Technical Note

Aim of the Conference

The 5th World Ecotourism Conference - "Marine and Coastal Ecotourism: Oceans of Uncertainties, Waves of Opportunities" aims to bring together policy makers and stakeholders in island and coastal regions to network effectively and to find common solutions for overall development of coastal regions and contribute to the sustainability of these areas.

Marine & Coastal Ecotourism

Among the 55,000 islands in the oceans around the Asia and the Pacific region, there are many developing countries are turning to promote their marine, coastal and riverine natural resources for ecotourism. Instead of overexploiting marine resources, marine and coastal ecotourism provide excellent export opportunities for many developing countries especially small island state countries. Local governments are increasingly aware of the need to provide the necessary capacity building for local communities in conservation work and the business of ecotourism in order to ensure that the long term ecological sustainability of the natural resources and the financial sustainability of the business itself.

Promoting a sustainable model for marine and coastal ecotourism is in the interests of natural resource managers, environmentalists, tourism promotion agencies, and local communities who traditionally depend on the marine stock for their livelihood (Pinsky et al. 2005). If appropriate research, policies and strategies are embraced responsibly to balance the benefits between conservation, communities and commerce, sustainable activities for eco-tourists can be generated from marine resources instead of treating them solely as a food source.

Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is one way that coastal regions can develop a sustainable tourism industry by catering for activities such as recreational fishing, whale watching, shark ecotourism and scuba diving. There are many some examples in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world but with an accelerating population growth, the degradation of marine resources is alarming and more needs to be done.

Shark Ecotourism

Shark ecotourism and shark sanctuaries around the world have recorded increasing tourism revenue generated by the presence of shark species. For example, in 2010 in the Pacific Island state of Fiji alone, shark-related diving contributed US$ 42.2 million to the country’s economy, while shark-diving operations produced US$ 4 million for Fijians through salaries and local levies. Similarly, in Palau, 8 per cent of the country’s GDP, approximately US$ 18 million annually, is derived from shark tourism. According to the Pew Environment Group, “Studies conducted on the economic value of sharks in Palau’s waters indicate that a single reef shark contributes approximately US$ 179,000 to the country’s economy every year, compared to a one-time value of US$ 108 if caught and sold on the market”. Many island states in the Pacific have also declared their entire Exclusive Economic Zones as shark sanctuaries providing vital protection for the vulnerable species, some of which are endangered with extinction. Source: Pew Environment Group (2012)

Snorkelling & Dive Tourism

Snorkelling and scuba diving have increased significantly over the last 30 years, as evidenced by the rapid increase in the number of certified divers to 136,000 (PADI 2012). However, concerns have been raised over the impact of dive tourism on marine biodiversity (Hasler and Ott 2008; Uyarra et al. 2009). For example, large-scale diving activity has a direct negative impact on corals including increased sedimentation and broken and damaged corals (Hampton and Haddock-Fraser 2010).

Whale Watching

Whale watching attracted some 13 million tourists globally in 2008. Whale watching is estimated to generate US$ 2.1 billion per annum in tourism revenue worldwide and employed around 13,000 workers (Cisneros-Montemayor and Sumaila 2010). Other estimates have put this as high as 18,000 (Pew 2010). The economic benefits of, as yet, unexploited whale watching opportunities “could bring the value of whale watching to US$ 2.5 billion globally, with 19,000 jobs employed by the global industry”. In particular, the Asia & the Pacific region could potentially gain an extra US$ 46.7 million through direct (i.e. ticket sales) and indirect (i.e. accommodation, additional food and lodging) economic benefits (Scarpaci and Parsons 2011).

Recreational Fishing

Recreational fishing is another popular tourist activity which occurs in approximately 118 maritime countries. In 2003, nearly 60 million recreational anglers around the world generated a total of about US$ 40 billion in expenditure, supporting over 950,000 jobs. (Cisneros Montemayor and Sumaila 2010). UNEP – Green Economy & Trade (Tourism)


Plenary Sessions

Session 1. Management: Behind Marine Ecotourism Success Stories

How do we measure the success of ecotourism? Is it a reduction in wildlife killing, a decrease in habitat loss, or an increase in the economic well-being of local communities? In this session, we look behind these successes to learn of the pre-requisites like inherent leadership qualities, well-designed management plans, effective policies and sound legislation that are needed to deliver success.

Session 2. Destination Development: Socio-Economic Value Beyond Beaches

Recent studies from around the world have shown high educational and economic value of low impact ecotourism experiences like shark ecotourism, scuba diving and snorkelling, dolphin watching, whale spotting, mangrove tours, community-based activities and others. However there are also criticisms against tourism operators of unregulated practices that may harm nature and wildlife in the long run. What are the guidelines for local government’s administrative, legislative and policy reforms, private sector/community participation and infrastructure investment? How would rural areas with the use of technology like broadband internet access, wi-fi hotspots and information technologies like social media and smart phone applications be able to provide capacity building and develop clusters of successful ecotourism sites?

Session 3. Successful Ecotourism Marketing: Experiences Is The Real Thing

Ecotourism marketing mix includes the four Ps (i.e., product, price, promotion, and place) of business marketing and three Ps (i.e., programming, people, and partnership) of tourism marketing. Tap into the minds of these ecotourism veterans and learn how they effectively deployed the seven P’s and an additional three R’s (i.e., research, responsibility and respect) to turn their marketing ideas to marketing innovation.

Session 4. Coastal Communities: Eliminating Poverty through Sustainability

In many developing countries, the rampant killing of sharks, dolphins, whales and seals for meat is a day-to-day livelihood job for poverty stricken communities residing near marine habitats. Often this is their only means to put food on the table for their family. In many areas, destructive fishing often damages coral reefs and nesting grounds leading to unsustainable local economy. Can the development of marine sanctuaries and ecotourism support the sustainable economic value of marine wildlife and the environment, to stop the killing and creating economic incentives for conservation?