6. Assessment, monitoring and management techniques


There are several assessment management techniques that can be used to evaluate tourism development projects prior to their implementation. These include environmental impact assessment, assessment of carrying capacity, visitor impact management, and limits of acceptable change. However, they can also be ongoing if they are designed so as to incorporate monitoring and/or feedback mechanisms.

Environmental impact assessment

Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is one of the most effective methods for determining whether a project will be sustainable, and if so, for elaborating safeguards to ensure its continuing sustainability. It can be used in all sectors (e.g. industry, agriculture, fisheries, power-generation, forestry, infrastructure, mining, urban/rural development, tourism). Properly applied, EIA can minimize the depletion of natural resources and environmental degradation or social disruption that has so often accompanied development (IUCN, n/d).

The process entails comprehensive and detailed study of the proposed development initiative and the environment within which it is to be developed. It is therefore integrated within the traditional project planning activities, and includes alternatives for location and technology. Baseline studies are conducted to record the nature and quality of the existing environment. Likely interactions between the development initiative and the environment are then identified and, as far as possible, quantified. Measures are then developed to prevent or minimize any potential adverse environmental impacts, and to enhance any potential environmental benefits. Additional opportunities for environmental enhancement are also identified at this stage. Finally, a monitoring programme is developed to assess actual impacts and to follow the course of long-term impacts. This programme also ensures compliance with existing environmental standards.

EIA is most often applied to development projects or specific development initiatives, but it can also be applied to development programmes and policies. But in order for EIA to be effective, it must be applied once fundamental choices among available options have been taken, in accordance with a national conservation strategy (NCS). The NCS approach, in developing a framework within which environmental concerns can be related to development objectives, offers an opportunity for balancing conservation and development, through a process of consensus-seeking.

EIA should be carried out for all new (planned) tourism developments and any existing developments. Tourism projects have often expanded into new areas on the back of existing development projects, and consequently they have not been subject to EIA. Thus in the Indian Himalayas, it was the construction of roads during the Sino-Indian border war that opened up the area and made it accessible to tourism. In the Antarctic, scientific stations likewise served as initial infrastructure. In such cases, tourism is usually not properly planned. Yet in wilderness areas, no such development should take place without an EIA.

Box 26: Eias and tourism development

In general, the following suggestions regarding EIAs can be followed (Jenner and Smith, 1992):

If an EIA is to be truly effective, however, it is essential that a broad sample of the affected public is aware of and understands the EIA concept. If necessary, an EIA should be analysed and debated in open session. If there is a reluctance to "go public" with EIAs, they may be suspected of being biased or of having been "bought" by the developers. This has been the experience in some Australian developments (Jenner and Smith, 1992).

Although EIA should be applied pre-development, it can also be applied post-development — for example, to facilities that predate green consciousness. This need not require the reduced operation of facilities (and hence financial loss) or the dismantling of expensive infrastructure. On the contrary, action taken as a result of EIA often enhances a resort and creates media interest, with positive public relations benefits.

Carrying capacity

Caring for the Earth (IUCN/UNEP/WWF, 1991), defines environmental carrying capacity as the capacity of an ecosystem to support healthy organisms while maintaining its productivity, adaptability, and capability of renewal. In other words, carrying capacity represents a threshold level of human activity: if exceeded, the resource base will deteriorate (Wolters, 1991).

Tourism carrying capacity is a specific type of environmental carrying capacity and refers to the carrying capacity of the (biophysical and social) environment with respect to tourist activity and development (Wolters, 1991). It represents the maximum level of visitor use and related infrastructure that an area can accommodate. If it is exceeded, deterioration of the area's resources, diminished visitor satisfaction, and/or adverse impacts upon the society, economy and culture of the area can be expected to ensue (McIntyre and Hetherington, 1991). Pearce and Kirk (1986) refer in addition to the social and psychological capacity of the tourist environment to support tourist activity and development.

These definitions are therefore considerably broader than, for example, Wagar's 1964 definition of the carrying capacity of wildlands which simply referred to the "level of recreational use an area can withstand while providing a sustained quality of recreation". This definition, in common with other writings of the time, implies that carrying capacity comprises two main components: a quality environment and a quality recreation experience (Kuss et al., 1990). But the extended recent definitions include at least four basic components: biophysical; socio-cultural; psychological; and managerial.

