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Social benefits of ecotourism: The Monarch Butterfly Reserve in Mexico

Authors:
  • Autonomous University of the State of Mexico / Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México (UAEM)

Abstract

Ecotourism can contribute to both positive and negative socioeconomic impacts at the local level. However, ecotourism's socioeconomic impacts have received limited scholarly attention in the context of developing countries. Based on qualitative interviews and observations, this paper looks at the socioeconomic benefits of ecotourism in a local community in the Monarch Butterfly Reserve in Mexico. It was found that ecotourism replaced most of the economic activities in the locality; the use of forest resources for individual consumption and local trade was largely replaced by ecotourism-related activities. Benefits included locals' consciousness of natural resources and a more systematic organisation of economic activities. Acknowledging that qualitative methods somehow limit the generalisation of these findings, practical implications for the destination are suggested.
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Xiaohua Yang, University of San Francisco, United States
J.C. Monterrubio, G. Rodríguez-Muñoz, and M.M. Mendoza-Ontiveros
Enlightening Tourism. A Pathmaking Journal, Vol 3, No 2 (2013), pp. 105-124 ISSN 2174-548X
105
SOCIAL BENEFITS OF ECOTOURISM:
THE MONARCH BUTTERFLY RESERVE IN MEXICO
J. Carlos Monterrubio
Autonomous University of the State of Mexico (Mexico)
jcmonterrubio@yahoo.com.mx
Gregoria Rodríguez-Muñoz
Autonomous University of the State of Mexico (Mexico)
gregoria11@yahoo.com.mx
M. Marivel Mendoza-Ontiveros
Autonomous University of the State of Mexico (Mexico)
marivelmo@hotmail.com
ABSTRACT
Ecotourism can contribute to both positive and negative socioeconomic
impacts at the local level. However, ecotourism’s socioeconomic impacts
have received limited scholarly attention in the context of developing
countries. Based on qualitative interviews and observations, this paper
looks at the socioeconomic benefits of ecotourism in a local community in
the Monarch Butterfly Reserve in Mexico. It was found that ecotourism
replaced most of the economic activities in the locality; the use of forest
resources for individual consumption and local trade was largely replaced
by ecotourism-related activities. Benefits included locals’ consciousness
of natural resources and a more systematic organisation of economic
activities. Acknowledging that qualitative methods somehow limit the
generalisation of these findings, practical implications for the destination
are suggested.
KEYWORDS
Community development; Ecotourism; Mexico; Socioeconomic impacts;
The Monarch Butterfly Reserve.
ECONLIT KEYS
L83.
J.C. Monterrubio, G. Rodríguez-Muñoz, and M.M. Mendoza-Ontiveros
Enlightening Tourism. A Pathmaking Journal, Vol 3, No 2 (2013), pp. 105-124 ISSN 2174-548X
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1. INTRODUCTION
Ecotourism has been adopted as a mechanism for environmental conservation,
economic growth and the improvement of local livelihoods. Due to its potential to
conserve local ecosystems, ecotourism has been regarded as a means to minimise
negative impacts on natural environments and to contribute directly to local
development in rural areas. Sometimes ecotourism can be adopted as an alternative
or complementary productive activity. In this case, local people rely economically on
ecotourism and on other traditional activities such as agriculture, fishing or forestry.
Therefore, if one of these traditional activities does not fulfil the communities’
economic needs, local people may look for alternative economic activities based on
the use of the available resources. Ecotourism may then become an option.
Other times, however, ecotourism represents the main or only source of
employment and income for communities. This often takes place in natural protected
areas where other activities such as forestry or agriculture are not possible due to the
restriction on the use of natural resources. Communities, therefore, become more
dependent on ecotourism and, thus, more vulnerable to its potential drawbacks. In
either case, as the only option or a complementary productive system, ecotourism
inevitably acts as an agent of environmental, economic and social change for local
communities. While this change may be perceived as positive or negative, it has
implications at both individual and collective levels.
Tourism’s social impacts may be defined as “the manner in which tourism and
travel effect changes in collective and individual value systems, behaviour patterns,
community structures, lifestyle and the quality of life” (Hall & Lew, 2009: 57). These
changes may take place in any destination where tourism develops, but the type,
nature and intensity of such changes are uncertain. When studying tourism’s social
impacts, the specific type of tourism in the destination is relevant. Social
transformations will depend on several factors such as the type of tourists, the
sociocultural and economic conditions of the locality and the larger environment. As a
particular type of tourism, ecotourism will consequently have specific social impacts
on local communities; these may differ from the impacts of other types of tourism and
also from those in other ecotourism destinations. The social implications of
ecotourism, nevertheless, have been commonly neglected in tourism impact studies
in developing countries.
