|dc.description.abstract||Ecotourism operations have been established all over the world, particularly in developing countries on the assumption that there will be minimum negative impacts, maximum benefits for local people and their environment, and first hand natural and cultural experiences for visitors. But ecotourism areas are rarely compared with other types of tourism areas.
This study compares an officially designated ecotourism area with an established trekking area in terms of environmental, economic and socio-cultural costs and benefits, and tourists' experience. Research data arise from surveys and interviews with local residents, managers and tourists, and participant observation in both the Ghalekharka-Sikles Eco-trek area and the Annapurna Sanctuary Trail (AST) area, Nepal. For each impact theme a set of key criteria were developed as Likert scales, and put to local residents, managers and tourists.
The study shows the designated ecotourism area has experienced slightly less marked negative impacts on the natural and socio-cultural environment, and fewer negative economic impacts than the established trekking/tourism area. However, the designated ecotourism area also has experienced slightly fewer positive impacts on the natural and socio-cultural environment, and significantly fewer positive economic impacts than the established trekking area.
The ecotourism area experienced fewer economic benefits in terms of employment generation than the traditional trekking area and this is perceived to outweigh the other benefits of tourism. Hotels and lodges are identified as important sources of employment generation and consequently a source of economic benefits in the established trekking area which are lacking in the Eco-trek area. In addition, the study shows that tourists visiting the ecotourism area indicated more positive experiences from their visits to the ecotourism area than in the established trekking area.
While the areas have markedly different histories of involvement with tourism, and subsequently cater to distinctively different volumes of visitors, ecotourism in Nepal appears to have less negative impacts than traditional trekking tourism but it does not ensure more benefits than other forms of tourism. If economic benefits are not derived from ecotourism, the ecotourism area will be under evolutionary pressures to end up like the established trekking area. Hence, the most important implication of this finding is balance between the economic benefits and environmental and social costs. Key approaches to achieve this goal are discussed.||en