However, although the concept of tourism carrying capacity is not very difficult to perceive in theory, it is difficult to quantify, since no single definition of tourism, nor of environment, exists. Not surprisingly then, it is commonly recognized that there are no fixed or standard tourism carrying capacity values. Rather, carrying capacity varies, depending upon place, season and time, user behaviour, facility design, patterns and levels of management, and the dynamic character of the environments themselves. Moreover, it is not always possible in practice to separate tourist activity from other human activities.

Nevertheless, tourism planning can benefit from attempts to define tourism carrying capacity for a specific site or sites since these will offer an indication of the limits and limitations to tourism development. Besides, if visitor satisfaction is to remain at a constant level, the quality of the environment visited must be maintained. In general, if the tourism product declines in quality, tourism activity also declines.

Obviously, knowledge and understanding of the environmental impacts arising from tourism development are essential prerequisites if carrying capacity methodologies are to be applied. But in addition to a basic understanding of the tolerances and vulnerabilities of a park's resources and its local populations, a similar understanding must also be developed of the visitors and their expectations. These last may be high if visitors have spent a considerable sum of money to reach the remote protected area. Thus knowledge of the effect that visitors have upon other visitors is also called for (Pritchard, 1992).

The basic components of tourism carrying capacity

The biophysical component of carrying capacity relates primarily to the natural resource. It recognizes that no biophysical system can withstand unlimited utilization. Therefore, a threshold of tourist activity must be defined beyond which irreversible and detrimental change in the biophysical environment will occur, such as loss of habitats and elimination of species or populations of species. This threshold level is based on the assessment of the vulnerability to use of ecosystems.

The ability to define the carrying capacity levels of a natural environment will depend on the size and complexity of that environment. Specific activities in specific habitats, such as trampling on sand dunes, can be assessed relatively easily, as can specific activities carried out in large well-defined areas with relatively low human habitation levels. Assessment of biophysical carrying capacity is becoming increasingly common practice in protected area management (Wolters, 1991).

The socio-cultural component of carrying capacity component recognizes that detrimental socio-cultural impacts on local populations will occur if tourism exceeds a certain level. When evaluating these, it is necessary but sometimes difficult to distinguish between those caused by tourism and those resulting from other activities. Socio-cultural carrying capacity refers in the first place to the host population. Perceptions of what constitutes an unacceptable impact or effect will vary between the indigenous population and the tourists, and also within these two groups, and some attention must be given to prioritizing. For instance, a person making a living purely from tourism will view tourism very differently from someone totally uninvolved in this activity. This makes it very difficult to assess and evaluate socio-cultural carrying capacity accurately (Wolters, 1991). In order to measure the socio-cultural carrying capacity of a site, the assistance of an anthropologist or some other social scientist will be crucial. Likewise, the professional advice of an archaeologist is paramount if visitor impact on an archaeological site is to be assessed.

The psychological component of carrying capacity of a natural area refers to the maximum number of visitors for whom an area is able to provide a quality experience at any one time. Depending on each area, the type of attractions found there, and the specific characteristics of each tourist (ranging from, e.g. experienced ecotourist to casual park visitor), the psychological capacity may vary from 20m2 for a visitor at a look-out point (or 1m2 for a visitor leaning against the railing of that look-out point), to 10 m2 for a person using a high-density camping area, to one hectare (in the case of an isolated camper in a wilderness area) (Boullón, 1985).

Shelby and Heberlein ((1986) cited by Healy (1992b)), referring to what we call psychological carrying capacity, assert that it depends "on the number, type and location of encounters with other human groups [especially other visitors], and on the way these encounters affect the recreation experience. Some [psychological] capacities seem easy to establish. If lovers are looking for an intimate afternoon together, for example, the appropriate number of encounters with others is zero and the [psychological] capacity is two. It is more difficult, however, to establish capacity for a backcountry hiking experience or a day trip floating on an easily accessible river. [Psychological] capacity has traditionally been difficult to determine, primarily due to the difficulty of establishing evaluative standards".

