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Honey, Martha. Ecotourism and Sustainable Development: Who Owns Paradise? Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1999 (405 pp.) Martha Honey probably does not win too many awards from the tourism industry. This well-written and extremely comprehensive study of ecotourism lays a good deal of the blame for the unmet promise of ecotourism squarely on the shoulders of the major players in the travel industry, in particular airlines, cruise lines, and hotel chains. She suggests that they have adopted "green" language because the traveling public (mostly the Boomers) wants to hear it, and also because the industry knows, rightly so, that tourism depends on the conservation of attractions – and more and more those attractions are natural. Thus, it’s in their own economic interests to conserve parks and wildlife, for example. However, as Honey argues, most corporate approaches amount to little more than "eco-lite" tourism, and in the worst cases they do more harm than good. This is a valuable cautionary note for practitioners of heritage tourism as well; even though her focus is ecotourism in Third World nations, many of the principles and problems Honey explores, especially those dealing with sustainability and cultural preservation, could just as well be adapted to heritage experiments anywhere. The book is valuable, even if the reader does not agree with Honey. As someone who has worked around the world promoting ecotourism before it even had a name, she knows the origins of this niche market well, and the opening chapters provide a worthwhile overview of ecotourism’s beginnings, the people involved, and the ways in which it differs from other forms of nature tourism. Most significantly, unlike adventure tourism, wildlife tourism, and other models, at its core ecotourism endorses a political and social agenda to empower local people, build environmental awareness, and contribute to human rights. On the matter of whether ecotourism is passe, she notes that the word has been appropriated by so many interests that it is nearly meaningless, but that the principles are still worth pursuing. An early chapter on the tourism industry demonstrates how basic ecotourism principles are generally at odds with corporate tourism, even when major tourism organizations (WTO, TIA, WTTC, ASTA) profess allegiance to the preservation of natural resources. The book can be a little heavy-handed; part of its problem is that in Honey’s world everyone in the tourism industry wears a black hat and locals are victims – always an us-and-them presentation. The bulk of the book examines ecotourism in seven sites, from the Galápagos Islands and Costa Rica to Kenya and Cuba. At the conclusion of each chapter, she provides an ecotourism scorecard, rating each place on its adherence to the original principles. There are many practices dissected in these chapters, and the operative standards of ecotourism begin to emerge, including involvement of local people (which heritage tourism benefits from as well). Although some sites are doing a better job than others, Honey says that no place has yet realized the potential of ecotourism, and what is needed are clearer standards and better monitoring procedures.


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