Customer Reviews: Ecotourism and Sustainable Development, Second Edition: Who Owns Paradise?
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on April 13, 2009
I was really looking forward for this updated edition, since the previous one was published in 1999, when ecotourism was still in its infancy, and full of controversies and paradoxes. Undoubtedly this updated edition will continue to be a textbook in ecotourism courses and a key reference for scholars and practitioners, as well as of interest for travelers with a genuine interest in ecotourism by its purist definition. This second edition recounts how ecotourism went from childhood to adulthood, and unfortunately, the contradictions and paradoxes still remain.

In this edition Mrs. Honey revisits six of the seven countries profiled in the first one, the chapter on Cuba was deleted. As explained by the author, Cuba has followed a more classic Caribbean-style resort tourism rather than ecotourism, and in substitution, a new chapter on ecotourism in the US was included. Part 1 of the book presents a comprehensive overview of both the international tourism industry today, and ecotourism in particular, including new materials on certification programs and the role and support of multilateral aid institutions, such as the World Bank, IDB and USAID. Also this edition presents the latest developments regarding traveler's philanthropy and voluntarism, as part of a new trend regarding corporate social responsibility initiatives within the tourism industry led by ecotourism companies.

After going through the evidence presented in the country cases, and the excellent discussion regarding the paradoxes of ecotourism presented in the book Critical Issues in Ecotourism: understanding a complex tourism phenomenon, I was not only disappointed by the lack of evolution of the field, but also realized that the origin of the never ending contradictions and paradoxes can be found in the definition of ecotourism, which disregards the most basics principles of economics, despite the fact of being advocated as a means for sustainable economic development. The law of supply and demand is as inexorable as Newton's Law of Gravity, it works everywhere, and cannot be repealed, whether you believe in it or not. The principles behind the definition of ecotourism are based on several ideological postulates reflecting the proponent's idealistic view of the world rather than on the basis of a market segment within the tourism industry, which must considers consumer choices and preferences, price signals, externalities, economies of scale, market failures, and basic business principles such as financing and production chains.

The problem is that the whole concept of ecotourism was developed exclusively from the point of view of conservationists and environmentalists, who reject free markets, globalization, and all the other evils of capitalism. The following assertion, found in Chapter 3, leaves no doubts about the intentions of ecotourism proponents: "even as ecotourism was growing rapidly in the early 1990s, economic globalization, free trade, and privatization were proving to be strong countervailing forces to the philosophy and promise of ecotourism". One of the promises of ecotourism proponents is "that the portion of profits retained within the Third World will be substantially greater, and the environmental and social consequences will be far less, than with conventional tourism". Mrs. Honey openly asserts that globalization and free trade are "undermining the sustainability of smaller and locally owned ecotourism ventures in developing countries" as the `high concentration of new international firms in key sectors... creates market power and the potential for the abuse of dominance by large international firms". However, as documented in the book, the Tanzanian case demonstrates how foreign investment and globalization were indispensable to star up the tourism industry.

Because the definition of ecotourism is built on such moral high-grounds and in denial of market forces, the result could not be other than a divorce between pure ecotourism principles and economic and business realities. Unfortunately the number of altruist and philanthropic human beings is quite limited, thus, pure ecotourism as advocated by its proponents is rare, and not surprisingly, as reported in the book, several locales considered as islands of excellence in the first edition, today are in danger of disappearing just because of changes in ownership. Until market forces are recognized as an integral part of ecotourism activities, ecotourism will continue to be just as a market niche for a few conscientious travelers and conservationists, as according to figures presented in the book, after almost 30 years from its conception, ecotourism make up just between 5 to 13% of international visitors. Mrs. Honey blames ineffective or insufficient marketing as the probably the primary reason why worthy ecotourism ventures in developing countries failed to attract visitors. Or is it because in the free market gives consumers the power to choose? Tourism is demand driven, and clearly most international visitors are simply not interested in just educational travel as the ecotourism definition requires. As the evidence presented in the book shows, in reality there is a symbiosis between some forms of mass tourism and pure ecotourism, thus allowing pure ecotourism ventures to have financial feasibility, as they benefit from the spillover coming from mass tourism and the other activities.

