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What are some of the difficulties in balancing conservation and tourism? What strategies may be employed to achieve a better balance or lessen the negativities of an imbalance? Essay Example

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What are some of the difficulties in balancing conservation and tourism? What strategies may be employed to achieve a better balance or lessen the negatives of an imbalance?

What are some of the difficulties in balancing conservation and tourism? What strategies may be employed to achieve a better balance or lessen the negatives of an imbalance?


Tourism has been regarded as a method of promoting conservation. Singh (2008: 83) stated that it can be an innovative mechanism where nature conservation can be funded. It can also be used to develop the livelihoods of locals. In many places, tourism is seen to contribute to conservation when it is used in generation of revenue for management. Singh (2008: 83) further stated that tourism can be used as an opportunity for generating additional funds that will be used to conserve nature in addition to being used by communities as an opportunity to enhance sustainable strategies of the economy. Getting the right balance between tourism and conservation implies taking measures that will ensure the environment is conserved with every act of tourism. This is done so as to ensure that the environment is conserved and that the future of tourism is also conserved. In essence, this calls for the right balance between tourism and conservation for the two to co-exist. Tourism has also been argued as having the capability of generating more social and environmental problems for the regions that it should protect. Getting the right balance between conservation and tourism is a challenge. This paper shall discuss some of the difficulties faced when getting the balance between tourism and conservation. The paper shall also discus the strategies that may be employed to achieve a better balance or reduce the negatives that come with imbalance.

While tourism is seen to contribute greatly to conservation and eventually to the economy, it faces an economic challenge. Sheldon (2005: 3) carried out a study on islands as tourist attraction sites. The paper stated that the economic resource base of an island was a limiting factor to the economic health of the island. This implies that the economy is a key part of the health of the environment. The environment cannot be fully dependent on tourism for generation of revenue. Even so, there are few other resources or industries that are viable enough to provide more revenue to the environment as well as to the local population. Changes in the economy also have their toll on the balance between tourism and conservation. For instance, the value of mining and agricultural commodities is declining on the international market while fishing becomes less reliable due to depleting fish populations. In addition, global warming has its effects on nature by causing changes on the coastlines, changes in movement of fish as well changes in the climate of areas. These effects are further felt in the tourism sector. As a consequence, the balance is affected since tourism is reduced and the environment cannot be conserved.

Environmental issues also form part of the challenges faced. These are issues of sustainability of the environment. The environment in some places is multi-faceted. For instance, some environments that form tourist sites such as islands are diverse in terms of formation and the species found in the ecosystem. Sheldon (2005: 4) stated that tourism contributes to degradation of the environment through erosion and pollution. These environments could be ecosystems that are rich in biodiversity. Sometimes, the effects of tourism on the environment pose a threat to the creatures that exist in the environment. For instance, islands require careful management of the visitor since the environmental resource for tourists includes the sand dunes, beaches and coral reefs. When these resources are misused or carelessly handled, the environment can no longer support tourism. At times, waste disposal on the environment is also a great threat to the environment. This could have effects on the creatures living in the environment or on the environment itself. Degradation of the environment or depletion of the creatures due to the effects is a limiting factor to tourism. Therefore, getting the balance between the environment and its contribution to tourism is vital.

In addition to that, exploitation of the environment for other economic uses such as mining is also a challenge to its conservation. This implies that the environment has to be used for any purpose that will enhance generation of revenue and subsequently ensure its conservation. Getting this balance is necessary in ensuring that the environment is sustainable. However, environmental use poses a great threat to this balance since there are instances when the environment is overused and subsequently misused. In instances when tourism leads to an increase in consumption in the areas where there are scarce resources, developing tourism leads to pressure on the natural resources. Depletion of resources such as water through formation of swimming pools, leads to shortages of these resources (Singh, 2008: 92). The challenge faced is that tourism and use of the resources is inevitable. Management of the balance between resource use and promoting tourism has to be effectively achieved. Lack of this balance is a sure way to degradation of land and other natural resources at the expense of tourism.

Socio-cultural issues also pose a threat to this balance. This is more adverse in indigenous populations. Tourism brings guests and hosts in contact. The degree of closeness depends on whether tourism is on the mainland or in islands. While for islands this degree of contact is closer, the effects always create room for social disruptions. These disruptions are characterized by cultural commoditization where individuals take up other cultures, loss of moral standards as well as traditional lifestyles and cases of crime. The result of these effects is that tourism does not contribute positively to the people as it is expected. While the contribution of tourism to the people is also positive, these are the elements that taint it. It therefore implies that the culture of the people is threatened as well as their security. Creating a right balance between tourism and conservation entails sustaining the culture of the host community as well as their character. In a situation where this is not achieved, the balance is affected.

In an article by Luck (2003: 943), education was seen to be one of the challenges that face the balance between conservation and tourism. In the article, education on the environment and interpretation were pointed out as common components during tours on wildlife viewing. For instance, a tour on watching dolphins and whales were stated to be part of what required education. Education on these animals is seen to be a challenge because one needs to understand their lifestyle and their life in the sea. Understanding the animals together with an understanding on every animal that is to be used as a tourist attraction is important because it enables the tourists to appreciate the animals. On the other hand, interpretation is a challenge because it is the sure way to ensure that the tourist appreciates the tour and the area that has been toured. It forms a link between the tourist and the area visited. In the words of Luck (2003: 943), interpretation is aimed at ensuring the visit has an experience that is richer and more enjoyable. The best experiences during tourism are believed to occur when the tourists get the opportunity to interact with the wildlife and other tourist attraction sites as well as learn about them. Education on the features to be seen is seen to be a key motivation to tourists along with relaxation and enjoyment (Frost, 2010: 13). The challenge faced is that during the interpretation, the information could be distorted and is not well captured as it comes from the primary source. The tourists only have to make do with what has been interpreted to them.

