Ecotourism is a relatively new word which does not always have a clear definition.
Even though some industry bodies may have adopted a particular definition, it still means very different things to different people.
The Australian National Ecotourism Strategy (Commonwealth Department of Tourism 1994) defines ecotourism as follows:
Ecotourism is nature-based tourism that involves education and interpretation of the natural environment and is managed to be ecologically sustainable.
This definition recognises that ‘natural environment’ includes cultural components and that ‘ecologically sustainable’ involves an appropriate return to the local community and long-term conservation of the resource.
ECOTOURISM is the combination of two words: ECOLOGY and TOURISM. Ecology relates to the study or understanding of complex relationships in the natural world. Flora, fauna, soils, air, water and even people are some of the factors included in understanding and describing these relationships.
The nature of these relationships may be positive, negative or a combination of these. In rare instances, the nature of the relationships may not be as important. Often the longer term effects of a change in a relationship is not readily obvious, and it is for this reason that management principles are so important in this developing industry. The direction ecotourism takes will be primarily up to the people who are involved at all levels of its implementation. Poor management will result in lost resources and ultimately a failed industry.
QUALITIES OF AN EFFECTIVE ECOTOUR LEADER
Good Presentation Skills
The aim of a good guided walk leader is to look calm, confident, and in control. Much will come from good preparation. Nevertheless, no matter how well-prepared a walk is, unexpected interruptions and questions always appear. As long as it looks and sound interesting it will be a success. People on guided walks want to learn something new and interesting so as long as they take away one new piece of information it is a success.
The tour guide should develop an appropriate vocabulary for talking about features, and should use this vocabulary to educate the visitor. For instance, when talking about different kinds of habitats, the tour guide might need to explain the difference between an ecosystem, a biome and a habitat. They might also need to explain animal and plant activity by using words such as: competition, predator, cooperation, population. Not all visitors will know what these words mean, especially if English is not their first language.
Topics and Themes
You’ve decided why you are doing your walk and your audience. You need to decide what to talk about and plan it well.
First, decide on a message of theme of your walk. What is the one thing you want people to remember from the guided walk? This will help you to plan what you put in your walk and where you go. People remember messages not facts. So consider:
- The general topic of your walk
- The specific topic of your walk, and
- The message you want people to take away with them.
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