ECO-TOURISM IN SOUTH AFRICA
It is almost impossible to separate a tourism experience in South Africa from a nature experience. So rich is the country in scenic beauty and wildlife, that these facets remain the strongest motivation for overseas tourists to visit South Africa. No trip to the country would be complete with visits to cities or created resorts only; visitors flock to the better known scenic regions and beaches and insist on a visit to a game park. And there is still a wealth of lesser-known areas to discover.
As an eco-destination, South Africa has an enormous responsibility. The international definition of the word eco-tourism implies far more than merely a nature-experience. The term environment in its broader context has come to include the diverse community activities and cultures of a country's inhabitants, as well as its scarce and sensitive natural resources. Eco-tourism implies tourism practices that would benefit all concerned parties rather than benefit some concerns and neglect others. The term "eco-tourism" has therefore come to include concepts such as planning before development; sustain ability of resources; economic viability of a tourism product, no negative impact on either the environment and local communities; responsibility for the environment from developers, the tourism industry and tourists; environmentally-friendly practices by all parties concerned; and economic benefits flowing to local communities.
The Strategic Framework for Tourism Development in South and Southern Africa, compiled by South African Tourism and the Development Bank of SA, emphasised the values of equitable socio-economic benefits for all participants and communities, community involvement in decision making and responsibility, and sustainability, which requires balanced management of potentially renewable tourism resources.
STATUS OF ECO-TOURISM IN SOUTH AFRICA
There is a growing awareness of environmental responsibility among the members of the tourism industry. Parties that are directly involved in a nature-based tourism experience, such as the national and provincial parks, as well as private game reserves, are now including the concept of involving and benefiting local communities in their mission statements. Similarly, the need for thorough planning and impact studies is being emphasised through publicity given to mining projects in ecologically sensitive areas. Conservation and careful management of scarce resources is increasingly becoming a priority.
Since eco-tourism is still in its infancy in South Africa, statistics
can only indicate the interest in nature-based tourism. Satour's 1997 Winter
Survey reflected that more than 60%. of foreign visitors came to South
Africa for one of the following reasons: the scenic beauty (33%, of arrivals);
wildlife (30% of arrivals), and the climate (15%, of arrivals).
With recognition to SATOUR
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