Costa Rica is proof that several market segments can co-exist and grow together in a mutual beneficial symbiosis, from mass sun and beach to pure ecotourism, as a majority of international visitors end up visiting at least one national park. A similar example reported in the book is South Africa's Sun City, where gambling casinos are the magnet to attract masses of tourists, some of whom visit the nearby national park. However, Mrs. Honey repeats the same criticism she did ten years ago regarding Costa Rica's "risky two-track policy of heavily marketing its parks and ecotourism, while trying to increase visitor number by means of cruise tourism, prepaid air charter tours, large beach resorts, and urban hotels owned by international chains..." However, the statistics presented in the book show that 61% of visitors visited national parks, 66% observed flora and fauna and 77% went to the beach. This mix of products is precisely what makes Costa Rica an attractive destination and this is how it has been done for almost 25 years now, so I will call it a proven success, not a risky proposition. As recounted in the book, even real ecotourism operators and lodge/hotel owners report that international visitors increasingly demand more luxurious accommodations while their knowledge and interest in nature are increasingly casual.

Though a very desirable and noble objective, another principle of the ecotourism definition that does not match reality but instead seems wishful thinking is the assumption that ecotourism "strives to empower and benefit local residents and rural communities, meaning small-scale locally owned enterprises." Even Mrs. Honey recognizes that most communities are not up to the task, nor have access to the financial resources required for large tourism operation, assuming internal conflicts within the community are avoided. And as illustrated in several cases, conflict indeed arises, even among community members, which is unavoidable when money and profit is involved. The evidence presented in the book also shows that actually most small-enterprises and community owned businesses have problems for lack of know-how and business skills, financial resources and government support in carrying out proper marketing. In order to resolve this problem, some ecotourism scholars advocate for government intervention. However, the cases presented, mainly from Africa and the Galapagos, illustrate what a disaster government intervention has been in nature-based and ecotourism, whether due to corruption, unintended consequences, or institutional weakness. And as for government central planning, the disastrous social and economic failures of the former Soviet Union and China under Mao's regime are enough evidence that this is not an option.

Another criticism of Mrs. Honey analysis has to do with the expected community involvement. The Latin American and African contexts are completely different, not only for historical, political and cultural reasons, but mainly because most of the African parks were created under colonial rule by removing indigenous populations by force and without any compensation. Therefore, the principles of ecotourism do not fit the same in all regions, and this difference has to be taken into account.

The discussion of ecotourism in the US merits special attention by the fact that the author here applies a more relaxed definition of ecotourism which clearly does not fulfill all the principles associated with the concept, thus adding one more contradiction. The country case presents agritourism and eco-ranching as forms of pure ecotourism in the US. In the former case it includes wine tourism in Napa and Sonoma on the basis that these are family-owned wineries. The latter includes eco-lodges in cattle ranches at Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Why is this ecotourism? just because both are "efforts to preserve family-owned businesses and the land, local crops, cultural traditions, and ways of life from outside encroachment". Never mind that these are no longer pristine natural areas, but rather deforested cattle land and/or "sustainable" crop land, clearly showing that ideology comes before than consistency.

My last complain has to do with the chapter about Zanzibar which actually is just a critique of the mass tourism taken place in the island, as the discussion makes clear that the country only has a handful of real ecotourism hotels and projects. Therefore, instead of Zanzibar maybe some other more interesting country case could have been included, such as Brazil, the second largest recipient of international tourists in Latin America after Mexico (and not Costa Rica as wrongly reported in the book), or any of the Southeast Asian countries now trying to develop ecotourism.

Despite my criticism and Mrs. Honey's political bias, this edition contains very useful information for students, academics, and practitioners of ecotourism and tourism in general. And as for the controversies and paradoxes, these are not going to go away until a more realistic definition of ecotourism is introduced, coherent with basic principles of free market economics and the way businesses operate in the real world. For a detailed and comprehensive discussion on these controversies and paradoxes from the point of view of several schools of thought read Critical Issues in Ecotourism: understanding a complex tourism phenomenon.
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on October 22, 2008
Since it was first published nine years ago, Martha Honey's Ecotourism and Sustainable Development has become an indispensible resource for students, researchers, and professionals working in conservation and sustainable development. Now, an updated version has just come out, similar to its predecessor, but 100 pages longer.

