Project Amazonia: Solutions - Eco-Tourism
The destruction of rainforest exists due to economic need and environmental ignorance.
Ecotourism will reduce deforestation by providing economic alternatives to the local people, by creating a national desire to preserve the region for its natural and economic value, and by expanding local and global awareness of the rainforest.
The purpose of ecotourism is to increase tourism while and through environmental conservation and preservation. Typically, this form of tourism involves traveling to an undisturbed place for enjoyment, for experience, or for study of an areaís natural beauty. By enhancing ecotourism in the rainforest, the economy of the region will benefit. As more tourists visit the area, businesses such as souvenir shops, restaurants, local hotels, and travel stores will profit. In addition, transportation and communication systems in the rainforest will improve. Due to ecotourism, the rainforest will experience a strengthening in global interaction which will in turn spread understanding of the vitality of the Amazon. As the mining and logging industries grow in the Amazon, the rainforest continues to shrink, converting into grassy savannas. Thus an increase in ecotourism will stimulate economic development and provide economic motivation for preservation of natural areas.
Tourism is one of the largest industries of the world. Typically it replaces one aspect of an existing economy. For instance, if mining stops due to the natural beauty of an area, then the tourism will probably improve because people want to see the beautiful scenery.1 Tourism must cater to the need of the travelers, i.e. geared towards students, senior citizens, etc, and transportation must be adequate and accessible. People are attracted to architecture, culture and landscape. The Amazon Rainforest, being a very specific wonder, interests people and captures their attention.
Due to the colonization by the Western capitalist countries, Latin America has experienced a backward development in their economy. In 1997, Brazil ranked 39th in top destinations but was 15th in the top tourism spenders.2 This implies then that there is some fault in their technique of advertising or in operating their tourism destinations.
Currently, tourism in Brazil is floundering due to the lack of infrastructure and the competitive market with neighboring countries. In the "Guidelines for a National Ecotourism Policy", released in 1995, ecotourism is defined as a part of the tourist trade which uses the natural and cultural heritage sustainably, promotes its conservation, and seeks to cultivate an environmental awareness through the interpretation of the environment and well-being of the populations involved. It is a viable alternative to reconcile economic growth, strengthening regional and local economies, with the conservation of the natural and cultural heritage.3
One existing program dealing with ecotourism is PROECOTUR (The Program of Development of Eco-Tourism in the Amazon)/the Program Green Tourism. This organization is a part of the Brazilian government's Avanca Brazil program. It includes surveying best practices for ecotourism, financing ecotourism projects, developing tourist infrastructure, and assisting investors with technological and financial aid.4
Recommended Government Regulations:
We suggest that the government uses tax breaks as incentives for tourism related infrastructure to become more environmentally friendly. People want to visit a region which is well maintained and exposes the natural beauty; ecotourists travel to a destination for the attractiveness of the land. In addition, we suggest that Brazil adopt the standards that Costa Rica has outlined for ecotourism as the qualifications for these tax breaks. Specific regulations concerning infrastructure, energy, and waste management must be instituted. Also, tax breaks for companies promoting educational programs on location which would educate student tour groups both from Brazilian schools and international visitors. Preliminary reviews, conducted by the ministry of tourism, for these tax breaks will occur one year after being granted for verification of compliance. If progress is in accordance with guidelines, then a three year accreditation will be given. If the improvement exceeds guidelines, then a five year accreditation will be given. If the improvements are below expectations, then a one year probationary accreditation will be implemented with limited tax breaks. If no progress is seen, then all tax breaks will be withdrawn.
We also recommend an estimated $10 (USD) exit fee for all visitors of less than a month. The profits should be used for upkeep of tourism infrastructure, and conservation and environmental awareness efforts. Brazil received over 5 million tourist in 2000, so the funds would exceed 50 million dollars. Countries such as Costa Rica and Cuba serve as a precedent for regions that use such fees.
Suggestions to Travel Companies:
We recommend that a student specialized tourist/volunteer program be established. By making the rainforest accessible to students, schools would be able to educate more about the necessity of the rainforest and engage them directly in the preservation. By working with school groups, the companies will establish a steady cliental. Once companies have built relationships with schools, the schools will be able to provide students for repeat trips. Furthermore, trips will be easier to organize because all the visitors would be coming from the same location. This connection with the students advertises the rainforest through word of mouth amongst the community.
