, Volume 11, Issue 9, pp 1539-1550

Evaluating ecotourism in natural protected areas of La Paz Bay, Baja California Sur, México: ecotourism or nature-based tourism?

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Abstract

In natural protected areas, ecotourism could provide the impetus andeconomic investment for improved conservation of species and habitats. However,few studies have attempted to characterise sustainable ecotourism and positiveexamples of ecotourism are still rare. This study conducted a series ofinterviews at the local, regional, and national level in order to identifygeneral feeling and concerns of government and non-government institutions withrespect to ecotourism. Questionnaires were used to assess the extent offulfillment of ecotourism principles by tour operators in protected areas of LaPaz Bay. Government and non-government institutions interviewed expectedecotourism to be a means for regional development, a conservation strategy andcompatible with conservation activities. Ecotourism operators surveyed were morelikely to be considered ecotourism ventures, reaching on average 10 indicators(σ ≈ 3, n = 14), and were found to be providing, insome way, benefits to the conservation of the area. Current ecotourismactivities may provide benefits for conservation, but are not comparable to thecosts involved in the conservation of the protected areas concerned. Hence,current ecotourism activities have not met the expectations of the protectedarea managers. The role that ecotourism can play as a conservation strategydepends on the strategies designed by protected area managers to take touroperators to share the costs and benefits of environmental services.