J.C. Monterrubio, G. Rodríguez-Muñoz, and M.M. Mendoza-Ontiveros
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In this vein, this study presents the findings of a research project looking at
ecotourism’s social impacts on a local community. Specifically, the objectives of the
study were three-fold. The primary objective was to explore the changes in the
production systems that emerged as a consequence of ecotourism; the second was
to identify the local awareness of biodiversity conservation as related to ecotourism;
and the third, to identify the impacts of ecotourism on the community’s organisation.
The Monarch butterfly reserve in Mexico is taken as a research context. For the
purpose of the paper, a brief review of the literature on tourism in general and on
ecotourism’s social impacts is first presented. Then an overview of the reserve is
provided, and the methodological procedure is described. Finally, findings with
regard to economic activities, awareness of natural conservation and community
organisation as benefits of ecotourism are presented.
2. LITERATURE REVIEW
Social impacts of tourism
As a social phenomenon, tourism represents an agent of social change not only for
tourists but also for local communities (Murphy, 1985). Several aspects of local
structures are often transformed as a consequence of tourism and very frequently as
an effect of the relationship between tourism and other economic and social
phenomena. One of the most widely acknowledged effects of tourism is the
generation of employment opportunities for locals. According to Telfer and Sharpley
(2008), tourism is an effective generator of both formal and informal employment
opportunities, but the number and type of jobs created in the locality largely depend
on the type and scale of tourism development. Tourism-related jobs often require
lower levels of skills and training and are frequently low-paid. Furthermore, tourism
employment opportunities tend to have side effects on other local economic sectors.
Tourism may attract workers from traditional sectors of the economy such as
agriculture and fishing and can lead to labour shortages in those sectors (Telfer &
Sharpley, 2008). The conditions of employment and the economic income that
tourism may provide can be higher than those in traditional productive activities such
as agriculture (Noia, 2009) and fishing (Villela, 2009). Therefore, when the economic
effects of tourism are more beneficial than those of other productive activities,
J.C. Monterrubio, G. Rodríguez-Muñoz, and M.M. Mendoza-Ontiveros
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destination residents may opt for leaving traditional economic activities and engaging
partly or entirely in tourism activities.
Tourism may also have direct positive effects on more qualitative social factors
such as community identity, environmental values, social cohesion and local culture.
Other times, however, issues such as social inequalities within communities are a
consequence of tourism implementation, leading eventually to social conflict
(González & Iglesias, 2009). Specific cultural aspects such as local arts and crafts
may also be transformed positively or negatively due to tourism; while the
commoditisation of local culture for tourism purposes may be unfavourable (Cohen,
2004: 100), tourism may also benefit the conservation and revitalisation of traditional
arts and crafts (Deitch, 1989). Other beneficial impacts of tourism may be the
conservation of areas of unique value or beauty (Mason, 2008).
The large number of research papers published on tourism social impacts
suggests that many destinations experience certain impacts in common. This is not
surprising, for tourism, regardless of the destination, is an economic, social and
environmental phenomenon (Wall & Mathieson, 2006). It must be recognised,
though, that the type, nature and intensity of tourism’s social impacts will vary from
one destination to another and depend significantly on the specific conditions of the
locality. According to Ryan (2003), however, when looking at the impacts of tourism,
a number of variables are important; factors such as the physical, social and cultural
characteristics of the area, and the number and type of tourists are relevant.
Therefore, while the sportive characteristics of a destination, the type and number of
sport tourists, and the scale (small or large) of sporting events may be relevant for
the analysis of sport tourism’s implications (Fredline, 2008) and religious ones for
religious tourism and pilgrimage (Gatrell & Collins-Kreiner, 2006), it is reasonable to
consider the use of local natural resources and the environment of local communities
when analysing the specific impacts of ecotourism.
Social impacts of ecotourism
Although still scarcely studied, ecotourism is now well established as a field of
academic enquiry. The academic study of ecotourism has focused on very specific
issues. According to Weaver and Lawton (2007), the literature on ecotourism can be
organised into at least three research macro-themes. First, research has focused on
the segmentation and expansion of the subject along with products, venues, activities
J.C. Monterrubio, G. Rodríguez-Muñoz, and M.M. Mendoza-Ontiveros
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and markets. Second, a special effort has been made to understand the impacts of
ecotourism, particularly the effects of wildlife viewing, and the potential for
community-based models to optimize sociocultural impacts. Econometric issues and
ethical dimensions of ecotourism impacts are also part of this second macro-theme.
