Sustainable Tourism Development

Christopher Ynry Espinosa Mr, Jester Ong Chuan

  Ecotourism:   Challenges and opportunities

Over the past decade, tourism has become the largest industry worldwide
in terms of employment and share of global gross domestic product.   The tourism
industry has been growing rapidly as well as changing at a fast pace.   As more
people are interested in spending leisure time in nature, ecotourism has become
one of the fastest-growing segments of the tourism industry.   This creates
opportunities in areas characterized by natural attractions, wildlife and wilderness
habitats.   Local communities may benefit in economic terms as well as create a
commitment to conservation and sustainable development.
At the same time, however, increased demands for ecotourism create
pressure on carrying capacity.   Greater numbers of visitors makes it more likely
that habitats will be at risk and the wilderness and cultural heritage could be
ruined.   It is expected that China will encounter many challenges, because it already
ranks sixth worldwide in terms of tourist arrivals.   In the next twenty years, China
is forecast to be the top tourist destination and the fourth largest source of tourists
in the world.   This prospect for major tourism growth in China makes it important
to quickly consider the environmental and social issues that are part of sustainable
tourism development.

Careful planning and assessment are important parts of sustainable tourism
development.   Officials responsible for national parks and other nature areas will
have a major responsibility for handling the challenges and deciding which
opportunities for tourism development can be sustained over the long term.   Local
communities will also have to participate in planning and assessment when culture
and heritage are important parts of ecotourism.
It has been noted that the principles for ecotourism have not yet been firmly
established in order to guide planning and assessment....