By: Rahmadhani, M.Bus
There are potentially many good aspects of developing and managing NBT in terms of environment conservation, education and economic benefits for the welfare of local and indigenous community, but still some important issues need to be dealt with in terms of the adverse impacts of developing NBT. Identifying and assessing a potential destination for the development of NBT products is therefore considered vital for planning and developing NBT by tourism planners or tourism policymakers. Creating a model as part of identification and assessment of the NBT products by considering the following aspects: “levels of attraction, accessibility, presence of infrastructure and level of environmental degradation” will enable tourism planners to maximize the tourism benefits environmentally, economically and socio-culturally and to minimize their adverse impacts. Therefore, the first step towards effective planning for NBT is to systematically identify and assess the resource base for its potential development (Priskin, 2001).
2. Nature-based Tourism Development
Terminologically, much debate and confusion have surrounded the terms ‘NBT’ and ‘ecotourism’ in recent times. Not surprisingly, terms of ecotourism and NBT are often used interchangeably in many conferences, professional journals, books and projects reports. Nevertheless, it is important to understand the difference to effectively target each market segment. Tourism that features ‘nature’ is generally termed environmental or ‘nature-based tourism’, a broad term that includes a range of tourism experience including adventure tourism, ecotourism and other aspects of cultural and rural tourism. According to the Ecotourism Society, ecotourism is a sub-segment of this market that involves responsible travel to natural areas, which conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of the local people.
However, many experts have defined NBT and ecotourism in many different ways, ranging from the general to the specific definitions (see appendix 1 for selected ecotourism definitions quoted by Weaver, 2001). Nevertheless, Weaver describes NBT: “ is any type of tourism that relies on attractions directly related to the natural environment. Thus, ecotourism is a subset of nature-based tourism, allowing for the supplementary portion of ecotourism that focuses on the cultural attributes of destination (2001)” He also defines ecotourism as “a form of tourism that fosters learning experiences and appreciation of the natural environment, or some component thereof, within its associated cultural context. It has the appearance (in concert with best practice) of being environmentally and socio-culturally sustainable, preferably in a way that enhances the natural and cultural resources base of the destination and promotes the viability of the operation”.
From the definitions above, it can be summarized that sustainability of natural environment has been the major concern of such tourism. Weaver further describes other categories of NBT including 3S, adventure, captive, extractive and health (see appendix 2 for ecotourism activities in the context of NBT).
Adventure tourism is a very active form of tourism. It is often seen as outdoor recreation, where the tourist faces nature to experience risk. This type of tourism can be experienced all over the world. Nevertheless, to qualify as adventure tourism, Weaver (2001) stresses that an activity or product should incorporate three components: an element of risk, higher levels of physical exertion and a need for certain specialized skills to participate successfully and safely in the activity.
3S (sea, sand and sun) is another form of NBT with its reliance on sea, sand and sun. 3S tourism clearly fits under the category of NBT, but is often associated with large-scale and mass resort tourism. Meaning that some activities can qualify as both ecotourism and 3S tourism, ignoring for the moment the issue of whether ecotourism is also mass tourism (e.g. scuba diving, skindiving, etc.). These are typically associated with 3S tourism. Other 3S tourism activities may also be linked to adventure tourism, such as sea-dooing, surfing, waterskiing, windsurfing and health tourism, such as swimming (Weaver, 2001).
Tourism activity exhibiting captive flora and fauna or commonly called captive tourism is part of NBT activity. This can include aquariums, aviaries, arboretums, botanical gardens, garden tours, wildlife parks and zoos. However, Weaver (2001) argues that activities that involve captive flora and fauna are not normally associated with ecotourism, although there are many cases where the freedom afforded by wildlife parks and botanical gardens is comparable to that which is available in national parks or other protected areas. Associated activities in such situations may be ecotourism-related.
Extractive tourism or consumptive and non-consumptive tourism, such as beryypicking, fishing (e.g. catch and release, deep sea, ice fishing, offshore, spearfishing), fossicking, etc. are associated as NBT. Weaver, (2001) maintains that consumptive tourism is usually perceived as involving tangible products extracted from the natural environment, and is associated with hunting and fishing in particular (except arguably, for catch and release angling). In contrast, non-consumptive tourism is associated with the provision of intangible experiences, such as those offered by birdwatching and other forms of wildlife of nature observation (applegate & Clark cited by Weaver, 2001).
Meanwhile, health tourism is associated to nature-based tourism involving activities by using natural resource or environment as a means of health enhancement or treatment, such as mudbathing, nature retreats and spas (Weaver, 2001).
2.1 Issues on Promoting NBT
Undeniably, NBT has positive and negative impacts socially, economically and environmentally. From a negative viewpoint, the fragility of the protected areas is placed under increasing pressure to support the demands of the tourists and a growing tourist industry. If the carrying capacity of an area is exceeded then the environment may suffer irreparable damage, such as soils erode and compact, wildlife is disturbed, the sense of solitude and scenic quality are diminished or even lost.
On the other hand, it has the potential to be more ecologically sustainable than most extractive industries. Travelling to NBT destinations can enhance understanding and appreciation of the values of the natural world and distinctive cultural attributes, and contributes visitors’ commitments and host community to their protection, restoration and enhancement. Responsible tourism can also contribute funds for the better management of natural areas. Nevertheless, Jones at al. (2003) describe details of social, economic and environmental issues involved in NBT:
1. Socio-economic impacts:
- There is a poorly defined balance between promoting a natural attraction and inadvertently
- Can commercialise traditions (dances, crafts, ceremonies, etc).
