Love the outdoors? Work in ecotourism
The ecotourism industry is concerned with providing facilities and services to people who want a holiday (or experience), in nature based tourism, or tourism that is related to the natural environment.
How the Course is Structured
This 600 hour course requires you to successfully complete all assignments and pass a single 1.5 hour exam for each of six modules:
- Ecotour Management (Module 1)
- Ecotour Tour Guide (Module 2)
- Bushcraft and Widerness Activities (Module 3)
- Conservation and Environmental Management (Module 4)
- Two electives (Mosules 5 and 6), selected from: Plant Ecology, Australian Natives I, Nature Park Management I, Event Management, Ornithology, Wildlife Management, Marine Studies I, Marine Studies II., Vertebrate Zoology, Bush Tucker Plants, Botany I, Food and Beverage Management
This certificate is accredited through the International Accreditation & Recognition Council.
Graduates who choose to continue studies will be given credit toward higher qualifications with ACS in Australia, ACS Distance Education (UK) or affiliated institutions.
Scope of Ecotourism
Ecotour Operators are concerned with all of the same things that any tourism operator is concerned with: accommodation, transport, activities, food and beverage, and other services.
Ecotour developments can range from small scale bed and breakfast operations to large eco-resorts. Accommodation facilities might include::
Ecotourism uses the natural environment or culture of a given area as its primary attraction; and the provision, protection and maintenance of facilities are always of concern. Ecotour facilities and services can also be concerned with things such as
Cooking facilities (eg. barbeques)
Kitchens (communal, communal, self catering or organised)
Education and information facilities
Signs and maps
Walks and pathways, access tracks, bridges, steps etc.
Anchorage, jetties or mooring points
ELEMENTS OF ECOTOURISM
The definition of ecotourism provides a framework from which to explore the criteria of what makes ecotourism;
Nearly all definitions of ecotourism include the focus on the natural environment. This focus is flexible and allows the focus to range from say a biome such as a rainforest and all that it includes to a narrow product focus on a single species. Thus the focus may be holistic or elemental, although it is best to consider a single species in the context of its broader environment to provide a better educational outcome.
Many ecotourism ventures focus on certain elements in nature; these elements are commonly referred to as ‘charismatic megafauna/megaflora/megaliths’. Megafauna include any animal species that provide a target such as whales, lions, birds and even insects. Megaflora includes plant species such as rafflesia in Indonesia, while Megaliths are natural formations such Mt Everest and other geographic features of interest.
Additionally it is also unwise to separate one element from any cultural background or context due to the paucity of environments that are untouched by humans. Thus an element is not only placed in the broader environmental context but also in the human/cultural context providing the visitor with the most realistic and in-depth experience.
Later definitions include an emphasis on education as an essential part of ecotourism. This aspect is broad enough to encompass a spectrum of learning ranging from highly organised formal education to self guided tours or even entertainment.
There is argument that ecotourism should be teaching ‘preferred behaviour’ as a way of instigating preferred outcomes for the target product, however this is not considered necessary for the product to be considered educational. Effective interpretation is essential educational means for not just providing facts and figures, but to reveal the complex relationships found in nature as well as encouraging appropriate behaviour to minimise impacts and to improve outcomes for the element in focus.
Interpretations can be either off-site or on-site. Off site interpretation includes guidebooks, information and images on website, brochures or even word of mouth. This is important as it influences the visitor’s decision to visit the attraction but also establishes future behaviours, expectations and images in the visitor which can have a dramatic effect upon their actual experience. On site interpretation includes visitor facilities, self guided and guided tours.
3. Cultural Impacts
The inclusion of the cultural welfare of the local/indigenous populations as a key component in ecotourism was introduced to reduce exploitive practices by foreign owned companies that essentially were not investing back into the local economy or environment and used locals in the lowest entry level employment.
It makes sense to involve the local community, garner their support and interest by making it benefit them as this is most likely to lead to the protection of the natural attractions. In some cases lack of consideration of the cultural impacts has lead to mass displacement of indigenous populations and destruction of natural resources. The most famous example of this is the displacement of approximately 70% of the Masai people for the creation of game parks in a pattern that was repeated across eastern Africa.
Another major aim of ecotourism is to put money back into the local community. Operators are therefore encouraged to spend money associated with the running of the tour in the local community in which they are operating. This can be money associated with the actual running of the business, the tour, and personal expenditure, and includes goods and services.
The local economy is stimulated by this spending and economic growth is a flow-on effect, creating employment and economic security for the local rural populations. Income is also generated through the fees associated with permits and licenses; this ensures that more money is spent on public land management and conservation. Job opportunities in this field therefore also increase with a greater demand for park rangers, kiosk operators, park assistants and so on.
Another positive result of putting money back into the community is community support. For example, rural communities, often with a sometimes high proportion of unemployment and low incomes, are much more inclined to support ecotourism in their area if they too can benefit from it.
Sustainable Development was defined in 1980’s as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. While this principle is enthusiastically embraced, actually defining how this is to be met is another matter.
One aspect of sustainability calls for either the maintenance of the status quo in environments that are adequately ‘intact’ or enhancement the natural environment when degraded in some aspect.
This can actually dovetail nicely with tourism in providing visitors with an opportunity to give back to the environment by participation in restoration activities or by providing donations to such work. This approach promotes the notion of the environment as everyone’s responsibility not some undefined ‘other’.
Ecotourism ventures need to be assessed to determine whether they are actually ‘sustainable’, but the lack of consensus as to what constitutes sustainable creates further issues. In fact is nearly impossible to actually say that a particular business is ‘environmentally sustainable’, rather it is considered better to place the expectation that operations will work with what is considered environmental best practice.
5. Financial Aspects
If the venture is operating as ‘for profit’ it must consider financial viability seriously. Realism dictates that there will be a balance between running a business, customer satisfaction and meeting the requirements of ecotourism.
- Ensure your skills are up to date, by pursuing further studies or attending professional development activities.
- Keep up to date with what's happening in the field of Ecotourism. What are the most pouplar ecotourism activities and destinations? Where is there likely to be more work? And what skills are most desirable at present?
- Join a networking group to meet people who are working in the field of Ecotourism.
- Get some experience. Whether paid or unpaid, experience will always make your CV look more impressive and give you some practical knowledge to apply in your interview.