The managerial component of carrying capacity refers to the maximum level of visitation that can be managed adequately in a given area. The managerial component is closely linked to the type of physical facilities available for visitors. Among the more important factors that must be considered are: number of park staff, park opening hours, limitations of interpretative services and facilities, parking space and/or docking space.

Measuring carrying capacity

Defining the carrying capacity of a protected area requires information pertaining to the resource itself and its infrastructure. This information will be specific to each protected area. Hence the carrying capacity for each protected area will also be specific in some or all of its aspects.

Carrying capacity may vary with precise site location. Some key parameters include: type of activity, season, time of day, health status of resources being exploited, existing facilities, and satisfaction of users. At a given location and at a given time, the carrying capacity level will be influenced most strongly by the most sensitive factor. This is usually resource-related but may also be economic or political. Research efforts should be targeted at indicator parameters, be they species, water quality (in the case of marine and coastal areas), visible damage or satisfaction levels of users (Clark, 1991).

Attractive and well-designed visitor centres are a great help to the interpretation of protected areas. Example: Volcán Masaya National Park, Nicaragua (55).

Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, Belize (56); and Sequoia National Park, California, USA (57).

Good interpretation in protected areas is achieved in various ways. Examples: a well-briefed guide passes on pertinent information aboard a tour boat at Galápagos World Heritage Site, Ecuador (58); an open-air amphitheatre facilitates outdoor presentations in Yellowstone National Park, USA (59).

A scale model displays the Mayan ceremonial site at Copán World Heritage Site, Honduras (60).

The simple sum of the carrying capacities of all sites within a protected area should not, however, be considered equivalent to the carrying capacity of the whole area. For example, if various sites such as beaches or nature trails are interconnected or have a single access, the carrying capacity of the whole area may well be best determined by the site with the lowest real capacity. When calculating the number of visitors that a site can tolerate, it will be found to be more convenient to refer to "number of visits/time/site" than "number of visitors/time/site", since one single person may visit a site several times during the same day. It is also more accurate to refer to "visitors" to an area, when calculating carrying capacity, and not simply "tourists". For a park manager, even the most casual local visitor must be considered, as well as the most sophisticated foreign ecotourist, when estimating carrying capacity. (See Appendix X for an example of a methodology for estimating protected area carrying capacity.)

Actual carrying capacity can be a judgment call as to the acceptable level of change, both in terms of the resource and the satisfaction level of the tourists or visitors. Alternatively, physical considerations such as parking capacity, ferry boat capacity, or quantity of fresh water available, may determine carrying capacity, almost by default.

But in addition to the description of the relationships between specific conditions of use (e.g. types of use, site factors, amount of use) and the impacts associated with these conditions, judgments must be made about the acceptability of various impacts. In fact, Kuss et al. (1990), rather than describing the biophysical, social-cultural, psychological and managerial components of carrying capacity, refer to its descriptive and evaluative components.

Architects should adapt design concepts to natural features in planning accommodation for ecotourists, as in these two cases: a lodge in Aberdare National Park, Kenya, which makes good use of traditional building materials and provides an unobtrusive elevated structure permitting the free flow of wildlife underneath (61); and a lodge for mountain climbers and trekkers at Izta-Popo National Park, Mexico (62).

For them, the descriptive component of carrying capacity is concerned with the observable characteristics of a recreation system. They highlight two types of descriptive data as being the most important: management parameters and impact parameters. Anything an agency can directly manipulate is a management parameter. Examples of management parameters would include the number of visitors in a given area, the type of use and length of stay. Impact parameters would describe what happens to visitors or to the environment as a result of visitor use patterns and other management patterns. The percentage loss of ground vegetation, the frequency of encounters with others while on the trail or in the campsite, and changes in wildlife density and species diversity, would all be examples of impact parameters.

In examining how the number, type and distribution of people using a given area affect the condition of the environment and the recreation experience, the descriptive component identifies how the system works. But as Kuss et al. point out it does not determine the carrying capacity of the area. Evaluation is also necessary. The evaluative component considers the different objective states produced by management parameters in an effort to determine their relative merits. For successful implementation, it is important that this evaluation result in a set of objectives or standards specifying the type of experience to be provided in terms of appropriate impact parameters, as well as the degree of environmental modification acceptable to management.

