The United Nations declared 2002 as the International Year of Ecotourism. The move was in part because of the realization of the importance of tourism as an economic endeavor and the need to promote international awareness of ecological issues (World Tourism Organization, 2003). In the assessment of their efforts for the year, they concluded that the industry is one that can have deep positive impacts not only to environment issues but to political and social action to protect environment.
Protection of the environment and tourism does not always come hand in hand but great success has been achieved in recent years when these two parties cooperated to create programs to pursue their objectives. There is also recent researches that indicate that the environmental problems that plague the region can not be separated by elements. Researches indicate the direct link of air pollution with the water pollution such as issues regarding ozone depletion, climate change, and biological ecosystems.
For the purpose of this study, the discussion of the impact of air and water pollution to tourism will be discussed. Particular attention will be focused on the impacts on ecotourism since it is the most directly affected niche in tourism by the degradation of air and water quality. Statistical data and trends will be used to determine the size of the market and its impact to the economy and society while opinion of experts will be assessed to determine the prognosis and the direction of the industry. Though the pollution of air and water does not just impact ecotourism, for the purpose of valuating impact to the industry, statistics to be used will be limited to this field an also because there are no comprehensive studies on the effects of air and water pollution as a whole to the tourism industry.
North American Ecotourism
North America is known for being one of the most active in terms of its activities in promoting and protecting the environment. The concern has not just manifested itself in environmental initiatives but also is seen in the political initiatives in the region such as the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). NAFTA was established in 1994 by Canada, Mexico and the United States to enhance trade between the three countries. It created avenues for supporting each other’s social initiatives regarding unemployment, protection of the environment and developing effective security programs.
The reality is that without a common economic concern, very few countries would take the initiative to help enhance another’s circumstance. It is not being selfish but rather a reality of economics. For example, the protection of the environment of the North Atlantic would have remained a local concern for Canada, the US and Mexico independently despite the reality that the object is a singular one. With the establishment of NAFTA, the concern is raised to an international level and there will be more resources for the efforts as well elevating the concern in term of importance significantly.
The International Ecotourism Society is the primary organization assessing ecotourism and the impact of the environment in general to tourism in the world. In their 2005 report on the tourism industry they stated that (pp. 1-2):
o Tourism is the largest business sector in the world economy, accounting for $3.6 trillion in economic activity and accounts for
o As an economy, it can be considers as second only to the United States
o 80% of the world’s countries consider tourism as one of top five industries
For ecotourism itself:
o The industry is growing at the rate of 20% – 34% yearly
o In 2004, ecotourism grew thrice the growth rate of tourism as a whole globally
o As part of the experiential tourism niche together with nature, heritage, cultural, and soft adventure tourism, rural and community tourism, it has been identified as one of the primary growth industries for the next ten years.
According to the same study, ecotourist also bring a large potential in terms of revenue potential ratios. This means that ecotourists are generally more affluent than the average tourist. At the same time, they are considered as key market to promote environmental issues because of their existing awareness of environmental and social issues. The International Ecotourism Society describes these individuals as (p. 3):
o Experienced travelers
o Higher education
o Higher income bracket
o Middle aged to elderly
o Opinion leaders
o Have a network friends & colleagues that are also market for the trips
o Can be tapped as source of trip information to further develop programs
Similarly, the Nature Conservancy describes ecotourists are aware of the requirements of tourism and readily respond to support these. They can be expected to:
o Show conscientious, low-impact visitor behavior during the trip
o Exhibit sensitivity towards, and appreciation of, local cultures and biodiversity
o Support for local conservation efforts
o Understand and support sustainable development programs to local communities
o Receptive to educational components of the trip.
North America as a ecotourism region developed because of both tourism and greater environmental awareness. The term can be used to refer only to refer to Canada and the US but broader definitions include Mexico, and often Greenland, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and Bermuda. The region provides a great deal of ecological diversity that ranges from the cold to the tropical.
Having both the Atlantic and the Pacific on either side, the region also host to a variety of climates and biology that are among the most protected and most well-preserved in the world today. According to the top destinations list of the Virtual Tourist, some of the most popular sites in the region in recent years are the following:
Mount Greylock, Massachusetts
Lake Placid, NY
Lake Louise, AB
Sonoma-Mendocino Coast Scenic Drive
Chicago Scenic Tour
Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake, OR
New York City
New York, NY
La Canada, CA
Port Washington, NY
Deep Creek Lake
Cape May, NJ
California North Coast: From San Francisco to Redwood National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Little Switzerland Weekend Getaway
Jim Thorpe, PA
Black Hills, Badlands, & Mt. Rushmore
Rapid City, SD
Glacier National Park
Saint Mary, MT
Bainbridge Ferry to Winslow
Canyons and Rivers: Medina to Garner State Park
The major environmental concerns for the region are regarding the decrease in air and water quality, climate change and urbanization. One particular issue encompasses all of these concerns: Ozone depletion. According to the World Meteorological Organization, the region losses about 4% of ozone during winter and 2 % during summers (“Marine Life Stirs Ocean Enough To Affect Climate”, 2006).
In 1974, Nature magazine published a study done by Molina and Rowland regarding the effect of CFC’s on the stratosphere. This article is credited to be the pioneer not only for CFC control and banning but the also began the lobbying for protection of the ozone layer in particular. At this point in time, the concerns were focused on the “thinning” of the ozone layer only however concerns escalated by 1982 when Halley Bay, Antarctica based British Antarctic Survey when the documentations of the actual development of a hole in the ozone layer due to severe depletion were reported prompting extensive further investigation. The investigation by Farman, Gardner and Shanklin published in 1985 supported the initial 1982 observations.
