planning and management of ecotourism in protected areas represent
today one of the greatest challenges that faces the country, with
the objective of reconciling the pre-requirements of environmental
conservation in areas of high patrimonial value in bio-diversity
with the concept of sustainable development.
"Living Planet Report" (WWF, 1999) states that between
1970 and 1995, in the space of time of just one generation, the
world lost about 30% of its natural wealth. This suggests an equivalent
decline in biodiversity. Since the 1960´s approximately
10% of the forest covering of the planet was lost between 1970
and 1995. In the case of marine life, this decline is estimated
at 35%. This figure is still larger in relation to the wealth
occurring in fresh water. An average reduction of 45% of the limnological
wealth was estimated between 1970 and 1990, based on studies and
data obtained for 102 fresh water species.
In this context, it is evident that human impact on preserved
natural areas, or those in the state of conservation, will tend
to show a marked increase in the next years, not just through
competition in relation to the base of natural resources
which naturally reflects conflicts of interests for land use,
but also for its symbolic value in relation to the redemption
of nature and values essential for urban societies, with direct
consequences on the use of this patrimony for recreational and
According to Brandon (1996), parks and protected areas are among
the main possibilities of conservation of biodiversity as 8,500
protected areas cover approximately 5.17% of the earth's land
surface, from a total of more than 773 million Ha. The author
also mentions that the majority of parks are seriously threatened
by distinct causes, amongst which are the pressure of poverty
without alternatives, large agriculture projects and principally,
a lack of financial and human resources and political commitment
for the management of protected areas.
Brazil this information is controversial and imprecise. Diegues
(1996) states that in 1990, Brazil had about fifteen types of
Conservation Units (CSUs), with a total of 429 units and an area
of 48,720,109 ha (federal, state, and municipal areas). Of these,
in the Amazon region, an extension of 40,000,000 ha covered 72
protected areas. In contrast, an area of 4,043,390 ha in the south/south-east
contained, at that time, 80% of the total number of CSUs in the
Wiedmann (1994), mentions the existence in Brazil of 31,800,000
ha of federal protected areas (direct and indirect use), which
corresponds to 3.7% of the land surface of the country, in comparison
to the world average of 5% and a South America average of 6.2%
(IUCN, 1992). This percentage is also significantly less than
Venezuela (34%) and Costa Rica (11%), countries that are actively
engaged in the development of ecotourism.
the 1970´s and 1980´s, 2,098 CSU´s were established
throughout the world (on a national level), covering an area of
3,100,000 km2 (Diegues, 1996). An analysis of the most recent
data confirms a tendency towards a gradual increase in the incorporation
of new protected areas into the international system of conservation.
The Brazilian case exemplifies this situation well. If UNESCO
(1992) data indicated a figure of just 2.4% of the national territory
in the condition of protected area - official data used as a basis
for the elaboration of the "Projeto de Corredores Ecologicos"
(Ecological Corridors Project) (IBAMA,1998) - employed a much
larger percentage of 4.57% which just included federal CSUs, in
a total of 145 distributed over 38,939,940 ha in seven distinct
management categories. Apart from the categories linked to Public
Authorities, the IBAMA lists covered in the same year a total
of 122 "Reservas Particulares de Patrimônio Natural
- RPPNs" (Private Reserves of Natural Patrimony), which clearly
demonstrates the growing interest of the private sector in the
conservation of natural resources. Just in "Legal" Amazonia,
122 areas, covering a total of 48,168,150 ha, including federal
and state CSUs, were calculated. In the Atlantic Forest, 148 areas
were registered occupying an area of 4,408,942 ha. These data
therefore indicate a progressive increase in the number of protected
areas, mainly in the Amazon region.