Strategies to achieve a better balance

Carefully worked out plans are the reason for the success of many excellent businesses and regions. These strategic plans are meant to resolve competing standards so as to cases of wasteful investments as well as effort duplication. Lane (2005) stated that to bridge the gap in attaining the balance between tourism and conservation, the above attributes should be incorporated in the strategies. Difficulties in attaining the balance between tourism and conservation can be bridged by setting up strategies that will capture the loopholes mentioned as challenges faced. In addition, the strategies should capture any other risks that this balance is exposed to.

To begin with, a long-term plan that involves stakeholders should be developed. The stakeholders in this case refer to the community as well as tourism representatives and coordinators. The plans should be value-based and they should reflect traditions and the indigenous culture. A long-term plan should put into consideration the demand that tourism provides both qualitatively and quantitatively. According to Sheldon (2005: 5), the two growth patterns should always be in balance in order to achieve a good balance in tourism and conservation and to ensure that tourism is healthy. After putting the plans in place, methods for measuring and monitoring the impacts of tourism should be developed. Agencies can be used carrying this out. It is also essential to ensure that the planning process is driven by stakeholders. This ensures that the stakeholders define their mission and visions as well as their goals and their key measures for sustainable tourism. When the community is involved in the process of planning, they will treasure tourism and they will research, develop and evaluate tourism projects that are community-based. This has the advantage of ensuring that tourism promotes the desires of the local community. It is these desires that can be used in conservation since the people will ensure that there is sustainability in order for them to continue reaping from tourism.

Management of visitors is another strategy that can be used in limiting the deficit in balance between tourism and conservation. When the tourists are managed, they will be properly shown around and they will be confined in places where they should be. This reduces some of the challenges that are faced on the environment due to tourist activities. Creation of national parks and areas of conservation has been done to efficiency. In addition, land zoning should be done so as to ensure geological as well as biological diversity and to preserve other environmental resources like water. Other management techniques that can be used include use of clear signage and information that is interpretive to the tourists. This would be appropriate in guiding them, in the right areas. In addition, it would ensure careful tours. Concerned organizations can also promote standards and certification of the performance of employees in guiding tourists. This helps in achieving sustainability.

Empowering the community plays a key role in ensuring that they conserve and protect their social as well as their cultural structure. When the community is empowered, they develop a cultural pride. This implies that they can use their culture as a selling point to the tourists. It can also be used as a tool for attraction of more tourists. This creates a sense of pride amongst the community members. Creating this pride could call out for actions such as enlivening their festivals, their folk lore and to encourage them to participate in entrepreneurial activities. This move will ensure that while interacting with the tourists, the people only get to share their cultural practices with the tourists and not let their culture fade off. It is an opportunity for the tourists and their hosts to learn from one another and this is a healthy mutual relationship.

To promote conservation of the environment, environmental management should be practiced. Whenever there is scarcity of land, there is bound to be land issues. Conservation of this land should be done so as to promote land activities (Sheldon, 2005: 7). In the same sense, the environment should be conserved to avoid issues on the environment. The resources that exist in the environment are the main source of attraction for the tourists. Therefore, the interfaces between the tourist and the resources of the environment should be well planned and catered for. Creation of parks is one important way of managing environmental resources. This ensures that the resources are kept in smaller but manageable units. While it enhances conservation, it also ensures that tourism is sustainable.

Education of the community on the importance of tourism is also a key strategy. It ensures that the community is aware of the benefits they attain from tourists. In addition, it enables them understand what information they need to provide to the tourists. Learning forms part of the joy attained from tourism. When the community is educated on this, they understand how best to satisfy the tourists and this promotes tourism as well as ensuring that the information on the resources is conserved.


The balance between tourism and conservation is not very demanding. This is because there are measures that have already been taken in trying to bridge the gap. It is important to note that the measures such as development of parks and game reserves have been in existent. The challenge, therefore, is to enhance effective management of these facilities. Educating the locals is important since they can be the ones to educate the tourists. In addition, they can provide guidance to the tourists on proper environmental management. Collectively, these measures reduce the challenge of economics as well as other challenges mentioned.

List of References

Frost, W 2010, Zoos and Tourism: Conservation, Education, Entertainment? Channel View Publications, UK.

Lane, B 2005, “Sustainable Rural Tourism Strategies: A Tool for Development and Conservation,” Interamerican Journal of Environment and Tourism, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 12-19.

Luck, M 2003, “Education on marine mammal tours as agent for conservation—but do tourists want to be educated?” Ocean&CoastalManagement,46: 943–956.

Sheldon, P 2005, The Challenges to Sustainability in Island Tourism, School of Travel Industry Management, University of Hawai (Occasional Paper).

Singh, L.K. 2008, Ecology, Environment and Tourism, Gyan Publishing House, Delhi.