Ecotourism in Brazil – Case Study of the „Legal Amazon“
The aim of this essay is to evaluate and critically discuss the ecotourism measures taken in Brazil. Due to the complexity of the topic and the size of the chosen country, the focus of this case study will lie on the national policy affecting ecotourism in Brazil, the involved stakeholders and their area of activity and some typical Brazilian examples of ecotourism planning/development projects in the Brazilian Amazon region.
1. Introduction to Ecotourism
Multiple authors have discussed the topic of nature tourism since the 1960s (e.g. Hetzer 1965 and Blangy and Nielson 1993 as cited by Fennell 2003; Ritchie and Crouch 2003). Hetzer (1965) explained the “relationships between tourists and the environments and cultures in which they interact“ and defined “four fundamental pillars that needed to be followed for a more responsible form of tourism:
(1) minimum environmental impact;
(2) minimum impact on – and maximum respect for – host cultures;
(3) maximum economic benefits for the host country’s grassroots; and
(4) maximum recreational satisfaction to participating tourists“ (Fennell 2003:18).
This early description of responsible tourism embraces already some main aspects that can be found in more recent definitions of sustainable and ecotourism, with the difference that the historical description has a rather passive standpoint.
Fennell (2003:21) cites Goodwin (1996) who pointed out the difference between nature and ecotourism. He stated that “nature tourism encompasses all forms of tourism ... which use natural resources in a wild or undeveloped form. It is travel for the purpose of enjoying undeveloped natural areas of wildlife“. In contrast, he defined ecotourism as “low-impact nature tourism, which contributes to the maintenance of species and habitats either directly through a contribution to conservation or indirectly by providing revenue to the local community ...“.
The term ecotourism must not be confused with nature tourism, since only ecotourism embraces the concept of sustainability and an educative component and asks a more or less active contribution from the ecotourists in order to support sustainable development at the destination (Blamey 1995 in Fennell 2003).
In any case, ecotourism is one of the fastest-growing segments in the tourism industry, with an annual growth rate of 20 % in 2000, which is very high compared to the growth rate of conventional tourism of 7 % in the same year (Mastny 2001 in Cox 2006).
With the increasing environmental awareness of tourists over the years, the attempts to define ecotourism were numerous and the process of defining ecotourism is continuing. This is primarily related to the fact that different stakeholders and individuals with different interests have defined the phenomenon (e.g. Boo 1992; Ecotourism Association of Australia 1992; Weaver 1999; Ziffer 1989) and that definitions are mostly related to the particular circumstances of a certain continent, country or region (Fennell 2001). The plethora of definitions has made the term ecotourism blurry and vulnerable for misuse and the practice of ‘greenwashing‘ (Steinmetz 2008) where unsustainable tourism is marketed under a green label.
It is greatly discussed whether there is a need for some kind of generalization of the concept of ecotourism, so that generally accepted principles can be followed and ecotourism becomes more verifiable and comprehensible (e.g. Fennell 2001; Holden 2000; Shaw and Williams 2002).
Fennell (2001:403) has made an attempt to clarify the concept of ecotourism by performing an “examination of 85 definitions of the term ... using a content analysis methodology“. He found that the variables that are cited the most “in the definitions were:
(1) reference to where ecotourism occurs, e.g. natural areas;
(4) benefits to locals; and
Moreover, the study resulted in the finding that the topics “conservation, education, ethics, sustainability, impacts and local benefits were better represented in the more recent defintions, showing the changing emphasis of ecotourism over time“ (Fennell 2002). In this context, Fennell developed his own definition of ecotourism that is a blend of the most relevant aspects from the mass of existing definitions, can be integrated in any cultural context and is therefore fairly complete:
“An intrinsic, participatory and learning-based experience which is focused principally on the natural history of a region, along with other features of the man-land nexus. Its aim is to develop sustainability (conservation and human well-being) through ethically based behaviour, programmes and models of tourism development which do not intentionally stress living and non-living elements of the environments in which it occurs“ (2002:15).
Over the years, different international organs, such as the World Tourism Organization (WTO) have contributed to the cross-border regulation of ecotourism. One of the most recent and important events in this context was the World Ecotourism Summit that was organized by the U.N. Environment Programme and the WTO in 2002 and gathered 1000 participants from 132 countries in Québec, Canada. “In adopting the Québec Declaration on Ecotourism, they ‘embraced the principles of sustainable tourism, concerning the economic, social and environmental impacts of tourism‘ – which would be seen as the ‘triple bottom line‘ in development circles“ (Cox 2006:878). The summit also boosted the development of ecotourism certificates as a tool for measuring sound ecotourism and sustainable tourism, emphasizing that certification systems should consider local criteria (Cox 2006). Nowadays there are more than a hundred ecotourism certificates world wide, contributing to the complexity of the market and lesser comparability of ecotourism products, due to the huge differences between them (Buckley in Fennell 2003). “Arguably the most definitive understanding of ecotourism is provided by the International Ecotourism Standard within ‘Green Globe 21‘“, which is described as the “‘the world’s only truly global tourism certification program (Koeman et al. 2002:299)‘“ (Owen 2007:177). A summary of the Green Globe 21 standard principles is given in the following table:
Table 1: Summary of the Green Globe 21 Standard Principles (developed from Ecotourism Australia & the Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism 2004)
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Source: Owen (2007:178)
The above standard principles are the Australian best-practice example “NEAP process, offered in other countries through ‘Green Globe 21‘“ (Buckley in Fennell 2003:124).
In the case study of Brazil, the theory of ecotourism as a sustainable development tool (Cox 2006) is applied.
The key techniques in sustainable tourism are shown in the following table (Table 2). Later it will also be tested in how far these techniques have been applied by the Brazilian government.
Table 2: Key Techniques in Sustainable Tourism
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Source: Mowforth and Munt (1998) in Shaw and Williams (2002:311)
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- University of Brighton – School of Service Management
- Regenwald Brasilien Abholzung Rodung Sustainability Nachhaltigkeit Eco Öko Tourismus Brazil Nachhaltiger Tourismus Ökotourismus Eco-tourism Sustainable Tourism Amazonas Amazon