because you take off in an airplane is actually going to heal the world.
To the student, i would reccomend that you take another look at what result you are going to get from this.
In other words, don't look directly at what South Africa and Kenya is doing which may be bad tourism. Don't restrict it purely to the obvious.
You have to look at processes which are generated by tourism and ask "are all of these processes kind to the environment?" and also "Is tourism the real danger to the environment?"
For example, in Morocco, many tourists enjoy going to visit the desert.
Whilst it is possible that the extra feet trudging through the desert may contribute to a declining world environment, is this the real risk?
My summary on this matter is that it is not the major worry.
Most tourists i know of are actually quite responsible and respectful when they are abroad - not dropping litter, cleaning up after themselves, respecting the area etc etc.
For me, the real danger is the non educated locals - in most places you go you will see abandoned plastic bags and food wrappers en masse in some places, burnt out rubbish too in some places.
Surely it is tourists that leave these behind?
Well, the tourists are blamed for it.
But in truth, it is the locals who pollute the grounds with their rubbish.
So, tourism may not be the major contributor to the problem.....but tourists are the easiest people to blame.
My suggestion is to create a list, a definition of how good eco tourism should be.
What ticks the boxes that makes good tourism?
Then, study tour company websites, make enquiries to establish how many of those eco ideals each company actually appears to satisfy. That is how i believe you will succeed with your project.
Additionally, it has to be noted that there has never actually been any official study of eco effects of hotels.
In other words, interestingly, nobody has ever studied whether the hotels policies, such as "leave your towel on the floor if you want it changed or leave it hanging up if you want to use it again" actually does any good for the environment or not.
good luck with the project.
Eco-tourism is meant to be an alternative form of employment for a local that is harming the ecology of the area.
Hi Andy, i agree, but that is just one element of eco tourism:
Ecotourism is defined as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." (TIES, 1990)
Apparently, there are 7 characterisitics of Eco tourism:
Involves travel to natural areas ( as you were stating earlier)
Builds environmental awareness
Provides direct financial benefits for conservation
Provides financial benefits and empowerment for local people
Respects local culture
Supports human rights and democratic movements.
So, a tour company or hotel or resort has to offer the tourist a way to visit their countries natural resources
whilst being aware of and not contributing to the desctruction of the local environment,
whilst ensuring that local people benefit financially (fairly) and that local people are able to make their own participation in the visits,
whilst ensuring that local cultures are adhered to and to offer opportunities of tourism that do not encourage or allow slavery or breaches of human rights.
In all, eco-tourism is more about securing ways that tourists can travel and visit destinations without harming the environment and destroying the culture and economy of the visited area.
It is more about how the tourist can be aware of how they should behave and how they should shy away from activities which may result in them contributing to the degradation of the area in which they are visiting and not using the services of hotels, tour companies, activities etc which may employ staff and may pay them very low wages and force them to live in degrading situations.