Specific site plans for infrastructure development should include careful zoning, adaptation to natural surroundings, and functional links between the tourism area and the park administration, as shown in this preliminary design for an ecotourism centre in the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve in Mexico (63).

But defining such objectives or standards can be difficult and requires a greater knowledge of the resources and of visitor impact than many protected areas possess. Complexity is added by the fact that since visitors affect local and regional economies directly, the visitor management objectives of a park should incorporate national tourism and conservation goals. Perhaps the most challenging obstacle to establishing specific visitor management objectives is that of persuading managers to sacrifice some flexibility in order to commit the park to specific goals. Overall, the refinement of objectives is the responsibility of park managers working with the best data available and in cooperation with all affected groups be these visitors, local populations, the tourism industry or conservationists (Pritchard, 1992). Using this definition, which incorporates both scientific and judgmental considerations, carrying capacity becomes even more of a relative concept. Moreover, research has shown that many types of impacts are only weakly or indirectly correlated with use levels. Therefore, establishing capacities and use limits may do little to reduce the problems of impact that they were intended to resolve. Nevertheless, analysis of various management and impact parameters may lead to the development of alternative strategies for reducing impacts at particular times and places.

Limits of acceptable change

In order to improve the practical applicability of the traditional methods for measuring carrying capacity, Stankey and a number of other researchers developed the Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC) technique.

According to the creators of LAC, much of the problem with applying the traditional carrying capacity concept lies in its implicit question "How much use is too much?", rather than with the general goal of most protected wildland areas which can be summarized by the question, "What natural conditions are desired here?" In their opinion, the carrying capacity concept is hampered by the lack of a clear and predictable relationship between use and impact. The shift in attention from an appropriate use level to the desired condition is the basis of LAC's revised approach to the recreational carrying capacity (Stankey et al., 1985).

The LAC approach concentrates on establishing measurable limits to human-induced changes in the natural and social setting of parks and protected areas, and on identifying appropriate management strategies to maintain and/or restore desired conditions. That is, knowledge of the physical-biological environment is combined with knowledge of the socio-political context in order to define appropriate and acceptable future conditions. The LAC framework is thus based on resource management by objective (McCool and Stankey, 1992).

Fig. 8: The LAC Planning System. Source: Stankey et al., 1985

LAC involves nine steps, as illustrated in Figure 8. The process defines a series of "opportunity classes" for wilderness areas. An opportunity class provides a qualitative description of the kinds of resource and social conditions acceptable for that class, and the type of management activity considered appropriate. The following opportunity classes are identified for wilderness areas (and correspond to specific zones): pristine, primitive, semiprimitive non-motorized, and transition.

To date, the LAC system has proved itself to be a valuable management tool in several wilderness areas in the USA. However, the process may appear complex in the context of some developing countries, where its full application could be difficult, so adaptations are recommended in such cases.

As with determining the objectives of a protected area, or the level of tourism that would be appropriate in a given situation, intersectoral cooperation is also required to set the minimum acceptable levels of negative impacts. Lawrence (1992) presents some ideas as to how this might be achieved. She has proposed that economic development — which can be considered as including tourism or ecotourism development — should be based on acceptable changes in environmental and social quality. The planning method that she suggests incorporates several analysis and management techniques. The first step involves identifying social and environmental changes that could occur in the destination area and evaluates their level of acceptability. A wide variety of people who have a long-term interest in the development area(s) should be involved. It would then be decided what measures should be taken to ensure that the acceptable levels of social and environmental change are not exceeded.

The process begins with the identification of important and social environmental indicators. The researchers who conduct the analysis are responsible for choosing participants who have a long-term interest in the development area(s). These might include government officials, hotel proprietors, tourist guides, biologists and anthropologists. The specific types of people involved in this phase of the process will vary, however, according to the type(s) of protected area and its attractions. An ornithologist would be an obvious participant if the area includes birds that attract birdwatchers, whereas an anthropologist or archaeologist might better serve an area with ancient ruins. Once this panel of experts has been chosen, the Delphi technique (see below) can be used to establish a consensus on the variables that require further study. By consulting as many parties as possible with an interest or role in tourism for the area in question, conflict can be avoided.