With many years of experience as an investigative journalist, Honey knows how to hunt down and interrogate a wide range of sources, ask difficult questions, formulate independent opinions, and provide cogent critiques. None of this has changed in the new edition. What has changed is her conviction that ecotourism, while not a panacea, can indeed support conservation of nature and culture, social and economic development, and equitable democratic societies.

Following the same format as earlier, she begins with a comprehensive definition of ecotourism; a critical description of all the players in the tourism industry - especially those engaged in ecotourism; and an examination of the many issues and challenges facing the industry today. Most interesting and valuable, both for readers of the first edition and those new to the field, are the discussions of recently emerging ecotourism concepts, tools and issues.

The second part of the book offers case studies of seven countries (or smaller destinations), each with fascinating examples of how the government, private tour operators, national parks, communities, indigenous and/or marginalized peoples and international entities interact in the name of ecotourism. Probably most interesting for many North American readers, is addition of a chapter on ecotourism in the United States.

As its predecessor, Honey's book is highly engaging and full of provocative questions and challenges. As answers are found, the fields of ecotourism and sustainable development, as well as people, habitats and cultures around the world, are sure to benefit.
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on October 21, 2008
Ecotourism has been promoted as a mechanism to solve the world's environmental problems and social issues. It is marketed as a salve for the bruised consciences of carbon-spewing but sensitive travelers. But, at times, the label is used by lodges, tours and companies that are camouflaging their tourism-as-usual approach.

Martha Honey, a former investigative reporter who lived for 20 years in developing countries, researched the realities of ecotourism and wrote the definitive book on the topic. Originally released in 1999 by Island Press, Ecotourism and Sustainable Development: Who Owns Paradise? provided readers with a clear understanding of what ecotourism can contribute to conservation, communities and economies. In addition, the book was also a guide to enticing lodges and fascinating places that a conscientious global citizen might want to visit and support.

The second edition of Honey's book has just been released by Island Press and will be a welcome addition to the library of any thoughtful traveler. Part history and part guidebook like the first edition, this new version covers the major changes in the travel industry as ecotourism has become part of the mainstream vernacular. Honey's fine writing covers the evolution and definition of ecotourism in an accessible fashion in addition to giving up-to-the-minute information about selected destinations in seven locales around the world.

This is a must-read book for anyone interested in the intersection between tourism, conservation, social justice and sustainable economies.

Sandra Tassel
Look at the Land Inc
Conservation Consultants
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on August 14, 2013
I wanted to learn a bit more about tourism and came a cross this book. Affordable, easy to read and well structured, Honey's book provided much more than an introduction to ecotourism. It provides a glimpse into the industry, engages readers and provides them with a conceptual framework to critically assess certain industry claims. Fantastic book. I did not read all the case studies, but the ones I read were very interesting and showed different facets of ecotourism in different countries.
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on December 9, 2008
Visiting new places can be quite the experience, but one must consider the environmental impacts of tourism. Now in a newly revised, updated, and expanded second edition, "Ecotourism and Sustainable Development: Who Owns Paradise?" is an informed and informative look at 'ecotourism', the concept of tourists being respectful to the environments they visit. Honey goes over her concepts defining her more complex definition of ecotourism and outlining many important environments such as the Galapagos, South Africa, Costa Rica, and many others. "Ecotourism and Sustainable Development" is worth reading for those who like to travel but are also concerned for the places they visit or plan to visit.
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on January 20, 2016
Cover of the book was attached upside down and backwards.
totally useless.
No satisfaction from the distributor or publisher.
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on October 21, 2008
Dr. Honey has composed another authoritative book on this critical topic, and I highly recommend it for anyone seeking to learn more about the impacts of one of the largest industries in the world. For those of us already working to minimize the negative impacts of the tourism industry, this second edition will bring you fully up to speed on the many developments in this dynamic field.

There is a lot of hearsay out there when it comes to ecotourism, the environment and communities, but Dr. Honey's writing is clearly well researched and truly authoritative.
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