A similar volunteer program called Amizade (in Portuguese means friendship) exists in Santarem, Brazil. Each visit lasts two weeks and the students build schools and health clinics in the Amazon during their stay. Other characteristics should be included. For instance, the Amazon Co-op5, a non-profit organization, was established in 1998 on an Indian reserve on Tataquara Island on the Xingu River in the Brazilian state of Para. This group works with six indigenous tribes: Arara, Xicrin, Bacaja, Assurini, Kayapo Aukre, and Parakana. All donations go towards the sustainable businesses of these six tribes and their healthcare, education, and reservations. Boat rides, hiking and walking trails, and story telling offer other methods of exploring/learning about the Amazon.
We are encouraging ecotourism in Manaus. Many characteristics must be considered when deciding a tourism destination or improving the existing tourism industry and the city of Manaus was determined to be an adequate location for several reasons:
For ecotourism to flourish, several aspects need to be ensured. It is vital to have the governmentís support. One of the primary sources of funding and maintaining the ecotourism attraction must come from the governmentís budget. The cooperation and commitment of the government to preservation and to the investment in ecotourism will make the tourism more profitable. Also, the involvement of local communities is crucial. The local relationship with the environment will determine the respect the tourists demonstrate. As long as the natives want preservation and demonstrate this desire to others, then more progress will be made towards conservation. Subsequently, the tourists will adopt a similar respect as they tour and will share their knowledge and views after returning home. The people of the Amazon should also be deeply involved because the ecotourism will be cause economic compensation for an industry causing destruction in the region.
Short term tests (5-10 years)to gauge the success of developing tourism programs include analyzing:
1. the number of tourists
2. the number of Amazon related educational programs existing in schools and businesses
3. the number of tax breaks given out to companies and property owners engaging in environmentally friendly tourism related endeavors after the first review
Long term tests involve:
We expect that the number of tourists will increase. This will enhance Brazilís service related industries, thus, improving the economy and creating a larger middle class. With broader educational curriculums, we predict that there will be a greater national and international awareness of the rainforest which will further conservation efforts. By implementing tax breaks, we hope to encourage more environmentally sound development and we expect that owners will maintain environmental standards that allow for the continuation of tax breaks. We anticipate that this success will attract more people leading to an increase in the number of participants.
With the success of ecotourism in one region, it is our prediction that tourism will spread to other locations. By creating an inviting tourist environment, the economy will benefit from the development of local hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, travel stores, etc. Tourism will also improve transportation systems, communication systems, and technology in the area. Therefore, global interaction will increase and the importance of the Amazon Rainforest will be spread.
Significant economic, environmental and social benefits should be derived from ecotourism, including: diversification of regional economies by encouraging the establishment of small businesses; keeping the population in the countryside; local job creation; improvement in regional and local facilities, transport, communications and sanitation; alternative sources of income for protected areas; the reduction of impacts on the natural and cultural heritage and scenic landscapes; benefits for the management and infrastructure available for protected areas; and environmental awareness.6
In instituting these suggestions regarding tourism, several issues are not addressed. The safety and law enforcement in Brazil were assumed to be strong and stable. All adequate infrastructures to accommodate tourism were understood as already existing.
1: Goldstone, Patricia. Making the World Safe for Tourism. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001.
2: Harrison, David. Tourism and the Less Developed World: Issues and Case Studies. New York, NY: CABI Publishing, 2001.
3: Ministry of Environment. First National Report for the Convention of Biological Diversity - BRAZIL: Chapter IV Legislation, Policies and Programs: Implementing Article 6 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, p181-182. Retrieved October 29th, 2002, from http://www.mma.gov.br/biodiversidade/doc/chapter4.pdf">http://www.mma.gov.br/biodiversidade/doc/chapter4.pdf
6: Ministry of Environment. First National Report for the Convention of Biological Diversity - BRAZIL: Chapter IV Legislation, Policies and Programs: Implementing Article 6 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, p181-182. Retrieved October 29th, 2002, from http://www.mma.gov.br/biodiversidade/doc/chapter4.pdf">http://www.mma.gov.br/biodiversidade/doc/chapter4.pdf