According to the interim report of a long term study on the effect of ozone depletion being conducted by Prof. Jan C. van der Leun and company for the UNEP and the US global Change Information Office, the effects on marine life were summarized as follows (2000):
o The protective mechanisms of ultraviolet screening substances has been verified in both producers and consumers in ecosystems
o The combination of ultraviolet with other stress factors has been studied in bacteria such as cyanobacteria as well as other similar primary producers amy be more significant if taken as an effect to the ecosystem.
o Developed models for the evaluation of ultraviolet -induced damage to marine life and the aquatic environment show reasonable agreement with levels
o Ultraviolet -B radiation affects both freshwater and marine consumers.
o Solar ultraviolet radiation on aquatic primary producers represented by phytoplankton and macroalgae exhibit deleterious properties associated for growth and survival of some species.
The depletion of the ozone layer is seen one of the major contributing factors to global warming. One of the effects of increase in temperature is the increase in evaporation rate which in turn may both increase salinity and alter weather patterns. However, the increase in temperature alone can already have significant effect to marine life. One example is that increase in temperature can affect oceanic convection patterns that influence current systems (Milne, 1995). The increase in temperature can also contribute to increase in upwelling. This can increase the concentration of debris form the ocean floor.
These developments can have a severe impact on ecosystems and thus tourist sights that primarily market these features. Increasing ultraviolet radiation concentrations can force planktons to opt not go a lower level but the increase in debris may hamper the amount of sunlight below the twenty meter range of ultraviolet rays. For marine animals, this can make hunting much more difficult and may hamper defense against predation (Calvin, 1998).
The next factor to be considered is the changes in salinity. Abrupt evaporation may raise salinity levels that can prohibit the survival of smaller organism or damage health. In some cases, it can even dry out habitats particularly in semi-aquatic and brackish environs. The increase in evaporation eventually leads to increase precipitation. In recent years, storms have reached more violent levels and have had higher degrees of precipitation. Hurricane Katrina did not just damage property; it also significantly affected the topography and landscape of the areas it hit like Florida’s everglades (“Hurricane Katrina”, 2006).
A further study being done today is the effect of radiation transfer by virtue if consumption of animals that have suffered ultraviolet radiation damage. The study, similar to the studies that focused on mercury levels in fish seeks to identify the how much of the radiation passes through the foods chain and its effects (EPA, 2006)
The change in the marine environment makes it more difficult to create the conditions that will foster the protection and development of marine life. Ecology and the environment are now seen as viable element o attract tourists and generate funding for projects. Without the presence of marine life, which is the most compelling element of an ecosystem for humans, this can be made for difficult.
Australia is one of the countries that is capitalizing a great deal on its natural resources to attract tourists and promote the country, such as the activities initiated by the Aboriginal Tourism Australia. One of its major tourist attractions is it reef systems characterized by crystal clear waters that allow tourists to view animals. Recent studies show that there has been decreased animals observed because of the decrease in microorganisms that sustain middle sized prey that in turn attract large predator like sharks, dolphins and larger fish (Gharavi, Ogle and Dwivedi, 2006). Since these marine lives are also tourist attractions, there is concern that there climate changes are contribution to the decline of the animals.
Other efforts include initiatives that were in participation of the celebration of the International Year for Ecotourism such as coordination of stakeholders, government agencies, communities, NGOs and the private sector or the development national strategy for ecotourism that is considered a critical for the current success of ecotourism in the country (World Tourism Organization, 2003). On an international level, the Kyoto Protocol is the latest effort in increasing responsibility and liability for pollution. Though it does not specifically target the protection of the ozone layer, this protocol that is more focused more on mitigating global warming has provisions that have the same ozone protecting effect (Wigley, 2006).
According to the World Tourism Organization, efforts to enhance and protect he industry include the more involved participation of various stakeholders, development of awareness campaigns, Industrial support, program regulation and international cooperation. The key needs to be addressed are:
o The need to develop a database for the ecotourism policy, planning, stakeholder
o participation and support, marketing, regulation, that can be used across the region
o The development of industry practice standards ethics for conducting ecology or environmental based tourism and tourism in general
o The establishment of medium size ecotourism companies to promote practice standards ethics in coordination with international based efforts such as that of the UN, World Tourism Organization and NAFTA
o The development of regional infrastructure to manage the regional ecotourism activities
o The establishment of a certification system based on sustainability and positive impact to the region’s economy, environmental health or social awareness for the issues
o The creation of a regional assessment o manage destination to minimize the impact or tourism to the sites.
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Environmental Protection Agency (2006b). Ozone Science: The Facts Behind the Phaseout. Retrieved March 25, 2007 from http://www.epa.gov/ozone/science/sc_fact.html
Farman, J.C., B.D. Gardner and J.D. Shanklin (1985). Large losses of total ozone in Antarctica reveal seasonal ClOx/NOx Interaction. Nature Volume 315. pp. 207-210.
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 Note legends for the table: A – Adventure tourism; E – Ecotourism; G – Geotourism Tourism; M – Mass tourism; N – Nature-based tourism; R – Responsible tourism; and S – Sustainable Tourism
 The typology is based from International Ecotourism Society