Ecotourism: A Sustainable Development Connect to Nature and A Strategy for Balancing Economic Growth, Socio-Cultural Development and Conservation
Prof. Dr. Binu Thomas M.Phil, Ph.D, B.Ed
Ecotourism is an important niche market in the world tourism industry. It is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to mass tourism. The data were collected using documentation and library techniques, field methods, questionnaires, note-taking, observation, and conducting interviews with people, tourists, and authorities in charge of ecotourism development. The study examines the economic impact of ecotourism in the villages of Sikkim, which are full of rich and pristine biodiversity and other natural resources. Ecotourism provides the tourist with a quality nature experience, generates funds and support for conservation efforts, has a minimal environmental impact, and provides socioeconomic benefits to local host communities. Tourism can contribute significantly to rural development, agricultural transformation, community enrichment and social empowerment. . The main thrust of this study is to examine the impact of ecotourism as sustainable development focused on the potential of the tourist as an agent of sustainable development possibility framed in terms of a tourist “connecting to nature”. With an objective to identify and quantify the impacts of ecotourism on environmental conservation, cultural heritage preservation, economic development, and enhancement of livelihoods, this study was carried out to focus on the way tourists can live harmoniously with the planet and has been identified as an important strategy for balancing economic growth and conservation. The study is intended to enhance the capacity of ecotourism to generate benefits for both the local communities and destinations (mainly the protected areas), and thus contribute to the sustainable development of the region more generally. The primary problem of the study was to examine the relationships among acculturation, ecotourism, and cultural impacts to understand the ecotourism acculturation mechanism that shapes ecotourism cultural impacts.
Keyword: Connect to nature, ecotourism, sustainable development, economic growth, conservation