Third, there is a divide between less and more developed countries; venues and
community-based models dominate in the former while case studies on markets,
industry and institutions dominate in the latter.
With regard to the second theme (impacts), although several studies have focused
on the effects of ecotourism, the literature reflects an overwhelming attention on the
impacts of ecotourism on the natural environment. This is not surprising as natural
resources are a core component of ecotourism. Like any other type of tourism,
however, ecotourism may bring transformations into the social structures of local
communities. In addition to community empowerment identified as a specific area
related to sociocultural impacts by Weaver and Lawton (2007), changes in
employment, production systems, use of natural resources, gender roles, arts and
crafts, to mention but a few, are regarded as consequences of ecotourism. Studying
the consequences of ecotourism is relevant not only for the understanding of tourism
impacts in general, but for the recognition that the effects of ecotourism might
significantly represent a benefit or a cost for local residents who depend largely on
this activity. The type and intensity of such impacts, however, have received scant
attention.
Existing investigations may help to identify which impacts are commonly attributed
or related to ecotourism. By analysing social and economic adjustment processes in
relation to the introduction of ecotourism in a community of the Lacandon rainforest in
Mexico, Hernandez et al. (2005) observe that the community-based ecotourism
project has resulted in positive impacts on the local population. These include the
generation of employment, complementary income, the strengthening of local skills,
community empowerment, and a multiplier effect on the local economy. Furthermore,
the authors observed that the project has promoted the planning and organisation of
other ecotourism projects within the community.
Similarly, in their study of three Amazon ecotourism projects, Stronza and Gordillo
(2008) found that the local people perceive both positive and negative impacts of
ecotourism at both community and individual levels. Income either from direct
employment or from the sales of foods, handicrafts, transportation and other services
J.C. Monterrubio, G. Rodríguez-Muñoz, and M.M. Mendoza-Ontiveros
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were reported as the benefits of ecotourism by local people. For some, ecotourism
has been added to farming and forest extraction as an economic activity. Also, from
working in ecotourism, local people gained the skills to pursue employment in other
organisations. Local people also identify favourable changes in healthcare,
education, potable water, plumbing, transportation, infrastructures and organisational
capacity. Shifts in personal and family life including the adoption of new gender roles
were also perceived as benefits of ecotourism. On the other hand, however, the
authors claim that ecotourism does not always represent benefits. Leaving the family,
loosing links with the community, leaving the farm and having restrictions on the
resources use were locally regarded as ecotourism’s costs.
Although studies of the social impacts of ecotourism are limited, existing research
suggests that the impacts of ecotourism are diverse and complex. Social impacts will
depend widely on the specific type of tourism demand and also on the specific
conditions of the community in question.
The level of economic and social development together with the cultural
background and the possible restriction on the natural resources use will shape the
type and nature of ecotourism’s social transformations.
3. THE MONARCH BUTTERFLY RESERVE
The Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is a species characterised by its visible
migration behaviour from the United States and Canada to west-central Mexico. The
species’ migration commonly takes place from November to March and has been
described as one of the most outstanding biological migration phenomena in the
world (Cornejo-Tenorio, et al., 2003). This contemporary phenomenon has become a
unique tourism attraction in the country and in the world.
The Monarch Butterfly’s overwintering phenomenon has been well known by local
residents and adjacent communities for a long time, but it was not until the 1970s that
researchers traced its path from Canada. Once the phenomenon became popular,
the spectacle of the wintering butterfly attracted visitors (Barkin, 2003) both from
abroad and from other Mexican regions.
Due to the biological value of the phenomenon, in 1986, without the consent of
local residents, a special biosphere was created in the region for the protection of the
species. This protected area is known as the Monarch butterfly biosphere reserve.
The reserve was significantly expanded in 2000, and it now comprises a total area of
J.C. Monterrubio, G. Rodríguez-Muñoz, and M.M. Mendoza-Ontiveros
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56,259 ha. (Brenner, 2009). From the creation of the reserve, there has been a
significant increase in the number of tourists travelling exclusively to observe the
phenomenon in the destination. Nowadays, thousands of tourists visit the destination
each season. Although a significant number of visitors are foreign tourists, yet less
than five percent of the total visitor population, the main tourism flows belong to
domestic visitors (Barkin, 2003).