Delphi surveys are a widely accepted technique for gathering information on issues which are not easily quantifiable, such as the environmental and social impacts of tourism development. The process begins with an anonymous survey of selected individuals with an interest in a proposal or who possess relevant skills. The initial survey is intended to solicit the opinions of the respondents with respect to the impact of the proposed development. Subsequent surveys are used to establish the relevant importance of the issues. The Delphi process is not infallible but can facilitate the planning process since it integrates the input of many relevant players (Lawrence, 1992).

Visitor impact management

Another technique for assessing and managing the environmental and "experiential" impacts of increasing numbers of visitors to natural areas has been developed by the National Parks and Conservation Association of the USA. It is called visitor impact management (VIM) and recognizes that recreational impacts on the environment and the quality of the recreational experience are complex and influenced by factors other than use levels. The description that follows has been taken mainly from Loomis and Graefe (1992).

Fig. 9: Social impacts of increasing recreational use. Source: Loomis and Graefe, 1992.

VIM has two main objectives:

Several additional goals underlay the development of the VIM framework. It was important to provide a variety of types of information and tools to assist planners and managers with the difficult task of controlling or reducing undesirable visitor impacts. It was also important to develop management approaches that built upon current scientific understanding of the nature and causes of visitor impacts, and that did not repeat the problems of past management programmes. Finally, it was also necessary to consider not only impacts on the natural environment, but also those that affected the quality of the recreation experience, and to develop a consistent process for dealing with these prevalent types of recreational impact.

A review of the scientific literature related to carrying capacity and visitor impacts, undertaken by Loomis and Graefe (op. cit.), identified five major sets of considerations that are critical to understanding the nature of recreation impacts and that should be incorporated within any programme aimed at managing them:

Box 27: Overuse of protected areas

Congestion (or overcrowding) is a significant management problem for many parks and protected areas. Healy (1991) considers that for many tourism destinations, overcrowding arises as a result of unspecified ownership. The "tragedy of the commons" is a well-known concept among economists. Because precise ownership is often unclear, there is a tendency for tourism resources to be overused. Congestion is one type of overuse and both a function of the number of visitors and the physical layout of the site. Extensive areas and/or areas that have well-distributed access points and attractions will be more able to withstand overcrowding than small protected areas, or protected area parks with highly concentrated features.

Yet some areas might be perfectly acceptable even if filled with large numbers of people. In other words, overcrowding is perceived differently by different people. Tourists interested in "getting away from it all" will be unhappy if they see too many other visitors. But even a single encounter might be too many for some. Clearly, the number of encounters that tourists are willing to accept usually extends across a range, and should be estimated for management purposes. Management can then focus on regulating the number of encounters to keep it below the maximum.

Resource damage is another type of overuse, and can occur even in situations of only moderate or minimal use. Resource degradation resulting from the construction of tourist facilities built to serve the tourists, including hotels, restaurants and souvenir stands, is a common problem. Many of these facilities contribute to the tourists' experience, but have a negative impact on the resource itself, especially since the number of such facilities usually increases over time, thereby attracting more tourists to the area. Butler (1980, cited by Healy, 1991), has termed this the "tourism cycle". He has described tourism as evolving in six stages: exploration, involvement, development, consolidation, stagnation, and either decline or rejuvenation. If rejuvenation is not possible at the end of the cycle, tourism becomes non-renewable. The product is consumed by successive waves of tourists and development responses until the landscape or a cultural feature (the original attraction) has been rendered unattractive.

  1. Impact interrelationships. No single, predictable response to recreational use can be predicted for natural environments or in terms of individual behaviour. Instead, an interrelated set of impact indicators can be identified. Some forms of impact are more direct or evident than others, but any impact indicator or combination of indicators could become the basis of a management strategy.

  2. Use-impact relationships. The various impact indicators are related to the amount of recreation use of a given area, although the strength and nature of the relationships vary widely for different types of impact, and in accordance with different measures of visitor use and the particular situational factors. Most impacts do not exhibit a direct linear relationship with visitor density.

