For quite some time we have heard many commentaries about the amount of “ecotourism” happening in a country such as Brazil. But, there are few commentaries about the ethics and seriousness involved in this “new eco opportunity”. There has not been much discussion about how ecotourism is predatory, devastating and consequential. A large number of hotels, travel agents and service suppliers sell their travel packages with an “eco” prefix without any giving any real thought to its real significance.
It is true that ecological tourism can be characterized as a visit to an authentically natural area that is also protected. This includes the local community. However, the fact of just “being” in a natural place does not automatically characterize a visit as “ecotourism”. Although the concept of ecotourism is “politically correct”, its consequences are not always positive.
Nowadays, ecotourism has turned into a big business that generates billions of dollars per year. While it does generate jobs and promote cultural exchange, it does not take into consideration some relevant important factors, such as the operators of ecological tourism who do not become involved with research institutions in order to use the largest possible amount in information in its planning.
For example, knowledge of the ecosystem is of basic importance in their respective tourist regions. Basic knowledge such as how garbage is managed and how many visitors the region can actually support, physically and ecologically, are often overlooked. The cutting of native trees for firewood or heating food or water for tourists’ baths, the abandonment of younglings by female animals in the face of an extreme human presence, the mutilation of fish and mammals by tourism boats, are all real examples of the devastation caused by ecotourism badly executed.
What we want to focus on here is the need of ecological tourist operators to make it their duty to be conscientious of their roles not only as business people, but also of how they are causing destruction to the ecological environments they serve. We also want to bring attention to the idea that it is “ecologically correct” for tourists, as well, to fulfill their duties by having knowledge about these facts. Tourists should take on an attitude of responsibility with regards to proper ecological tourism and have the consciousness to preserve the environment and, in my cases, to support and respect the local community. Not practice a respectful attitude with the local inhabitants can, at times, have a negative impact such as speeding up the process of loss of cultural identify.
In the case of the operators, they must prepare their tourist groups to behave with respect toward the local cultures and toward the communities where they are guests. The tourists and operators should consider this an opportunity for personal growth by getting to know and understand the local customs, rather than imposing their own customs on the locals and expecting the locals to change. For the service rendering companies, as well as their customers, this must be of utmost importance. Tourism suppliers that do not practice this philosophy must be discarded.
Finally, we need to remember that the principal weapon of awareness for companies and the public is environment education. Those who know, help to preserve. For the government’s side, the standardization of procedures and fiscal responsibility of companies who supposedly work with the ecotourism, are a crucial necessity so that ecotourism can grow positively in Brazil. To make all of this happen, we believe that the combination of research, planning, and ambient education are necessary.