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Outdoor Economy

Massive Opportunity for Conservation and Business, Will They Miss it?

 

On top Rock Arms Open

There are major opportunities in the outdoor economy that have often been overlooked.

The disconnect between conservation and economic growth comes as a result of misunderstandings and misrepresentations of social and political groups that are either focused on protecting the environment or on building the economy. The truth of the matter is that
there is opportunity for both economic growth and conservation. This becomes clear when one does a proper analysis of the situation and removes all political biases. In fact, you cannot have one without the other. Ecological sustainability will never be achieved through a focus on environment and biodiversity alone.
Social and economic values and needs must become an integral concern of nature conservation management (TNSW p5).
Well managed natural resources have tremendous benefits to human health and quality of life as well as economic, education, and scientific advancement. This is a theme throughout this website and multiple reports.

The business sector does itself a disservice to try to demonize the conservation community as standing in the way of economic progress. Clean water, clean air, and attractive natural beauty are huge drivers of economic growth and social well-being. Denial that there is any need for conservation will only harm the economy in the future.
Entrepreneurs and conservationists who work together in a purposeful, ethical way using common sense can achieve great social and economic progress that is sustainable and beneficial to the people and the planet.

The Power of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism

Many conservation organizations see tourism as one of the sectors with the greatest potential for linking conservation to economic development. ( IUCN-Kouni Group) Tourism is the largest industry in the world and growing fast. “For wealthy westerners, travel is now an addiction” (The Economist).
Tourism generates over $2 trillion in spending, $730 billion in earnings and 6.5 million full-time jobs while growing 4-5% annually regardless of war, disease, or terrorism. ( Needham, RRMP at OSU).

Tourism can also be harmful. Mass Tourism can lead to overcrowding, congestion, and overuse causing pollution, waste and degradation of natural resources.

On the other hand,
carefully developed sustainable tourism and eco-tourism can empower local people while providing financial and conservation benefits. In fact, the outdoor recreation industry can provide much greater employment and economic opportunities to a community and have a much lighter impact on local environments than industries that focus on extraction of natural resources. Employment related to recreational activities can exceed employment related to resource exploitation by more than 5 times (Kuenzi and McNeely) . Wildlife related recreation (fishing, hunting, and wildlife viewing) on National Forest lands provide a significant benefit to state and regional economies throughout the nation. In 1996, wildlife related recreation created 238,800 full time jobs and generated $21million in state sales and income taxes (USFW).
In 2012, outdoor recreation contributed $646 billion in consumer spending to the US economy and more than $39.7 billion in tax revenue while creating 6.1 million American jobs(OIA 2012). Outdoor recreation contributes nearly twice the positive economic impact than the automotive, pharmaceutical and oil industries.

How to build a sustainable outdoor recreation industry

In order to build a successful outdoor industry there must be a focus on customer satisfaction as well as environmental conservation
. “Satisfied customers are believed to affect the long-term viability of the organization in the competitive business environment and also for enhancing experience of visitors with attraction.” (IJMMR, Vol. 4, No. 1) The integrity of the facilities and natural resources are crucial to customer satisfaction. The Association of British Travel Agents found that
one in three travelers now believe that vacation products should have an environmental rating. ABTA’s study also showed that 19% of these travelers were willing to pay more for it.
Nature-based businesses are dependent on clean water and untrammeled natural landscapes(CNBT-BC).

Customer service, empathy, and local knowledge are also extremely important
. Training is a key factor to the success of any organization and staff must be provided with proper training in terms of communicating with guests (IJMMR, Vol. 4, No. 1).
Enhancing quality of interpretation at visitor centers, attractions, and on tours is a major opportunity area for nature tourism. People learn better when they are using as many senses as appropriate. It is generally recognized that people retain 10% of what they hear, 30% of what they read, 50% of what they see, and 90% of what they do (TNSW p5).

Most of all, building a sustainable economy that will have long-term benefits for the people and the environment requires the cooperation and teamwork of the entire community. Every nature reserve needs a management plan and a dedicated community of volunteers to care for it.

People want to live healthy, vibrant lives in an area where they can enjoy themselves in the outdoors. This can be achieved through cooperation between both the business and conservation community.

Other Related Articles:

http://adventureblog.nationalgeographic.com/2013/05/29/guides-are-portals-to-the-outdoor-world-lets-give-them-the-support-they-need/#%21

http://adventureblog.nationalgeographic.com/author/averystonich/

http://www.wengerna.com/blog/outdoor-recreation-americas-overlooked-economic-giant/

Can Natural Resources Combat Poverty in Rural Areas?

