Introduction of wildlife tourism:
As pointed out by the World Bank, wildlife tourism refers to combining tourism with sustainability. Wildlife tourism refers to the form of tourism which involves interaction with wild animals in the natural habitats. The tourists can interact with wild animals either by going near them, which requires specific trainings or watching them from a distance. This form of tourism is capable of boosting the tourism industry of several countries and also boosting economic development among the local population directly dependent upon wild life (worldbank.org, 2018). The wildlife tourism in the combination of both luxury and sustainability. It is one of the riskiest forms of tourism and is very much affected by external environment condition. The industry is a multimillion dollar industry which is driving the tourism industry of several countries.
Current trend analysis of wildlife tourism:
The STEEP analysis of the wildlife tourism consist of five components namely, social, technological, economic, ecological and political. The analysis would show explore the present market conditions of wildlife tourism which would in turn enable forecasting its future trends.
The social factors play very important roles in driving wildlife tourism. This is because unlike conventional tourism, wildlife needs more social support. The following are the social factors which have led to the growth of wildlife tourism:
Rising awareness in the society:
KC et al. (2017) mentions that social support has bolstered the wildlife tourism in many countries. The spread of awareness about the need to conserve the environment and wildlife has led to people supporting wildlife tourism. The multinational channels like BBC and Nat Geo have led to increase in the awareness among the people about the important roles wild animals play in conservation of ecological balance. These factors have encouraged many people going for wildlife safaris in reserves which has promoted wildlife tourism tourism as the booming segment of tourism.
Increase in income among the people:
The increase in income in among the people in several markets like Asia, Australia and North America is having positive impact on the wildlife tourism. The global giants of Asia like India and China have experienced tremendous per capital income increase (statisticstimes.com, 2018)./ The markets like Australia, North America and South America are also experiencing increase in per capita among their residents. This rise in income has bolstered tourism industry as a whole since touring is a leisure which is heavily dependent on the disposable income. Moreover, wildlife tourism, unlike conventional tourism requires tourists to travel to remote parts like forests. They have to spend immense amount of expenditure to travel to these places. Thus, it can be inferred from the discussion that increase in the income among the people coupled with the rising awareness about importance of wildlife conservation is boosting wildlife tourism (Pratt, 2015).
Technological advancements have promoted wildlife tourism to a great extent. Better transport facilities to densely forested areas and better animal tracking devices have enable tourists to get a closer view of wildlife. In fact, technology plays a great role in every aspect of wildlife tourism. The following are the roles technology plays in promoting wildlife tourism:
Advancement of technology has enabled spreading of knowledge to generate awareness about environmental issues like the severity of the issues and how wild animals can contribute to tackle those issues. The deeper access of internet and access to crucial information among the masses create awareness about the seriousness of conserving wildlife to ultimately benefit humanity. Channels like BBC and National Geographic channels have led to spread of awareness about wildlife from Asia, Europe and North America (Iced.cag.gov.in, 2018). This growing awareness about the wild animals and their roles in ecosystem have encouraged people to travel to remote areas to watch wild animals in their natural habitats. Thus, technology plays a key role in creating demand among customers to go on wildlife tours, thus promoting the wildlife tourism industry.
Better transport facilities:
Better infrastructure facilities like more stable roads and connectivity to airports enable easier transport of tourists and provisions to and from wildlife reserves. Carson and Carson (2016) mention that since the wildlife reserves are in remote and hostile terrains like grasslands and deserts, tourism in such regions are dependent heavily on the development of transport. More sturdy vehicles enable tourists and guides to travel to deep interiors to see wild animals. This maximizes the satisfaction of tourists. Moreover, availability of air transport facilities have made it possible for tourists to travel to foreign wildlife reserves. Thus, this analysis shows that better transport facilities have definitely boosted wildlife tourism.
Better risk management:
More efficient risk management has boosted the wildlife tourism industry. Pirotta and Lusseau (2015) mentions that unlike many other forms tourism, risk is an indispensable component of wildlife tourism. The first threat which tourists are likely to face on a wildlife tour is hostile climatic conditions like extreme heat, cold or torrential rainfall. The second risks which tourists on a wildlife tour suffer from is attacks of wild animals. Advancements in medical science has made it possible to treat wildlife tourists in case of an emergency. Wilhite, Sivakumar and Pulwart (2014) mention that better risk management facilities have resulted in less number of accidents and casualties among wildlife tourists. The increase in safety is encouraging tourists to take wildlife tours. Thus, better risk management and increase in safety has boosted the wildlife tourism industry. Thus, it can be inferred from the discussion that better risk management and enhanced safety of the tourists are attracting new tourists into wildlife tourism industry, thus boosting the growth of the industry.