- Can exaggerate dependence on outside sources (i.e. external corporate ownership)
- Subject to boom-bust cycles, therefore communities are highly vulnerable.
- Potential to be an excellent tool for community-based economic development
- Ecotourism can strengthen local & tourist connection with the land and societies.
2. Positive environmental issues:
- Foster conservation and preservation of natural, cultural and historical resources
- Encourages community beautification and revitalization
- Chance to enhance appreciation of natural environment.
- Excessive erosion and track formation
- Visitor-created trails
- Introduction of exotic species
- Trampling damage to plants
- Biological contamination
- Wildlife mortality (i.e. increased traffic)
- Habitat destruction and loss
- Nuisance behaviour
- Alter natural behaviour pattern
- Dependency and habituation
- Oil and gas pollution in water and air
- Illegal hunting and fishing
- Disturb wildlife breeding sites
- Flight noise disturbances and aggression
3. Techniques/Methods for Assessing a Destination for NBT Attractions
NBT has been one of the fastest growing segments or attractions in the travel industry, fuelled by environmentally conscious travelers wanting to enjoy the wilds of nature. Tourism planners or policymakers in tourism, as the impact of a rapid growth of such tourism demand, should therefore consider evaluating and assessing natural potentials in their areas to be developed as potential NBT. Mitchell quoted by Priskin (2001) maintains that resources are an expression of appraisal and represent a subjective concept. The question of what constitutes a NBT resource and what factors add to or detract from the quality of a resource can be best answered by a systematic assessment of resource potential. This begins with identification, classification and assessment of resources (Davidson cited by Priskin, 2001). To promote tourists’ visits, the availability of such tourist attractions should be managed professionally according to types of particular tourism sites, uniqueness and accessibility. Weaver and Oppermann (2000) also comment that the ability of a destination to draw visitors depends on factors such as quality, quantity, diversity, uniqueness and accessibility of its attraction assets.
However, several methods or models for evaluating or assessing the NBT attractions are available. A study by Ferrario (1979), for example, has been a common method of tourism resource assessment. This study was conducted by combining expert knowledge and tourist opinions to evaluate tourist attractions in South Africa. Dowling (1993) also used similar methods by using tourist opinions, expert knowledge and resident opinions in evaluating attractions for eco-tourists in the Gascoyne Region in Western Australia. Meanwhile, economists have their own ways to evaluate NBT resources by using a technique called the “Contingent Market Evaluation” for determining tourists’ willingness to pay for a resource.
Furthermore, Michell at al. quoted by Priskin (2001) describe that NBT may also be evaluated on the basis of attractions or scenic quality using landscape assessment techniques and three general approaches:
1. Landscape consensus: involves a team of experts who designate area of high scenic value
2. Landscape descriptive studies: several or all of the landscape’s entity is inventoried and
3. Landscape evaluation: landscape preferences aiming to determine which aspects of the
3.1 Priskin’s Assessment Model and its Weaknesses
As there are several techniques that can be used for identifying and assessing the NBT products, it is worth noting that the application of one technique can be varied to another in terms of effectiveness, efficiency, objectives, approaches and tourism supply and demand. Not to mention other external factors including types of geography and topography in one area to be assessed. All the techniques may have their own strengths and weakness in their applications.
On one hand, Priskin’s assessment model, for example, has been considered good, as it involves compilation of a matrix for evaluating and classifying the resources. It also consists of four major categories of NBT resources: attraction diversity, accessibility, supporting infrastructure and level of environmental degradation. Some improvement and adjustment are needed on the other. Amongst the components that need adjustment is the indicators used to evaluate the locations, as some of the indicators cannot be applied in some areas. Thus, this can lead to bias results when the total scores are analysed. The locations that do not have the listed attributes will get lower score even though sometimes they have other significant potentials or strengths.
Further, some indicators should be scientifically analysed by experts rather than by common people who do not specialize in a specific study. The fourth assessment category with ten indicators, for example, consisting of litter, weeds, disease, impact of fire, erosion, trampling of vegetation, destruction of dune, erosion of landforms, tracks and built structures. This category should be analysed by biologists to evaluate and achieve the expected level of environmental degradation.
4. Suggested Model for Assessing the NBT Products
The ecotourism activities in the context of NBT adapted by Weaver et al. (1999) can be alternatively an initial framework to create a model for identifying and assessing potential destinations for development of NBT products. Having been divided into six categories of NBT (adventure, ecotourism, 3S, captive, extractive and health), the model can be more developed and adjusted exhaustively according to other NBT activities. In other words, developing an assessment model can be comprehensively adjusted according to areas or countries with particular geography, topography and other specific activities done by indigenous people culturally. Other issues associated to the assessment model should be considered in terms of level of infrastructure, capital investment/funding, human resources/training, physical potentials that are required, positive and negative impacts towards local community economically, socio-culturally and environmentally.
As the demand of NBT has been growing rapidly and has significantly offered employment and income opportunities to local communities, creating an assessment model to identify and assess a potential destination for the development of NBT products is therefore considerably important by tourism planners or tourism policymakers. However, some indicators need to be considered when creating the assessment model, such as levels of attraction, accessibility, presence of infrastructure, level of environmental degradation, etc. By so doing, they will enable tourism planners to maximize the tourism benefits environmentally, economically and socio-culturally and to minimize their adverse impacts.
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- Director for Tourism Promotion, Marketing Department, Aceh Tourism and Culture Agency, Indonesia, 2008 (Contact Person Number: Hp: +62 651 8126907873 Email: email@example.com