  3. Varying tolerance of impacts. There is inherent variation in tolerance among environments and user groups. All areas do not respond in the same way to encounters with visitors. Some species may benefit at the expense of others which are negatively impacted or displaced. The same holds true for various recreational user groups. Some groups may enjoy higher user densities, yet others find these levels unacceptable.

  4. Activity-specific influences. Some types of recreational activity create impacts more quickly than other types of activity. The extent of an impact resulting from a given activity can vary according to such factors as type of transportation or equipment used, and visitor characteristics, such as party size and behaviour.

  5. Site-specific influences. The impacts of recreation are influenced by a variety of site-specific and seasonal variables. That is, given the basic tolerance level for a particular type of recreation, the outcome of recreational use may still depend greatly on the time and place of the human activity.

These five issues represent important management considerations, regardless of the type of impact one is dealing with. That is, these considerations apply whether one is focusing on ecological, physical, or social impacts.

The actual VIM framework is designed to facilitate

The VIM framework includes an eight-step sequential process for assessing and managing visitor impacts, as shown in Figure 10.

Fig. 10: Visitor impact management/planning process.

Source: Loomis and Graefe, 1992.

Step 7 of the VIM planning process sets out to identify management strategies. Management techniques aimed at reducing a particular impact problem may adversely affect other aspects of the situation or introduce new problems for managers. For this reason, a matrix approach for evaluation of alternative management strategies is recommended (see Figure 11).

Guidelines

The techniques described in the preceding sections require considerable time and resources. Guidelines, on the other hand, can be drawn up fairly inexpensively. But as with EIA, establishing carrying capacity, LAC and VIM, they seek to prevent the worst impacts and to lessen others.

Guidelines can be used for a number of audiences, provided content and presentation are modelled accordingly. Visitors to protected areas, for instance, need and usually appreciate tips and information on how to behave. Many tourism impacts result from the activities of inexperienced or unknowledgeable visitors. For example, people snorkelling for the first time may stand on coral heads to adjust their masks or catch their breath. Thus visitors should be made fully aware of the consequences of such inadvertent contact with fragile resources. Areas that are not fragile can be reserved for visitors who need to learn and practice how to avoid damaging the resource. Of course, tourists' differing interests will necessitate different types and levels of information. For example, tourists coming to a park for a day-visit or a short stay at a hotel will not be interested in knowing about regulations and codes of conduct regarding human waste disposal in remote areas.

Fig. 11: Evaluation of alternative management strategies.

Source: Loomis and Graefe, 1992.

Giant cacti, El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve, Mexico.

Machu Picchu, Peru, a World Heritage Site.

An oil spill was responsible for the death of this penguin in Punta Tombo Nature Reserve, Argentina.

Typical food is offered to tourists at Janitzio, Lake Patzcuaro, Mexico.

Tourists observing lions, Amboseli National Park, Kenya.

Wildlife observation post, Abuko Nature Reserve, Gambia.

Sacred megaliths at Delbi, Senegal.

Nature trail, Néa Kaméni, Greece.

Teide National Park, Canary Islands.

Stonehenge, England, a World Heritage Site.

Wetland boardwalk, Everglades National Park, USA.

Visitor centre information panel, Sequoia National Park, California, USA.

Sherpa guides with tourists, Chitwan National Park, Nepal.

Publications display, Glacier National Park, USA.

Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand.

Tourists board the Cairns to Green Island boat, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Australia.

Box 28: Visitor dispersal strategies in Denya

Crowding is a constant problem during the high tourist season in the Maasai Mara National Park of Kenya. This is to the detriment of wildlife and tourists. The prime time for safaris is just after dawn or just before sundown. Almost all tourists, travelling in various types of vehicle, leave the lodges and campsites (concentrated in two areas) at the same time and over a limited number of roads. The result is a shortage of space and animals.

As soon as animals high on the "must-see" list are spotted, vehicles scramble to obtain a good vantage point. Neither the frightened animals nor the stressed tourists are pleased by the encounter. It is ironic (and an opportunity for improved management) that other parts of the park are virtually devoid of tourists.