The Fatu Hiva RainforestWhat will be the results of this unprecedented, recent decision by the the United Nations?

It is hard to care that much about the environment when you are hungry and struggling to survive.

Poverty continues to plague many parts of the world.

Indigenous populations face many challenges such as lack of food, clean water, education and opportunity.

They look for what ever means necessary to add to their circumstances and help feed themselves.

There may be solutions within the beautiful landscapes and among the flora and fauna that don’t include burning or poaching.

Efforts that are made to understand the natural and cultural stories and share them with the world could attract a growing demographic of travelers.

Many local populations do not realize the value of the stories that they have learned growing up in their area.  The time they have spent observing the wildlife and listening to the stories of their ancestors may hold more benefit than they are aware of.

Few people in rural communities that are surrounded by natural areas understand that their adventures off into the wilderness may have given them specialized knowledge that can be turned into revenue for themselves and their families.

Trends show that a growing number of travelers are more interested in learning about the history and culture of the places they visit and interacting with the local populations.

Places that have unique flora and fauna are of particular interest to certain travelers and nature enthusiasts.

Policy makers are beginning to realize the power of tourism to bring much needed economic development to impoverished areas.

In December 21, 2012, The United Nations General Assembly recently adopted a landmark resolution entitled “Promotion of ecotourism for poverty eradication and environment protection”, “positive impact on income generation, job creation and education, and thus on the fight against poverty and hunger”. It further recognizes that “ecotourism creates significant opportunities for the conservation, protection and sustainable use of biodiversity and of natural areas by encouraging local and indigenous communities in host countries and tourists alike to preserve and respect the natural and cultural heritage”.

There is genuine concern when developing a tourism industry that it may have negative implications.

Sometimes tourism can be destructive and developments can block access for local populations from enjoying their own land as well as threaten their culture, environment and heritage sites.

Several municipalities have created regulations that prevent the destruction of natural areas and promote an atmosphere that will attract conscientious visitors that are drawn to the flora and fauna rather than the high-rises and night clubs.

Studies have shown that these travelers tend to spend more money, stay longer, and have more positive impact on the places they visit.  More of their money tends to find it’s way into the local economy.

It takes time and investment to develop sustainable tourism. Building capacity needs to be done systematically with a well thought out plan and process.

Policy makers and stakeholders need to be sensitive when dealing with local populations that have a history of being marginalized.

The UN resolution draws on information in a report by The World Tourism Organization, UNWTO, which encourages a number of initiatives that include creating cooperation among stake holders and creating financial mechanisms such as microcredit for the poor and in local and indigenous communities, in rural areas that have ecotourism potential.

Examples of potential of constructive and destructive tourism development can be found all over the world and used as a reference when moving forward.

What has been your experience?


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Do Budget Cuts to Parks, Nature Reserves and Wildlife Refuges Really Save Money?

Outdoor Recreation and Tourism and the Real Value of Parks and Natural Resources

As sequestration goes into effect, deep budget cuts are being felt by parks, nature reserves and wildlife refuges.  The staffs at these facilities are considering whether to close down their nature centers, lay off personnel, and shut down certain programs for the year in order to save money.

Are they really saving money?

In the summer of 2012, I went to a seminar and heard a presentation by Michael Kirschman who was making the economic case for parks and natural areas.

The argument for keeping parks and natural areas funded have often been made mainly on visitation numbers and “quality of life” issues without real quantifiable data to show their economic value in other areas.

Mecklenburg County Staff spent time compiling real data to show the economic and health benefits of parks and natural areas in real numbers.

Their report findings covered several areas including water quality, air quality, real estate value, tourism, direct revenue, and health.

Some of what they found was that the nature preserves in their county:

  • filters and helps to reduce 27000 gallons of run-off per year to save potential $58+ million dollar infrastructure costs,
  • removes $2.2 million worth of pollution from the air
  • is responsible for 20% increase in property values leading to $1.2 million in additonal tax revenue
  • creates $8.8 million in direct and indirect tourism revenue
  • significantly reduced the $300 billion businesses spent on stress related health issues

This adds up to a combined $69million/year benefit and 350% return on investment of what is being spent on the nature preserves.

The article goes on to quote studies that have produced similar results in Philadelphia and New York that are responsible for billions in revenue and thousands of jobs. [see attached article: ParksValueMorethanJustAesthetic]

The real value of natural resources is not always obvious.

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