However, according to recent data (IBAMA, 2001), there are 206
protected areas in Brazil at the federal level, involving 42.894.936
ha or 5,05% of the brazilian territory. The distribution of the
different management categories is summarized below:
. National Forests : 15.245.715,22 ha (50 Units)
. Environmental Protection Areas: 6,835.830 ha (26 Units)
. Relevant Ecological Areas: 69.463,63 ha (16 Units)
. Extractive Reserves: 3.490.099,71 ha (17 Units)
b) Indirect Use
. National Parks: 11.332.425,95 ha (45 Units)
. Biological Reserves: 3.048.109,63 ha (24 Units)
. Biological Stations: 2.187.572,44 ha (23 Units)
. Ecological Reserves: 685.720,07 (05 Units)
national parks (the best known type of CSUs and also the most
important for ecotourism among the most restricted ones for possible
use for recreation and leisure), the potential area in Brazil
is of enormous relevance on the international scene. It is important
to remember that, in the last few months, new parks have been
World Congress of Parks in 1982, and the United Nations Program
for the Environment established that ideally 10% of the earth's
surface should be transformed into protected areas. In Brazil,
although an evolution in the last few years can be detected, mainly
due to international pressures and a greater participation of
society in the issue, this figure is still very much below that
required or expected. This statement is confirmed by the level
of demand for the conservation of natural resources in a country
with such megadiversity, in which ecotourism can represent an
important source of income and foreign exchange, considering its
potential to contribute to the gross domestic product, as in the
example of Latin American countries such as Venezuela and Costa
Rica. It should also be remembered that, based on an analysis
of the Live Planet Index, the WWF (1999) recommends the establishment
of a system of protected areas around the planet including at
least 10% of each forest type.
although all this information is important to support the planning
of eco-tourism in Brazil, in terms of tendencies and possibilities,
the question related to protected areas is much more complex because
it involves not just quantitative aspects linked to the planning
and management of CSUs but principally the conflicts generated
by this process.
the Brazilian context, the history of the establishment of CSUs,
and their development and conflicts viewed conceptually, are presented
and discussed by Diegues (1996). According to this author, "the
emplacement of neomites (untouched wild natural areas) and public
spaces on "community" spaces, and bio-anthropomorphic
myths (man as part of nature), has been causing serious conflicts.
In many cases they have resulted in the expulsion of traditional
inhabitants from their ancestral territories, as demanded by the
legislation relating to restrictive conservation units".
transposition of this neomyth to a distinct political, social,
cultural, economic and environmental context is the basis of,
or represents the cause of various conflicts linked to the implementation
of the Environmental Policy, specifically the part concerning
the conservation of natural resources. This dilemma is markedly
expressed in the elaboration and application of legal directives
and in serious problems of ambiguity and disharmony in public
be effective, the feasibility analysis of the development of an
ecotourism strategy for Brazil should consider not only the conceptual
difficulties related to the theme but also the degree of implementation
of the "Sistema Nacional de Unidades de Conservação
- SNUC" (National System of Conservation Units) and its results,
as discussed below.
must be remembered that the concept of ecotourism itself is being
constructed and debated (EMBRATUR/IBAMA, 1994; Western, 1995;
Irving, 1998; Veiga and Romão, 1998). This hinders, for
example, the systematic treatment of data and information and
even a critical evaluation of the performance of initiatives and
projects, as frequently this "label" has mistakenly
been used for any type of tourism in which the benefit of nature
is the attraction but the commitment for sustainability is not
the other hand, the main legal instrument for the standardisation
of planning and management of conservation units - Law No. 9.985/00
-, that establishes the National System of Conservation Units,
one of the demands of the Convention of Biodiversity, signed and
ratified by Brazil - has been discussed and negotiated since 1992
and has only recently been approved by the brazillian parliment.
This process clearly illustrates the difficulty of achieving an
agreement concerning the theme.
The Law No. 9.985/00 describes as one of its objectives: "to
promote and provide favourable conditions for environmental education
and understanding, recreation in contact with nature and ecological
tourism". This same legal document defines Conservation Unit
as "territorial space and its environmental resources, including
waters, with relevant natural characteristics, legally recognised
by the Public Authority, with well-defined objectives of conservation
and limits, under a special policy of management, to which adequate
guarantees of protection are applied".
However, a frequent problem observed in ecotourism planning refers
to the interpretation of the concept of conservation unit, which
can result in problems, which are difficult to solve and manage.