To address this problem, management at Maasai Mara has identified the amenities sought by tourists and how these have changed over time. A questionnaire was distributed to visitors, and tourists were monitored through use of a chase vehicle (with the permission of the tourists and their drivers). The excessive congestion was found to be the result of a preference for a limited number of animals (despite the large range available), limited viewing time, inadequate information, poor roads and viewing tracks, and, for the drivers, the expense of travelling to outlying areas.

It became evident that the drivers were a major source of information for the tourists. Yet frequently, they were inexperienced and unknowledgable about the resource itself, its history, or the objectives of the park. It was concluded that educating the drivers so that they could describe the park's features as a whole (and not just its "big five" mammals), thereby encouraging visitors to travel to other areas of the park, would be one means of alleviating the congestion problem.

Road layout was also identified as a problem. Therefore management zones were assigned to areas, based on type of use, capacity to absorb use and distance from other areas. This included a ban on stopping a vehicle within sight of the lodge. Fines and other disciplinary measures have been adopted to enforce compliance with the new restrictions. Although drivers were displeased by the additional restrictions, tourists generally supported them.

Source: Adapted from Gakahu, 1992b.

Examples of guidelines for tourists/visitors include those distributed by US state and federal agencies. These agencies have been very active in drawing visitors' attention to endangered species that are protected by law, and have made a major effort to convey a conservation message to people visiting public land. Penalties are used to help enforce these guidelines.

However, it was religious and ecumenical organizations who were the first to draw up guidelines (in the form codes of ethics) for tourists in general, in 1975. Initially these aimed to help stamp out social ills such as child prostitution, but later they were expanded to encourage respect and concern for the natural environment in developing countries.

Guidelines can also be targeted at tourism operators who organize nature-based travel experiences. Blangy and Wood (1992) suggest that such enterprises, working in tandem with organizations (be these governmental, non-governmental or private) which seek to conserve natural areas can help create a genuine ecotourism experience by:

Guidelines on how tourism operators should (or should not) operate can be a useful first step in such a process. That said, it should be remembered that it was nature-based tourism operators who pioneered codes of ethics for environmental travel. Their guidelines, aimed at their clients, consist of commonsense principles on how to behave in the wild. In fact, until recently, very few host countries and destination reserves and communities in developing countries issued adequate information for travellers, tourism guidelines having been conceived and provided principally by organizations in outgoing countries. (The Ecotourism Committee of the Tsuli Tsuli/Audubon Society of Costa Rica is an exception. It has produced a code of environmental ethics for ecotour operators. See Box 20.)

A third group for whom guidelines may prove beneficial consists of the park or protected area staff themselves. (However, if illiteracy is common, written guidelines alone will be ineffective and some thought could be given to talks, seminars, etc., instead.)

Box 29: Guidelines for tourists

Source: Adapted from a brochure issued by the Ecumenical Coalition on Third World Tourism, 1989.

Expertise should be drawn from many different quarters when establishing guidelines. Moreover, designing guidelines in partnership with all the entities affected by visitors can eliminate overlap, while at the same time ensuring that they are comprehensive and practical. Making guidelines part of a community involvement programme is an effective way of securing local people's commitment to their implementation.1

The following organizations are just some of those which have a role to play in the creation of effective guidelines:

Blangy and Wood (1992) refer to a recent survey by The Ecotourism Society (TES) which entailed the gathering of 54 sets of tourism guidelines from different parts of the world. The guidelines were observed to have been developed by five different types of organization or sector:

Tour operators surveyed by The Ecotourism Society expressed great interest in the generation of additional guidelines by local land managers, state agencies, NGOs and communities. It should not be feared that creation of such additional guidelines requires considerable expenditure. Guidelines programmes can be initiated inexpensively by allocating staff time to the project, and public agencies can also encourage local groups to conceive and adopt their own guideline documents by allocating a small amount of funding to pay the costs of a meeting facilitator, or to assist with the design and editing of a brochure. The TES survey also revealed that out-bound operators are willing to help their local partners in less developed countries to produce guidelines. Additionally, international and local NGOs often have funds for environmental education projects and may be willing to cover some of the costs of producing a set of guidelines. Tourist boards interested in promoting ecotourism are another possible source of funding for the production, printing and distribution of local guidelines.

Box 30: Targeting ecotourism guidelines

Potential target audiences for ecotourism guidelines for a given protected area include:

Source: Adapted and expanded from Blangy and Wood, 1992.

