An Analysis of Eco-Tourism and Its Potential: Case Study of Small Island Developing States

- 17 November 2016

Trade topics: Trade and Environment, Tourism

The contribution of the tourism sector towards the development of host nations is undeniable in that it provides several benefits such as creation of employment, generation of added value and tax revenue, and boosting of inward foreign direct investment. Yet, tourism does also have negative environmental, economic and socio-cultural effects and it is also true that tourism can have a negative impact on the physical environment, economic, and socio-cultural landscape of host nations. This is particularly true for the case of SIDS. Due to their distinct characteristics and vulnerabilities, SIDS are most affected by the change in climatic conditions. And in this regard, Mauritius is no different. Fortunately, the island’s successive governments have embarked on a series of policy measures aimed at fostering green initiatives with the ultimate objective of greater sector sustainability, one of which the promulgation of an eco-tourism sub-sector. However, despite their best efforts, there is the wide-held belief that the eco-tourism sector is yet to take off with a number of supply side factors being viewed as major constraints to the promulgation of same.
As such, the aim of the present study is two-fold. Firstly, through a review of the existing regulations and legal frameworks and through discussions with various sector stakeholders, delineate the various supply side factors hindering the expansion of an eco-tourism sub-sector and propose remedial measures accordingly. Secondly, through the use of the survey method, our research attempts to delineate the various demand driven factors fostering the behavioural intention of tourists towards eco-tourism. Using data from the survey, this study engages in deeper statistical analysis through the use of a structured equation modeling in an attempt to identify and quantify the various factors influencing the adoption of eco tourism practices. The results show that consumers’ ecotourism attitude positively influence ecotourism intention, ecotourism interest, and willingness to pay a premium to participate in ecotourism activities. The results also indicate that consumers’ ecotourism interest would positively predict their intention towards ecotourism. Furthermore, consumers’ environmental attitudes did not positively predict ecotourism intention. As regards the supply side impediments, discussions with stakeholders reveal that the main constraints to promoting an eco-tourism sub-sector include firstly, lack of finance with respect to the fostering and conservation of eco-sites; lack of a holistic approach for the strategic orientation of the sector; lack of educational and sensitization programmes and the prioritization of return on investment when making investment decisions in the sector; the island’s topography is not conducive to fostering eco-tourism; and finally a lack of interinstitutional communication, collaboration and coordination amongst the various tourism stakeholders. To that end, several measures are proposed including a more holistic approach to the sector, the promulgation of a branding exercise, fostering greater private public partnership to increase funding opportunities, promoting greater interplay between the different tourism stakeholders, incentivizing tourism businesses to seek certification and finally providing training programmes to stakeholders and embarking on sensitization campaigns to foster the integration of the local community.