Ecotourism Module 4 Lecture Notes: The Island Biome
Lesson 7: Social-Cultural and Economic Impacts
We have examined the impacts that tourism and more specifically ecotourism can
have on the environment. We now consider how these activities can also impact on
the local, social and economic systems. As Weaver states, it is important to achieve
socio-cultural sustainability as well. The primary reason for this is ethical. Aside from
the humanitarian perspective, a community that is sustainable will provide the support
for ecotourism, which in turn, will promote environmental benefits. Visitor
satisfaction and market sustainability will also be achieved.
Weaver summarizes the costs to the socio-cultural systems as:
o Direct Costs
Cultural and social intrusion
Imposition of an elite alien value system
Erosion of local control (foreign experts, in-migration of job seekers)
Local inequalities and internecine disputes
o Indirect Costs
Potential for local resentment or antagonism
Tourist opposition to aspects of local culture and lifestyle (e.g.
hunting, slash/burn agriculture)
Direct Social-Cultural Costs
Erosion of Local Control
o Ecotourism can lead to a change in local control which can have either a
negative or positive impact on the local system. With modernization,
ecotourism incorporates peripheral areas into the world economy. Some
communities will welcome modernization and associated benefits but not
realize the long-term impacts or costs on related systems such as the
Ecotourism activities often involve the arrival of ‘outsiders' who initially dominate the
o Entrepreneurial initiative
o Financial resources
o Ecotourism knowledge
In less developed countries these businesses are often founded and operated by North
American or European enterprises or by nationals from the capital city. It can also
increase the number of job seekers that immigrate to the region looking for work.
Local Inequalities and Internecine Disputes
o New ecotourism ventures can also create local inequalities, especially when
there are strong local community groups that are in competition with each th
other. Favouring one group could lead to instability in the local groups and
disrupt existing social relationships.
Indirect Social-Cultural Costs
Local Resentment or Antagonism
o The establishment of parks and protected areas, both public and private, can
lead to resentment among the locals who are denied access to these lands. The
development of this land could lead to:
Loss of homes and resources
Perceptions of inadequate compensation
Economic costs because of reduced visitation
Tourist Opposition to Local Culture and Lifestyle
o Weaver describes this issue as conflict and negative publicity when there is
incompatibility between local lifestyles and expectations and values of
Traditionally, islands are not considered as a separate biome. Biomes are usually
defined by a particular similar characteristic life form, such as the vegetation cover.
Islands can have many types of vegetation cover depending on their location around
the globe. Tropical islands will be quite different from islands off the coast of
Nunavut. The vegetation and other life forms will be indicative of the latitude and
related factors. However, islands represent a unique ecosystem, one which is
controlled more by size and isolation. Many ecological processes will be similar
between islands found in different regions of the world, but are quite different from
processes on the mainland.
These characteristics have been examined extensively in the field of biogeography.
One of the basic premises of this area of study is that islands experience local
extinctions of species at greater rates than mainland populations. This rate of
extinction increases as the island gets smaller and farther from the mainland. This can
have important implications in the management of islands for ecotourism. Increased
environmental stress from more people can exceed the local carrying capacity which
may increase local extinction. Also many islands have experienced the introduction of
many exotic or alien species which have altered the local ecosystem.
Case Study - Islands of the Pacific Ocean
In this case study, you will consider different degrees of tourism and ecotourism and
the impact on the social-cultural systems of three islands found in the Pacific. Watch
the video from the Human Geography series, Episode Four – Global Tourism. You
can find the video by clicking on the web pages link on the left menu and click on
Online Video. When you go to the page for the video clip, you'll find that you need to
sign into the website, it's free, they just want addresses. The only confusing part is
choosing a state that you're from - but just click ‘Other'.
The video examines the differences in tourism for three islands in the Pacific that are
at different stages in the level of tourism and ecotourism. As you watch the video
keep the following questions in mind: March 14 th
o What is the state of tourism in Hawaii? Would you consider it to be
o How do they promote their market?
o In the video, what did some of the locals feel were the problems from this type
o What impact has Hawaii had on tourism on other islands?
o In the example from Penang , what did they mean by ‘niche marketing'?
o What was the resort The Datai doing to promote ecotourism?
o What impacts was the local community experiencing from development for
o They described tourism in Borneo as the frontier of tourism – what were they
o What are some of the fears regarding ecotourism on Borneo ?
o Finally what changes are occurring in ecotourism in Hawaii ?
Lesson 8: Ecotourism Benefits
Often the term environmental impact suggests a negative impact on the environment
such as soil erosion or declining air quality. However, ecotourism offers the
opportunity to generate a benefit to the ecosystem aside from the potential negative
impacts or costs. We can consider these environmental benefits and costs as either
direct or indirect depending on the nature of the action.
Protecting Natural Environments
o The de