Ecotourism specialist Andy Drumm addressed an audience about the importance of ecotourism. | Courtesy a representative of C-3

Event Coverage: How Ecotourism Can Improve a Region’s Economy

Carrie Rossenfeld Event Coverage

San Diego’s Mission Bay Park is not capitalizing on opportunities for ecotourism, says Andy Drumm, a specialist on the subject, who spoke at a recent breakfast event hosted by C-3, according to a release from a representative of C-3. C-3’s mission is to advocate, educate, and develop solutions for maintaining high standards of environmental quality, physical design, economic benefit, and social progress, the statement says.

Ecotourism is defined by the International Ecotourism Society as responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment and improve the well-being of local people, according to the release. During the event, Drumm presented a case for turning to an ecotourism model to reinvigorate Mission Bay Park and explained why this is important, particularly in regions where tourism makes up a large part of the economy.

“The biggest growth segment in tourism is the nature-focused category,” Drumm said. He referenced Butler’s Tourism Area Life Cycle to explain the evolution of a nature-based tourist destination, which includes exploration, involvement, development, consolidation, and then stagnation. At this point, the quality and popularity of a destination will decline without a sustainable ecotourism makeover, he said.

In addition to maintaining and nurturing natural resources, Drumm said ecotourism is better for the economy, according to the release. Lowering volume and density, monitoring and managing impacts, and encouraging more local input leads to a higher income multiplier, higher tourist spending, and a higher ratio of jobs per tourist.

Simply put, according to Drumm, ecotourists spend more than conventional tourists, the statement says. To capture this segment of the tourism market, however, Mission Bay Park needs help.

“Failing to capture the economic value of ecosystem services often leads to the degradation of natural resources,” Drumm said.

He warned the audience against letting Mission Bay Park go the way of a small fishing village in India’s Kerala State, where tourism collapsed after environmental degradation took hold, as was the case for Italy’s Adriatic coast and Germany’s Black Forest. Perhaps the most serious danger, he said, is a lack of understanding of the benefits of biodiversity.

Among Drumm’s many suggestions for Mission Bay Park were to protect and restore areas of biodiversity (resilience, shoreline protection, water purification, ecotourism value, etc.) and improve the quality of the visitor experience to include environmental interpretation and monitoring, according to the release. Bringing about rejuvenation for Mission Bay Park also requires the public and private sectors working together, he said.

Among Drumm’s directives for the private sector were improving relations with park management to ensure fulfillment of environmental values; participating in the design, construction, and operational phases of development; and developing strategic alliances and business partnerships among recreational businesses and nature-focused, sustainable-ecosystem-model organizations, according to the source.

It is up to the public sector, Drumm said, to promote awareness of the critical role of biodiversity and ecosystem services in maintaining and enlarging tourism’s contribution to economic development, create zones to distinguish between natural areas and more traditional recreational areas, and to develop a comprehensive park tourism plan with multi-stakeholder involvement, among many other crucial tasks, he pointed out.

C-3 organized a lunch with multiple Mission Bay stakeholders as a follow up to the breakfast event and plans to continue a dialogue promoting ecotourism and comprehensive planning in the area, the statement says.