It is important that there is clear distinction concerning the
nomenclature of protected areas and their potentialities and/or
restrictions for eco-tourism, mainly in relation to what the system
calls "direct use" and "indirect use". In
the terminology adopted by Law No. 9.985/00:
Direct use involves the collection and use, commercial or not,
of natural resources. In this type are included the so-called
Sustainable Use Units: Environmental Protection Areas, Areas of
Important Ecological Interest, National Forests, Extraction Reserves,
Fauna Reserves, Sustainable Development Reserves and Private Reserves
of Natural Patrimony. In theory, all these areas can be utilised
for the rational use of natural resources. Therefore, visits or
use for recreation and leisure purposes and/or ecotourism are
use refers to activities that do not involve consumption, collection,
damage or destruction of the natural resources. In this category,
CSUs would be directed to the integral protection of natural systems,
so as to assure the maintenance of ecosystems free from alterations
caused by human interference, with just the indirect use of its
natural attributes permitted. In this type, the following categories
for management are included: Ecological Stations, Biological Reserves,
National Parks, Natural Monuments and Wildlife Refuges. Of these,
visiting is only allowed in the last three types, subject to Management
the Management Plan - principal standardisation document and regulator
for the use of protected areas - is not available for the majority
of them. And according to the legal text "...until a Management
Plan is elaborated, all activities and work developed in the totally
protected CSUs should be limited to those destined to guarantee
the integrity of the resources that the unit protects, assuring
the traditional resident population that happens to be in the
area, the means and conditions necessary to satisfy their material,
social and cultural needs". Thus, in the case of totally
protected CSUs, ecotourism is in theory restricted to those that
have Management Plans and that in them, the guidelines are clear
and locations are compatible with the activity. This limitation
once again shows the importance of government bodies working and
articulating as a group concerning the areas of tourism and the
environment, so that ecotourism can become a real possibility
in the next decade.
Recent data indicate that, depending on the area, ecotourism can
represent from 40% to 60% of international tourism. In Brazil,
with its cultural and environmental diversity, the country could
be certainly used as a demonstrative case study in the search
for a new ecotourism planning and development model. It is important
to remember that while mass tourism exploded in the 20th century,
another type of tourism began to emerge with the growth of environmental
concern in the nineteen sixties. This period marked the beginning
of ecotourism that has been growing significantly ever since.
It is important to add as inspiration for the Brazilian case that,
in many developing countries in Latin America, tourism in protected
areas already constitutes an important element in public policies.
This growing interest sharply reflects the economic potential
of the activity and its value as a powerful measure for attracting
resources and regional development. Viewed in this way, ecotourism,
if well managed, can have an unprecedented part to play in the
process of the conservation of natural areas and benefits to local
few studies have been conducted to estimate the financial return
of ecotourism in protected areas and the conceptual definition
of ecotourism itself is being constructed, a solid appraisal of
its economic potential is presented by Ceballos-Lascuráin
(1996) and it supplies important data in support of the statements
above and the approach of a notion of environmental patrimony
and/or economic value of the biodiversity.
spite of being a megadiverse country and containing in its territory
an enormous diversity of ecosystems and CSUs, Brazil does not
occupy a prominent position in Latin America in relation to the
development of ecotourism and only the Iguaçu Falls National
Park is considered to be profitable. This is because, although
the growth of tourism in protected natural areas is evident, many
issues still need to be resolved before its effective fruition.
Another emergent issue in this context is the following: What
is the guarantee that the financial resources obtained through
ecotourism will be applied to conservation of these areas and
to the benefit of the local population?
study of 23 protected areas with projects whose objectives envisaged
the generation of income and local economic development confirmed
that, while many initiatives were said to promote ecotourism,
few generated substantial benefits for the protected areas or
the local populations (Wells & Brandon, 1992).
limiting factor is that the concept of carrying capacity is only
peripherally used in Brazil. This can be illustrated by the few
examples, such as the marine national parks of Abrolhos and Fernão
de Noronha, for which limits on the number of visitors have been
set and control mechanisms applied. Nevertheless, these attempts
are not always successful because they represent isolated measures,
frequently in conflict with the policies of development defined
for the area.
