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Decision-Aid for Ecotourism: A Case Study of a Community-Run Project in Ecuador

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Abstract:

For indigenous communities around the world, ecotourism is not only a means of protecting valuable and threatened ecological and cultural resources but also a viable economic opportunity for maintaining livelihoods. Consequently, communities need to know to what extent ecotourism is the economic activity that best satisfies their needs, given available resources and other existing alternatives. Such information can strengthen community control and ownership of resources, an important objective of community-run ecotourism projects. In collaboration with community members and an indigenous NGO, a decision-aid model based on multicriteria decision support approaches was set up to assess the potential of ecotourism to satisfy economic, social, and environmental priorities of a community situated in the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador. The study considered existing resources and combinations of ecotourism with other available economic alternatives. Representatives from a number of stakeholder and user groups were approached to obtain their views on the relative importance of priorities for community well-being. Weights of importance assigned by those representatives were integrated in the model to find out how stakeholder and user group perceptions influenced their preferences over livelihood alternatives. Results suggest that three out of four groups favored a combination of ecotourism with conservation. Sensitivity analysis helped identify economic incentives that could be used to obtain agreement between stakeholder and user groups as regards resource use scenarios. It is suggested that this information could be further employed to seek consensus between group views on the role of ecotourism for sustainable community development.

Keywords: DECISION-AID; ECOTOURISM; SUSTAINABILITY

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-12-01

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  • The aim of Tourism Analysis is to promote a forum for practitioners and academicians in the fields of Leisure, Recreation, Tourism, and Hospitality (LRTH). As a interdisciplinary journal, it is an appropriate outlet for articles, research notes, and computer software packages designed to be of interest, concern, and of applied value to its audience of professionals, scholars, and students of LRTH programs the world over.
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