Poster: Ron Mader, Emerging Industry Forum
The final results have been delivered and posted from the Emerging Industry Forum, a three week dialogue with 40 active participants from 16 countries and 237 registered observers which took place November 1-18, 2005 on Planeta.com.
The summary report is available.
Megan Epler Wood, of EplerWood International – the co-organizer of the forum, created the Executive Summary to deliver the important recommendations that resulted from this forum to donors and all those active in ecotourism development in short form.
“Ecotourism has evolved greatly in the last 10 years as a sustainable development tool,” notes Epler Wood. ”The fact that industry was deeply involved in this forum gives it particular relevance because sustainability outcomes are only possible if ecotourism businesses are becoming more competitive economically.”
Participants recommended that donors take a new more business friendly approach that fosters small businesses directly and does not hinge on working with NGOs. Financing for ecotourism programs also needs to be moved to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and SMEs should be given the tools to finance the development and marketing of community based partner enterprises.
Participants stated that community based ecotourism development requires all the same approaches as other businesses, but all agreed that more time is needed to undertake community involvement procedures, and that these time consuming factors need to be factored into the design of donor projects.
Participants found that building green is a regional development issue. It was recommended that development agencies create regional plans for sustainable and ecotourism development where the costs of sustainability can be shared. Too many ecotourism projects have been developed in isolation of larger development projects.
Ron Mader of Planeta.com points out that, “financial institutions need to post current public information about sustainable tourism investments online on their websites. We can on only track the progress of ecotourism development if there is more transparent information on line which actually provides independently monitored results of the projects funded.”
ABOUT THE FORUM
The Ecotourism Emerging Industry Forum was designed to provide professionally moderated, up-to-date results on small and medium enterprise (SME) priorities for funding and investment decisions for sustainable tourism in developing countries.
The Emerging Industry Forum was organized as seven dialogue areas: Developing Infrastructure for Sustainable Tourism, Private Sector/Public Sector Collaboration, Finance for SMEs, Communities and SMEs, Marketing and Market Development, Interpretive Programs, Triple Bottom Line Business Structures and Strategies. According to forum statistics, the most popular topic was Marketing. Participants discussed the projects they themselves had developed, the challenges they faced, and the possibilities for improving future ecotourism investment.
The e-conference was a showcase of creative collaboration. Having an extended lead time permitted conversations about the real needs of today’s SMEs and donors seeking entry into sustainable tourism financing.
Planeta.com is the first website focusing on ecotourism and sustainable travel. Created in 1994, the site has more than 10,000 pages and has garnered numerous awards, including honors from the Mexican government and groups including Conservation International and the Council of Latin American Geographers.
Funding for the Ecotourism Emerging Industry Forum came from participants, the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, Conservation International and Balam Consultores. Additional support came from USAID, and the Development Gateway.
For featuring news of the event, special thanks to Ambos Medios, Development Gateway: Aid Effectiveness, Development Gateway: Environment, e-Review of Tourism Research, ECOCLUB, Eldis, eMediaWire, Green-travel, IMAC, NRIC, Society of Environmental Journalists, Tim Leffel, TravelMole, TreeHugger and World Tourism Organization.
Private sector/Public sector collaboration
1. Policy development for protected areas
2. Regional planning
3. Market research and development
Communities and SMEs
1. Assessing community priorities
2. Developing consistent community services
3. Linking businesses to community services
Marketing and Market Development
1. Internet marketing
2. Cooperative marketing
3. Event marketing
4. Destination marketing
5. Rural marketing
Triple Bottom Line Business Structures and Strategies
1. Evaluation of technical assistance needs
2. Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) agreements
3. Triple Bottom Line benchmarking and monitoring — costs and approaches
4. Ecotourism certification
Interpretive Program Development
1. Guide training programs
2. Management of visitors in sensitive ecosystems
3. Development of programs in cooperation with local communities
4. Discussion of sensitive cross cultural interactions