element for analysis concerns the lack of information about the
protected natural areas and the training of personnel to transmit
this knowledge to the potential eco-tourists. In the same way
that the demand for ecotourism in CSUs increases, the demands
of the 21st century tourist also grow. The ecotourist, in the
broadest sense, does not just want to observe but also understand
the natural dynamics and to do this he looks for a means to live
the nature as a whole. Publications and systematic data on the
conservation units in Brazil are sparse and there is an unprecedented
lack of qualified personnel to act, not just as "guides"
but also as "decoders" of technical information and
"partners" in the process of a search for knowledge.
on the one hand in the operational sphere, the lack of qualified
human resources represents an obstacle to the development of ecotourism
in Brazil, on the other, professionals specialised in sustainable
tourism - with a managerial profile and broad knowledge of the
issues involved in ecotourism especially in protected areas -
are still absent from the process. There is still a regional inequality
in relation to the training of professionals for ecotourism, and
frequently the places with the greatest potential for the activity
are the least favoured in strategies for the training of human
problem to be resolved concerns the available infrastructure in
the Conservation Units. In Brazil, most of the national and state
parks lack the minimum infrastructure of support for ecotourism.
CSUs that have an infrastructure generally have a visitors centre
and/or lodgings for small groups. However, except for those closer
to the capitals, these centres are not equipped to cater for the
demand during the whole year and may even operate under precarious
There is also the institutional issue to be considered. Environmental
organisations have only recently started to work together with
institutions responsible for tourism planning. The result of this
synergy was a document entitled "Diretrizes para uma Política
Nacional de Ecoturismo" (Guidelines for a National Ecotourism
Policy), developed jointly by EMBRATUR and IBAMA (EMBRATUR/IBAMA,1994).
However, government bodies rarely act jointly at the insertion
point of a protected area, which generates frequent conflicts
between public policies and institutional decisions made far from
the local reality. In addition, there is no systematic mechanism
of integration between the federal, state and municipal institutions.
This results in producing fragmented activities, which are not
very effective in relation to the conservation of high biodiversity
areas. Added to these difficulties are the financial crisis and
lack of human resources, and the gradual loss of political power
of environment institutions on a national scale, worsened by the
corporate and centralising posture which have dominated until
collection of postures and institutional limitations has impeded
discussion for a long time on the perspective of shared management
of protected areas, with greater engagement of the local community
in the taking of decisions. It is therefore evident that, without
a defined new model for locally based integrated inter-institutional
action, already in experimental implementation in some protected
areas, the development of ecotourism linked to CSUs will tend
to be slow and problematic.
It is possible, however, that the main obstacle for the use of
parks for ecotourism is the land tenure issue and all its implications.
As CSUs have been established by legal measures based just on
technical data and not in consultation with the local communities
and connected segments of society, many of these areas are considered
"paper units". Most of them do not have their land tenure
situation solved and many are historically occupied by communities,
traditional or not, that use the natural resource base for their
survival, and who obviously do not want to give up the legal rights
to the land. It is estimated, for example, that 85% of CSUs in
the southeast region are occupied and cases of totally protected
CSUs being uninhabited are rare. At the moment, the land tenure
issue represents the most serious problem to be faced by Public
Authorities for the management of protected natural areas.
aggravate the problem even more, the owners of areas transformed
into "integral protection areas" lose access to, or
the possibility of use of, property acquired by the usual processes
of a democratic society, and no alternative is offered as compensation.
The pressure of occupancy also tends to increase in overspill,
in response to the interpretation that these areas are "no
mans land". As, up to now, the environmental and social costs
of the establishment and installation of units of indirect use
have not represented parameters of analysis, and as the Public
Authorities do not have means to put into effect the processes
of compensation and/or dispossession, conflicts of all sizes remain
studies illustrate the complexity of this subject and the impact
of tourism on areas of high ecological value in Brazil. Silveira
(1998) analyses the evolution of eco-tourism on the Ilha do Mel
(Paraná State Coast) , Veiga and Romão (1998) discuss
the subject for the Vale da Ribeira (SP), and Sansolo (1998) focalises
on the problem of the Serra do Mar. The three cases exemplify
the phenomenon of social exclusion and the land tenure conflicts
in areas identified for ecotourism, and they reinforce the magnitude
of the challenge to be faced.
