Since tourism is recreational and leisurely in nature, most tourist activities are executed when people travel to visit friends, family and places. It is an amalgamation of govt and private sector activities designed to serve the management activities of holidays and, public and business travel (Pearce et al. 1998, p.xvi.) The tourism sector has been known to account for as the largest cash generating business. Yearly, more than 700 million international trips actualize, thereby implying that tourism is indeed a very lucrative business.
Where at one point people travel to be captivated by exotic, picturesque and breathtaking scenic beauty; at the other, they are being propelled by wildlife attractions (Green, 2004). Wild life tourism is commonly interpreted as all encounters with non domesticated or untamed animals either in captivity or out in the open. These encounters tend to take two forms: terrestrial encounters that delineate killing and/or capturing of the animals where as non consumptive confluence indicates viewing or photographing the wildlife, and is harmless in nature (Higginbottom, 2004).
Tourism tends to take form of scuba diving on coral reefs, wildlife safari (perhaps in Africa), wildlife sanctuary, zoo or even a stroll in the national park. Such tourism can take place via independent visits, by accompanied tourists or at places specially reserved for this purpose (Higginbottom, 2004). Today, wildlife tourism is acknowledged to have been divided into four main realms: wildlife viewing, captive wildlife, hunting and fishing tourism (which sets to explore the enigmatic aquatic bounty, unheard of; to many).
There are individuals who are simply more attracted to cuddly pandas, funny penguins, and fascinating clusters of smooth yet discrete colors on many rare birds. All these moves strengthen the social and economic stature of this emerging sector subject to a lot of media attention (Altona, 2004). Wildlife is a rare phenomenon these days, contrary to that experienced by our ancestors. Today, this appreciation of bountiful nature has been left to the task of televisions alone. Hence, the ‘virtual’ experience is the only experience made available for the masses. The adrenaline rush one would feel when being in close proximity to a cheetah for instance, is a hard truth denied by television; however good the resolution. Despite the lack of physical connection, thanks to tourism people are connected to certain species of wild life more than ever before (Eagles, 2002). Thus, the conservation perspective seeks to loosen up the intimate relation between man and animal, with many people voting with their time and money for the preservation of this form of life (Higginbottom, 2004).
Mason (2003) explores the growth, development and impacts of tourism in this article. He renders the socio-cultural, environmental and economic impacts as the most capable of exerting influence on wildlife tourism. Further in his study, he substantiates a relationship between planning and effective management. He too, like many other authors on the issue; has advocated visitors, host communities, tourism industry and the govt to be authorities of substance. This helps to develop the dimensions and components of tourism, industry etc.
Newsome and Moore (2002) make use of the applied approach to ecology and environmental study to enhance the layman’s understanding about the topic. To them, the practical implication of wildlife and its fraternity is of an even greater value. The article lays huge emphasis on management strategies and appropriate framework adopted to rationalize these findings. It couples the dynamics of ecosystem with that of strategy, impact and evaluation to present a study that substantiates the way forward for the emerging, yet vulnerable wildlife man could have an encounter with.
The main research question is:
“An overview of the Socio-Cultural and Economic impacts and sustainability of wildlife tourism”
This is further divided into sub categories, classified as research objectives:
- How is wildlife tourism important?
- What are the socio-cultural, economic and environmental implications of pursuing wildlife tourism and what likely spill over costs are involved?
- How can wildlife tourism be sustained and benefits maximized?
- How can the current management and planning be aligned with the prospective targets?
- Studying the significance of wildlife tourism; observation and appreciation of nature.
- Evaluating the socio-cultural implications of wildlife tourism because of host community recognition to the sustainability of a wildlife tourism attraction.
- Evaluating the environmental implications of pursuing wildlife tourism and likely spill over costs of it.
- Deducing the sustainability of wildlife tourism and maximization of benefits.
An amalgamation of primary and secondary research is used. Means of secondary research are resorted to for the purpose of data gathering and analysis. A total of 25 scholarly articles and some books will be interpreted pertaining to the topic to gauge the scope of the issue at hand in addition to being able to assess the plausible impacts and pave way for systematic planning. The articles will be used to provide the way forward for the study and improve on areas which require further documentation or help sustain and maximize the beneficial value of this sector. Primary research in the form of detailed close ended questions would be floated in African national parks and Safari to help reach firsthand knowledge and evaluations about the findings. The desired target market would be divided into the tourists travelling for leisure and the specialized tourists; and would capitalize on the prime age individuals, ideally aged between 25 to 40 years of age; not the senior citizens and pension holders. The target market would stress the experiencers, explorers, entertainers, engagers and eveners. Desired location would be Botswana wildlife safari which would give a fresh perspective on wildlife at numerous parks covered by this safari. Ideally, the questionnaire would be floated among 30 people for a diversified perspective during their visit to the Botswana Safari.
Findings and Analysis:
There is a tremendous focus on wildlife because of the huge interest it tends to gather from govt and non govt bodies, researchers and social activists. Because of huge global presence of this phenomenon it has gained remarkable support from leading world NGOs and organizations such as WWF (Archer and Cooper, 1998). Furthermore, the increased use of certain wild animals as marketing gimmicks has been used by many countries to once again promote tourism in all capacities for instance- Tamil tigers in Srilanka (Williams, 1997).
All the findings indicate towards the proliferation of the cause. The need of the hour is to view wildlife as a societal issue rather than a mere economic stimulator. It has also been indicated through various studies that there has been increased involvement of commercial and wildlife viewing tourism (Knight, 1995). The opportunities have magnified, as have animal welfare prospects and environmental awareness. Furthermore, with the advent of technology laden equipment in captive atmosphere, and sophisticated product design the prospects of wildlife development have mushroomed.
However, there is a flip side to it. With the wildlife viewing increasing at the same rate that is unmet with continuous improvements in management costs could ascend; as the research shows (Packer, 2009). There is also a need for strategic planning of wildlife tourism. Strategic planning and management would demand formulating, implementing and evaluating cross-functional decisions that enable the industry to achieve its objectives (David, 1995).
Wildlife tourism seeks to conserve the world’s depleting natural habitat. It is a tremendous source of economic generation, translated through revenues for landowners where these untamed species wander; and for govt protected areas (McCool, 2002).
Once the policies are to be implemented and resources allocated, the performance would be measured and evaluated. For this, as it has been proven, the stakeholders clearly need to be devised such as tourism operators, members of the travel trade, various tourism-related associations, government wildlife or protected area management agencies etc (Higginbottom, 2004). A promising approach towards wildlife preservation would stem from changing attitudes and uplifting of animal rights. A call for vigorous efforts to protect the mystical species from extinction should be put in order. Wildlife tourism would be executed by systematic evaluation of plausible and present interpretive programs. To wrap up, authorities need to check the extent to which current practices are in unison with the chalked out targets and formulations for a fool proof result (Carter, 2005). This would also help to evaluate their economic and social standing, from where benchmarks could be set to achieve the desirable outcomes.
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