Wildlife tourism is heavily dependent on economic factors and in turn have strong economic impacts. The following are the economic factors pertaining to wildlife tourism:
Generation of revenue:
The wildlife tourism industry generates millions of revenue and has thus emerged as a significant driver of economic development in countries. The wildlife tourism of Africa alone is projected to generate a revenue of $ 296 billion by 2026. The sector is expected to generate employment opportunities for 29 million people within the period (voanews.com 2018). Thus, this tourism is capable of generating revenue for the governments of countries and also for the firms involved with tourism. The main markets which generate tourists are the United States of America, Australia and Europe. The main wild life tourism destinations are Africa, Asia and South America (theconversation.com, 2018). Mowforth and Munt (2015) point out that thus tourism is helping governments of poor countries like African countries attract foreign revenue.
International currency exchange rates:
Hong (2015) points out a very important economic factor which is effecting the wildlife tourism industry since it is a global industry is international currency exchange rates. He mentions that global wildlife tourism is very much dependent on currency exchange rate between countries which is extremely volatile. As pointed out already, the main tourism destinations are Asia, Africa and South America. The main markets where the tourists belong to are North America, Europe and Australia (theconversation.com, 2018). It is clear from this description that the costs which the tourists have to pay depends largely on the prevailing exchange rates.
Figure 1. Graph showing exchange rates of South African Rand against USD, GBP and AUD in 5 years
(Source: bloomberg.com, 2018)
The above graph compares the historical trends of USD, GBP and AUD against South African Rand (ZAR) for 5 years. The graph clearly shows that USD is experiencing fairly high rate against ZAR but the other two international currencies are suffering low rates. This means the tourists from the US would have to pay less than the tourists from the UK and Australia to visit South African wildlife reserves. This also means that the South African government would earn higher revenue by serving the American tourists (Balli, Balli & Louis, 2016). This shows that currency exchange rates have profound effect on the global wildlife tourism industry.
Economic development of local population:
Economic development of the local population is one of the greatest drivers of development of the global wildlife tourism. Mowforth and Munt (2015) point out in their work that wildlife tourism promotes economic development among the people living in and around wildlife reserves. Wildlife tourism unlike other forms of tourism necessitates thorough knowledge about local factors like the seasonal changes, the terrain of the reserves, the behavior of the local species of animals. This necessitates the service of the local people who operate as tour guides and take the tourists on wildlife safaris. It can also be pointed out that most of the wildlife tourism destinations are situated in areas like rainforests and arid regions. These regions do not support development of industries which would create employment opportunities for the local population. This factor inhibits their economic development (theguardian.com, 2018). Wildlife tourism provides a sustainable solution to this economic problem. The local population can work as tourist guides and earn their living. Secondly, wildlife tourism leads to development of hotels and accommodation facilities around wildlife reserves and national parks. These new business centers also create employment opportunities to the local population. This enables governments to bring down the rate of unemployment in their respective countries. Thus it can be inferred from the discussion that that wildlife tourism leads to economic development among the local population which is encouraging governments to promote this form of tourism.
The ecological factors are one of the most important factors which play significant roles in the wildlife tourism. The following are the important ecological factors which impact the wildlife tourism industry:
Conservation of wildlife and revenue generation:
The Pacific Asia Travel Association points that the revenue generated from wildlife tourism can be directed to conserve wildlife and forests (pata.org, 2018). Mowforth and Munt (2015) can be reiterated in this case. Wildlife tourism paves way for generation of employment opportunities among the local population and economic development in the poor countries like South Africa. The capital generated from wildlife in these countries can be redirected towards conservation of wildlife and local forests, both of which are dependent on each other. Better maintenance of bio systems would enable these countries to attract more tourists and earn more foreign exchange (Gallagher et al., 2015). Thus, ecological sustenance plays a very important role in the development of wildlife tourism.
Wildlife tourism, unlike other forms of tourism is highly impacted by natural disasters like flooding and tsunamis. It must be pointed that wildlife tourism hotspots are situated in hostile environments like open oceans, semi deserts, deserts and rainforests. These environments often come under influence of hostile natural calamities like tsunamis and flooding (civildefence.govt.nz, 2018). The WWF in one of its report points out that forest fires are common phenomenon in several top wildlife destinations like the Amazon rainforest and African grasslands. The forest fires can be the outcomes of natural phenomenon like lightning as well as human initiated fires (mobil.wwf.de, 2018). The National Geographic Channel in one of its reports mention that global warming and climatic changes would spell havoc on both marine and terrestrial wild reserves. This would be triggered by melting of Antarctic ice sheets and rising of the sea level to the extent of submerging vast stretches of land (nationalgeographic.com, 2018). Thus, it can be inferred that environmental conditions like global warming and forest fires would have significant impact on wildlife habitats and wildlife tourism.
