Tourism planning on Esteros del Ibera
From December 2003, Fundacion Naturaleza para el Futuro is working with regard to the project GEF/PNUD ARG/02/G35, of sustainability in Esteros del Ibera.
This project is coordinated by Fundacion Ecos Corrientes with funds proceeding from UNDP (United Nations Development Program) and it has for purpose to develop and implement a sustainable management plan to allow the economic success of the region and communities inside the area, with no risk for the Ibera Natural Reserve.
The objective of Fundacion Naturaleza para el Futuro, concerning this project, is to analyze the actual situation of ecotourism on the Reserve, and evaluate its attractive and potentials, to propose subsequently the guidelines to incorporate in the public use program of the management plan.
It has been constituted in an important economic activity in natural areas in the whole world. It gives opportunities for tourists to perceive nature and culture and to learn about the importance of biodiversity conservation and local cultures. Simultaneously, it has converted in a tool for sustainable development, in the circumstances that generate incomes for conservation and economic benefits for the communities in these remote areas where difficultly other activities could offer so many opportunities.
- Low impact for natural resources.
- Involve all plaintiffs on planning, development, implementation and impact control phases.
- Respect culture and local traditions.
- Generate sustainable incomes for local communities and other integrants of the chain of value.
- Generate incomes for conservation of protected areas.
- Be an instrument for education, according to the importance of conservation.
Development of the project
The key points to follow for the development of the ecotourism evaluation of the Ibera Reserve include a field work, which contains different steps:
- Methods to involve local communities
Involvement of the different plaintiffs and communities is one of the primordial objectives of the project, judging that the development of the ecotourism planning is a participative process, that take care of disquietudes from tourist operators as from the inhabitants of the regions that are not related directly with the tourist activity. For this reason, it is necessary to involve in this process of planning to all primary plaintiffs, including local communities, tourism industry and the government in the development and implementation of tourism plans, to increase success probabilities in long terms.
For this reason, there had been carried out a couple of workshops in which were invited local communities, other work teams involved in the management plan, and different provincial and national interested authorities.
The workshops referred to various topics related to ecotourism, conservation and landscape protection. Some of the most emphasize topics were: An approach to environment interpretation, Carrying capacity of Laguna Ibera and Colonia Carlos Pellegrini, and Quality of visits.
- Attraction inventory
All inventories must be complete and detailed as much as possible and performed in a systematic and categorized way. An ecotourism inventory should not be confused with an exhausted list of all natural attractions and cultural or historical monuments of any site. The ecotourism inventory must be understood as a qualification of those elements that take part of the main attractions and places of interest for tourists.
As a general way, attractions can be classified in focal and complementary. Focal are those intrinsic features of singularity that better characterized a site or region and the main motive for tourist visits. The complementary constitute motives of additional interests and added value for ecotourists, contributing to a richest and diversify tourist experience as it persuades visitants to stay in the area for a longer period.
It may contribute also to avoid too much tourist concentration on a place and at the same time, induce displacement of visitants to other sites of the corresponding area.
With this general classification and after an analysis of the interests that attract tourists to the area, the work team determined that focal ecotourism attractives are those natural. The cultural attractions, considering the importance that communities give to them, the lack of information and the actual conditions of them, are relegated to a secondary place and qualified inside complementary attractives.
Beside the hierarchical classification is, in last instance subjective and so far can vary depending the interest and education of every visitant, it should be made an effort to identify and analyze in a systematic way the ecotourism attractions of the site, the focal as the complementary. It must have particular attention the medullar part of the information and ecotourism promotion, which will be based in focal attractions.
For the set up of the attraction inventory it has been separated three categories: Natural, Patrimonial and Cultural. For each resource, it has been made a file containing the most relevant information.
- Site analysis and infrastructure
Having now an idea of which are the principal attractions of our destiny area, we can carry out a detailed analysis of how can tourist have access to them and to the area in general. The existence of attractions does not guaranty the visit of tourists; accessibility is a critical variable. Certainly, facts as accessibility trough roads, transport, public services availability, are important to achieve the development of a tourist destiny.
- Analysis of demand, supply and competence in the market
It is important to obtain a comprehension of the economy of local tourism and how it is working. For this, it is necessary to analyze the existence of actual and potential demand of new ecotourism products in the area, detecting its markets, and focus to them in the development of the product, facilities design and plans for visitors. This will allow the work team to identify new products that can give an added value to the area and will help to make sure the competition of new products inside global tourism. To achieve this, we must research the existence of companies providing tourist services and those sites of potential competence.
- Environmental impact analysis
Before any area is ready to proceed with a project, it is necessary to focus the environmental effects that could be caused.
Ecotourism may help the members of a rich ecosystem in biodiversity to improve its life quality, as also give reasons to local people to conserve its natural and cultural patrimony. On the other hand, a poor planning, or a tourism boom, may undermine natural resources and the community infrastructure.
In this phase, it will not be worked out a complete Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in order to satisfy any legal requirement. It will be performed a more general process, considering the variety of the possible environmental impacts of the project, to give an opinion about the basic environmental compatibility. These impacts will be considered negatives or costs, as also positives or benefits. The costs-benefits analysis will be a guide to proceed, cancel or proceed with modifications. Afterwards, if the decision is to proceed, it will be necessary an EIA during the development phase of the project.
The team aim with this report is to collect the best information and estimate about the environment costs and benefits relation. As in economic and social impact assessments, EIA combine a neutral analysis of quantitative data with a subjective qualitative evaluation of facts.
- Economic impact analysis
One of the primary motivations for a destiny to develop tourism is to increase or diversify its economic activities. Tourism is frequently a catalytic force for incomes and employment generation in local economies. It can promote economic benefits that should be compared to social, cultural and environmental changes that tourism may provoke, to judge its acceptability for the economic development efforts in the area.
For this reason, politicians, planners and local residents inquire about the importance of tourism. An economic impact evaluation is a necessary instrument in the determination of the economic effectiveness for residents, in costs and benefits. The report does not have the last word in the particular decision to be chosen, it shows the alternatives and its corresponding effects. The reason of an economic evaluation is to situate the practical problems in a real perspective for the public process of decisions. The way to develop this work will depend of the situation, the area, and the analyst judgments.