Developing ecotourism in First World, resource-dependent areas

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Publication details

Che, D 2006, 'Developing ecotourism in First World, resource-dependent areas', Geoforum, vol. 37, no. 2, pp. 212-226.

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Ecotourism, an economic diversification tool most commonly applied in the Third World as a means to protect ecosystems, preserve local cultures, and spur economic development, has recently been applied in First World resource-dependent areas. While ecotourism has traditionally focused on Third World ‘undisturbed’ protected lands, it has also been developed in their First World equivalents (i.e., old-growth forests) as well as in First World sites of past resource extraction and in places where current agricultural practices maintain cherished cultural landscapes. Forest County, Pennsylvania, a timber-dependent area, sought to diversify its economy by developing ecotourism based on its unique Allegheny hardwood forests, which are produced by timber harvesting. This ecotourism would encourage amenity-based, locally-driven economic development and maintain timber harvesting. While government and foundation supported ecotourism development efforts in areas dependent on resource extraction have incorporated some of ecotourism’s ideals, these operations have had mixed success. Such isolated areas, which have traditionally drawn visitors independently engaging in traditional outdoor recreation activities, have not been able to draw enough customers willing to pay for natural and cultural history tours. If ecotourism is to be successful, such areas may need further government support and destination branding to increase name recognition in order to counter the global orientation of the nature tour industry. For true community development, local collaborative efforts including resource and environmental interests are also required in which primary production is connected to processing and consumers through value-added and service sector activities such as tourism.