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Conservation and Biodiversity via Ecotourism

One of the most stated principles of ecotourism is the sustainable use of exhaustible natural resources with no or minimal negative environmental effects: It represents eco-friendly use of natural resources (Nyuapane and Poudel 2011; Surendran and Sekhar 2011). Furthermore, it is widely claimed that ecotourism helps saving animals and fragile ecosystems by not only responsible uses, but also providing financial funds for conservation or renovation (Salvador et al. 2011; Zambrano et al. 2010). It also builds environmental awareness, sensitivity, and respect. Such claims are supported by studies throughout the world that make the exceptions as rule by concluding that ecotourism is significantly effective in promoting sustainable use, conservation of flora, fauna, and biodiversity.

Ecotourists as Customers and Users

Ecotourists are, first of all, customers of tourism enterprises and allied services. At the same time, they are users and/or consumers of natural and human environment.

Environmental education, attitude, concern, and behavior of ecotourists (and local people) are presented as the sole solution to ecotourism problems. Contrarily, (eco)tourists (and local community members) are the last link in the chain of negative effects on flora and fauna, habitat, livelihood, and culture. The root of the problem and solution has nothing or very little to do with, e.g., knowledge, education (e.g., Fletcher 2015), effective or better policy formulation, efficiency, sufficiency, capacity building, certification for sustainable tourism, ecotourism accreditation programs, involvement of the professionals, external auditing and the like. The environmental conditions and ecotourism problems and solutions all over the world are related with those highly educated people who organize, prepare, and implement effective programs and policies and run the businesses and services.

They are perfectly aware of what and why they do and probable consequences of their professional practices. Hence, it is necessary to revise/change the prevailing modes of organizational structures, production and distribution of goods and services, and relations of daily practices, if we are after real solutions to environmental problems.

The nature of ecotourists is rarely questioned in terms of whether they are really different than mass tourists or they are readily accepted as eco-friendly, responsible, and sensitive people in general. Yet, they are considered as individuals to be educated for environmental sensitivity, conservation, and responsibility. That is why many behavioral principles of conduct are “to do and not to do prescriptions.”

There are many different kinds of ecotourists with different kinds of goals and activities. Besides the affirmative characteristics of ecotourists highlighted by the proponents of ecotourism, the activities of ecotourists are also associated with crime, prostitution, alcoholism, sexually transmitted diseases, cultural erosion, disturbance of wildlife behavior and habitat, vegetation damage, soil erosion, trail erosion, litter, and pollution (Steven et al. 2011; Kreiner et al. 2013; Dixit and Narula 2010). There is a huge gap in Turkey, too, between words and deeds, not only in industrial practices, but also ecotourist aspects of the process (Erdogan and Erdogan 2012).

(Eco)tourists have a common goal: Their basic motive is to have good time, not to conserve or contribute to the environment or sustainable ecotourism, unless their primary purpose is environmentally related one, not having a nice holiday. Consequently, the basic question regarding the (eco)tourists is whether they have the kind of relational culture that makes them pay close attention to the environment and sustainability. Environmentally oriented culture requires widespread socialization and acculturation that uphold environmentally sensitive mental, intellectual, and relational existence in daily life in, e.g., family, school, work, mass media, and internet settings.

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