Wildlife tourism is heavily dependent on political agreements between countries to contribute to each other’s environmental conservation and promotion of tourism. For example, the USA and Brazil have entered in bilateral agreements top boost their respective tourism industries (export.gov, 2018). The support from international bodies like the World Economic Forums also help in expansion of the tourism industry in regions like Africa (reports.weforum.org, 2018). Duffy (2016) points out that wildlife trafficking and political disturbances on the other hand have endangered wildlife and consequently wildlife tourism. Thus, it can be inferred from the discussion that political factors have profound impacts on wildlife tourism.
Scenario 1: Better risk management measures to support wildlife tourism.
Better risk management facilities would enable better risk control which would boost wildlife tourism. The first risk which wildlife tourism faces is lack of transport since most of the wildlife tourist are located in remote areas. Moreover, countries like the African countries which attract a large population of wildlife tourists often suffer from political disturbances and extremist activities. Development of more advanced transport facilities like more roads connecting the remote wild forests to main cities would enable faster escape of tourists (Tang & Tan, 2015). Moreover, better roads and transport facilities would enable the wildlife security forces to tackle wildlife trafficking and other criminal activities related to forested areas.
Critical assessment and recommendations:
Büscher (2018) points out that advancement of technology in the coming 10 to 25 years would enable more accessibility of tourists and wildlife securities into deeper parts of the forests. This would also enable easier control of crimes like animal trafficking which would ultimately benefit the wildlife tourism markets.
It can be recommended on the basis of the above analysis that governments should maintain separate armies armed with advanced combat training to suppress animal tracking. It can also be recommended that just like the peace keeping mission, the anti-animal trafficking armies should collaborate to fight the groups involved in animal trafficking.
Scenario 2: Better control of natural calamities like wild fires which can pose threat to wildlife tourism.
The advancement in science and technology would open the door for better risk management in the wildlife reserves which would benefit wildlife tourism in the coming 25 years. The advanced animal tracking devices like GPS collars on animals would enable better tracking of them by tourist guides and wildlife rescue officers. For example, in case of a wild fire breakout, the wildlife rescue teams would be able to track the animals trapped in the fire and relocate them to safe locations easily (netflix.com, 2018). Similarly, better disaster management techniques like spraying water from hovercrafts would allow better control of forest fires. Similarly, better meteorological advancements would allow forecasting of natural disasters in advance. This would enable disaster rescue teams rescue both animals and tourists, thus, mitigating the losses the calamities would cause.
Critical assessment and recommendations:
Figure 2. A drone extinguishing forest fire
(Source: bbc.com, 2018)
This analysis shows that advanced risk management would provide better management of environmental risks like forest fires and tsunamis. This would minimize the damage to wildlife habitats and tourists. Thus, better risk management methodologies would enable better risk management in the coming 10 to 25 years, thus benefitting wildlife tourism.
It can be recommended from the above analysis that the accommodation of the tourists would be easily movable like caravans. This would enable easy shifting of the tourists to secured locations in event of impending natural calamities. Further it can also be recommended that the governments can build fireproof channels where animals can take refuge in case of forest fires.
Scenario 3: Increased threats from environmental disasters and enhanced government collaboration:
As per the WWF, half of the wild animal species of living in areas like the Amazonian Rainforest and the Arctic Region would be coming under the threat of extinction in future 10 to 25 years due to climate change and global warming (panda.org, 2018). This also points out to the impending threats to wildlife tourism and its benefits. Li et al. (2015) point out that this situation can only be tackled by international collaboration between nations to fight climate change.
Critical assessment and recommendations:
An analysis of the above situation shows that nations should collaborate to fight climate change and reduce it to the extent possible. It can however, be pointed out that climate change cannot be checked totally.
It can be recommended that the economically and technologically strong nations like the US can provide countries with wildlife reserves advanced fire extinguishing systems. It can also be recommended that the countries should collaborate to recover lost forested regions due to natural calamities like floods. Then the resident fauna species can be re-introduced in these forests.
It can be concluded from the above discussion that wildlife tourism would promote environmental sustainability on one hand and economic development on the other. This would also create employment opportunities in the remote forested areas where other industries cannot thrive. However, the global wildlife habitats are reeling under future threats like forest fires and climatic change which are also increasing with each passing year. The threat is so huge that no single country can manage it alone, even partially. The countries have to collaborate to manage these risks and prevent their wildlife from extinction. This would also lead to boosting of wildlife tourism.
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