Tourism is a steadily expanding economic sector worldwide; and is one in which developing nations have a considerable stake in (Pro-poor Tourism Partnership, Eadington and Redman 1991). In India for example, tourism contributed over 8% to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2010; while generating at least one out of ten jobs (World Travel & Tourism Council).
The last couple of decades have been witness to an escalating demand for nature-based tourism in the country. Practised largely in rural hinterlands and/or protected areas, this form of tourism is seen as holding the potential to provide for sustainable tourism development; intertwining the goals of nature conservation and provision of socio-economic benefits to local communities. Ecotourism, is a form of sustainable, nature-oriented tourism and is defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people” (TIES 2006). Such tourism must simultaneously: (a) minimise environmental impact and have a small ecological footprint; (b) contribute directly (reforestation, habitat restoration) or indirectly (financial benefits) to conservation and (c) promote local livelihoods through political empowerment and a combination of culturally appropriate social and economic benefits to local people (Blamey 1997).
The major challenge has been to measure and monitor whether ecotourism has delivered on the definitional promise of providing indirect (financial) benefits to local communities. There has been much debate on the conservation benefits from nature-based tourism to either Protected Areas (PAs) or local communities (Lindberg et al 1996, Nash 2009, Sims 2010 and West & Carrier 2004). Some studies suggest that local livelihoods, park management and conservation are improved, through reduced pressure on forest resources (Goodwin 1996, Lindsey et al 2006 and Wilkie & Carpenter 2002) and according to Nagendra et al (2005), some communities close to the park have benefitted as well. On the other hand, other scholars such as Archebald & Naughton-Treves (2001), Bandyopadhyay & Tembo (2010), Chambley (2005), and Stern et al (2003) have found no benfits to local communities, no community involvement in PA management decisions about tourism, lack of benefit sharing and question the sustainability of toruism revenues in PA conservation and management in general.
The first step in measuring and monitoring the socio-economic contributions of ecotourism is to understand tourist spending in the protected area during their visit (Fletcher 1989, Frechtling 1994, Hughes 1994, Mescon & Vizikis 1985, Rose 1981).This is turn generates economic activity, directly in the form of output or sales, labour earnings and employment (Fretchling & Horváth 1999). Most of these studies present estimates of the multiplier impact of tourism expenditures: the total sales, output or other measures of economic benefits generated once the initial visitor spending (direct impact) has worked its way through the economy under study through inter-industry (indirect impact) and through employee consumption expenditures (induced impact). A significant number of these studies rely on input-output models to explore these total economic effects. However, a common complaint about these economic models is that they are time-consuming, expensive to develop, and have extensive data requirements. (Frechtling 1994:386-87, Walpole & Goodwin, 2000). Moreover, in developing countries, such as India, what is also needed is to analyse the socio-cultural effects of ecotourism, which
these models fail to capture adequately.
There are studies that do not utilise input-output models, but utilise an inter-disciplinary nested scale analysis, using in-depth on-the-ground interviews with relevant stakeholders (tourists, businesses& accommodation facilities, communities) to ascertain tourism-induced changes. Assembling data on tourist spending requires estimates of the total number of visitor- days as well as average tourist spending per day (Huhtala 2007, Wells, 1997). In the Pallas-Ounastunturi National Park in Northern Finland, visitor expenditure data was collected by two methods in the summer and winter season - (i) a standard visitor survey which included questions concerning the respondent’s visit and opinion about the national park, their socio-economic background and trip related spending; (ii) a visitor expenditure diary to achieve comparable data with the visitor survey. A study by Walpole and Goodwin (2000) in Komodo National Park in Indonesia estimates local impacts, including employment and distributional effects by inventorying tourism related businesses around the park and surveys businesses (supply side) and tourists (demand side) to measure (a) the magnitude of local employment generated by tourism; (b) the magnitude of local revenue generated by tourism. Zambrano et al (2010), conduct on-the-ground interviews with local households to determine the impact of ecotourism on local livelihoods. The socio-economic component of this study seeks to understand differences in income, income stability, distributional patterns of spending of income (housing, food, services, education, recreation, savings, investment), and attitudes and perceptions of ecotourism between households involved in some ecotourism related activity and those that are not.
Study Goal & Research Questions
This study seeks to ascertain the socio-economic impacts of ecotourism activities in Bandipur Bhadra and Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserves in Karnataka, by examining how tourist-related revenue generation affects tourist accommodation facilities, local businesses and the quality of life of local communities. Additionally, the study also seeks to ascertain any identifiable impact on local environmental awareness, i.e. spread of a conservation ethic among local residents, as a consequence of ecotourism.
At the outset, it is important to note that data on tourist spending under various heads was not collected as part of the study. This is because the reconnaissance survey revealed that 95% of all tourist expenditure was spent on food, boarding and lodging and nature-based recreational activities (safaris, nature walks, trekking, adventure sports), which was organised by the local accommodation facilities themselves. The rest 5% was spent on travel to and fro to the site. Travel within the site was also organised by the accommodation facilities or travel and tour companies in the region.
Broadly, the study includes the following research questions:
1. What is the magnitude of distributional effects of tourism-based accommodation facilities on employment and income levels of local households?
2. What are the impacts of ecotourism on local businesses in terms of revenue generation and providing income stability?
3. How does ecotourism affect consumption patterns and income levels of local communities?