establishment of CSUs in Brazil has allowed for some lessons to
be learnt, including the view that the integration of work focused
on the conservation of natural resources with the development
of economic strategies of low environmental impact - including
ecotourism - is absolutely necessary. The above examples however
reinforce the statement that ecotourism linked with CSUs, although
based on natural attractions of extreme relevance and secured
to the distribution of benefits to the local population, is still
not widely practised in Brazil in its most global sense. This
perhaps is the justification for why the inclusion of Brazil has
only two areas (Silves/AM and Prainha do Canto Verde/CE) for ecotourism
in the International Guide of Ecotourism, published by the NGO
Tourism Concern, that recommends 180 projects distributed in 41
countries. This theme inspires reflection on the need for the
establishment of standards, criteria and social and environmental
quality indicators of ecotourism projects and enterprises. In
this sense, the Environment Program of the CPCH/UFRJ is developing
the "Projeto Estrela Verde" (Green Star Project), that
seeks to establish a segmented classification system for the tourist
sector, based on its efficiency in serving the central presuppositions
of what is considered to be sustainable tourism.
to this view, ecotourism can represent an important alternative
for the generation of income to local communities close to protected
areas, provided that it is preceded by, and accompanied by, a
systematic process of environmental education and follows a wider
perspective of regional development (Sansolo, 1998; Irving, 1998).
to the problem under discussion, situations can also be identified
in the country in which the mobilisation for the community towards
ecotourism eventually motivates the creation and/or establishment
of CUs, as occurs in Prainha do Canto Verde, in the State of Ceará,
a location traditionally inhabited by a fishing community historically
involved in serious land tenure conflicts. The natural beauty
of the area, together with the dominant role of sun and beach
tourism in the State, ended up attracting various speculating
real state agents, and a significant risk of conflict and the
exclusion of the local populations. The action of opinion formers,
with the support of non-government entities, therefore began a
process to increase the level of awareness of leadership and financial
support. As a result, within the community there is now a Tourism
Council with 40 active members that deliberates on subjects of
interest and the collective use of the area for sustainable tourism
purposes. At the moment, efforts are being directed at the establishment
of a Community based Ecotourism Program and the local population
is mobilised to solve the land tenure issues and support the creation
of an Environmental Protection Area(APA), that will assure the
status of "conservation unit" to the location.
similar example is the Municipality of Santa Maria Madalena, in
the State of Rio de Janeiro. This rural municipality, with a high
rate of depopulation, contains part of the Desengano State Park
and its surroundings, one of the main contiguous areas of Atlantic
Forest in the State, that has received little attention from the
Public Authorities since its establishment. With a significant
drop in revenue for the municipality, due to the crisis in agricultural
and dairy products, the local leaders, in partnership with a non
governmental organisation and the university, began in 1997 the
process of raising the community's awareness and questioning in
relationship to the potential alternatives for regional development,
including ecotourism and rural tourism. In the meantime, the park
began to be recognised as collective ownership to be preserved
for the economic and environmental sustainability of the municipality.
With this in mind, the Community Based Sustainable Tourism Strategy
for the Desengano Region is being developed, the community leaders
are being trained to direct the process and new partnerships are
being established, also involving the private section and government
bodies, with competence and power in the management of conservation
units. In this case, the action of society through its leaders
had a propulsive effect on the recognition of economic potential
linked to the protected area, and it will probably be responsible
for the running of the park as a guarantee of municipal development
In reality, there are countless comparative advantages to the
development of eco-tourism in protected areas in Brazil but equally
limitless are the problems and conflicts to be solved as a pre-requirement
to the activity. However, it is important that discussions on
this theme consider the global patrimonial value of the protected
areas for the Brazilian nation.
Perhaps the first step towards this objective is the discussion
on ethics and tourism and the adoption of codes of conduct (UNEP,1995)
ratified by all participants involved in the process. The discussion
concerning ethics in tourism is still in its early stages in the
country (Caracristi,1998;Irving,1998a) but this needs to be continuously
and systematically stimulated and guaranteed. Similarly, the use
of the national biodiversity with a global value through ecotourism
cannot be considered without the generated benefits being shared
by all Brazilian citizens. For this, the planning of ecotourism
in protected areas has to be a transparent process and have the
commitment of effective participation of the whole of society.
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