Box 31: Techniques for generating ecotourism guidelines

The following are some of the key points to consider when compiling guidelines for ecotourism:

Source: Adapted from Blangy and Wood, 1992.

Box 32: Checklist of issues to be considered when drafting guidelines

When drafting guidelines, take these general points and issues into consideration:

Distribution of guidelines

Content of guidelines and funding of their production are not the only consideration, however. Distribution is also important. It is therefore worth remembering that there are many outlets for guidelines besides the protected areas themselves. Blangy and Wood (1992) cite the following:

Nevertheless, guidelines for tourists are most useful when made available onsite. If tourists can view the impacts of tourism, or the fragility of the protected natural area immediately after having read the guidelines, the do's and dont's will come to life. It can be particularly effective to back up printed guidelines with a briefing. The ideal time for such a briefing is just before departing for the day's field trip. Those responsible for briefings should be knowledgeable about tourism impacts and able to explain the guidelines (giving examples of impacts they have observed) and to respond to questions. Alternatively, a film or video can be presented — for example to a captive audience during an airline trip or at a visitor centre — to back up written materials.

Distribution of guidelines can be enhanced through some well-planned publicity. Outbound operators sometimes announce their guidelines via a formal media campaign, targeted at international travellers and travel agents. Guidelines can also be included in press kits, incorporated into brochures, and promoted so as to appear in editorial pieces.

Ideally, guidelines should be printed as leaflets for distribution to individual tourists; but this may necessitate large print runs. Given the limited resources of many protected areas, managers will therefore need to be flexible and creative in finding the money necessary to print guidelines in sufficient quantity. Guidelines for tourist operators or guides will not normally require large print runs and therefore cost less to produce. Occasionally it may be possible to find outside sponsors to donate the necessary funds for large print runs. Consumer groups interested in the park, hotel and tour operator associations, local businesses interested in exposure, international non-governmental organizations, national organizations (including tourist boards) are also possible sources of funding. Offering to allocate a small amount of space in the published guidelines for advertisements from sponsors may help. Alternatively, information leaflets can be sold to tourists directly, especially if it is made clear that the proceeds will help fund conservation or management in the park.

Box 33: ASTA'S ten ecotourism commandments

Source: Adapted from a flyer published by the American Society of Travel Agents — ASTA, 1991.

Pooling resources with other protected areas on tourist itineraries is another possibility. But care should be taken to avoid burdening tourists with the same information at each and every park or protected area they visit.

Evaluation of guidelines

As yet, few tourism guidelines have been evaluated in terms of their effectiveness. But travellers can be surveyed relatively easily on their return home and requested to provide information on whether their trip complied with the guidelines distributed.

If the objectives of the guidelines have been defined carefully and relate to specific sites or specific biological species, then guideline effectiveness can be measured by assessing the level of tourism impacts on the target wildland or species. For example, in the case of the "Save the Manatee" guidelines in Florida, it has been possible to document the significant decline in manatee mortality and injury following distribution of the guidelines to tourists (Blangy and Wood, 1992).

Guidelines can also be assessed by means of a questionnaire. Printed on the back or at the end of a set of guidelines, a questionnaire can serve as an important consumer feedback mechanism. Feedback can be incorporated into a revised document. It is a good idea to provide several well-posted receptacles for collection of completed questionnaires. (Rangers can ask for questionnaires as visitors exit and can also note down verbal feedback from exiting visitors). Using guidelines as a feedback mechanism can help staff to detect problems in advance, thereby improving protected area maintenance. And questionnaires give visitors the opportunity to participate in conservation efforts.

Box 34: Style tips for writing guidelines for tourists

Source: Adapted from Blangy and Wood, 1992.


1 A handbook entitled Guidelines: Development of National and Protected Areas for Tourism, published in English, Spanish, French, Japanese and Russian by WTO and UNEP, and prepared with the assistance of IUCN (McNeely, Thorsell and Ceballos-Lascuráin, 1992) is among the more recent international efforts to encourage the drawing up and adoption of guidelines. The manual is intended for use by national park and protected area managers and staff, personnel of national tourism administrations, and local communities.

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