Nowadays, the reserve is one of the most densely populated and marginalised
Natural Protected Areas in west-central Mexico (Brenner, 2009). It is occupied by
communities with a high level of poverty (Merino & Hernández, 2004), but with
different social conditions. The economic production system has been based for
many years on the exploitation of forest resources and the cultivation of basic
products. Since the establishment of the reserve, ecotourism has become a major
economic activity for local communities. The adoption of ecotourism as an alternative
strategy for social and economic development has brought many changes to the
social structure of the populations. Although the social, economic and cultural
aspects of the reserve’s populations have received some attention (see for example
Barkin, 2003; Brenner, 2009; Merino & Hernández, 2004), little has been done with
regard to the social transformations taking place as a consequence of ecotourism as
an economic alternative for social development.
4. METHODS
This paper presents the findings of a project identifying the specific impacts of
ecotourism on the local population of the reserve. For the purposes of the study, a
particular community named Macheros, with an estimated population of barely 300
people, was analysed. Although it is argued that the communities in the reserve hold
different social conditions (Brenner, 2006), preliminary observations and existing
case studies (Brenner, 2006) suggest that their economic, environmental and
sociocultural structures do not differ significantly; this allowed the authors to assume
that the effects of ecotourism would not vary significantly among communities. While
the case presented here is by no means representative of the whole reserve
population, it is presumed that it somehow indicates the major changes that any of
the communities experienced in terms of economic activities, awareness of natural
resources and community organisation.
J.C. Monterrubio, G. Rodríguez-Muñoz, and M.M. Mendoza-Ontiveros
Enlightening Tourism. A Pathmaking Journal, Vol 3, No 2 (2013), pp. 105-124 ISSN 2174-548X
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For this study, a qualitative approach was adopted. Qualitative research places
special emphasis on the informants’ own perspectives and offers rich and detailed
information (Bryman, 2008); this was necessary to get a deep understanding of how
the production activities, the local awareness of resource conservation and the
community organisation have changed in the community. In particular, semi-
structured interviews, informal conversations with locals and observations were
undertaken for the purpose of this study. Sixteen semi-structured interviews were
undertaken with local residents. Although representativeness was not pursued at all,
a special effort was made to capture a wide variety of voices. In total, ten men and
six women between 29 and 70 years old were interviewed during September 2011.
Key informants such as the mayor, tour guides, and leading people in the community
were interviewed.
The instrument contained questions regarding the type of production activities that
local people were involved in before, and started to do after, the implementation of
ecotourism; that is, the economic activities that people stopped doing and adopted
once the reserve was established. Issues such as the involvement of people in
specific ecotourism-related activities were explored. Furthermore, informants were
asked about other major changes that the adoption of tourism brought to their
community in terms of the importance of biodiversity protection and the way people
organise themselves for ecotourism activities during the Monarch season.
The interpretation of the data obtained from the interviews was significantly
informed by the observations made during fieldwork. Bearing in mind that
observation is learning through personal experience (Lew, 2011), the researchers
had close contact with residents’ everyday lives and participated in several local
activities.
5. FINDINGS
Productive activities
Historically, the use of natural resources has played an important economic role in
the reserve’s communities. Before the establishment of the reserve, and thus before
the adoption of ecotourism, the local economy relied significantly on four traditional
activities; forest extraction, agriculture, breeding domestic animals and migration. A
native local man reported:
J.C. Monterrubio, G. Rodríguez-Muñoz, and M.M. Mendoza-Ontiveros
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“We used to have benefits from forestry; we used to extract wood and charcoal
from the forest. We used wood and charcoal for personal consumption and for
sale to people from surrounding areas. Other people used to cultivate maize or
avocado or breed cows and sheep”.
Forestry exploitation was mostly based on the extraction of wood for commercial
purposes, construction and domestic use. Wood was commercialised within
neighbouring communities mainly, and used for the construction of local houses. For
domestic use, wood was mainly utilised as fuel for satisfying basic needs such as
cooking, heating, traditional healing, hygiene and tortillas. Before the establishment
of the reserve, forestry exploitation was not regulated; there was practically no
restriction on the extraction of wood for commercial or personal use.
Agriculture ranked second in the local production systems. Although very few
people cultivated for commercial purposes, in reality most cultivation was used for
family consumption. Maize was the main product; and its production did not exclude
the extraction of wood from forests. Other products were vegetables and fruits.
Domestic animals such as sheep and hens were raised for commercial use, for
barter (exchange of animals or agricultural products for other goods) and for personal
consumption. Agriculture and breeding small animals were done only by a few
families and were not regarded as profitable activities; they were considered a way of
surviving the economic limitations in and around the region. Migration played an
important role in the local economy. Since the 1970s, migration to Mexico City,
surrounding industrial cities and the United States -particularly by males- became a
very important source of income for local people.
With the establishment of the Monarch reserve and the prohibition or strict
restriction on resources, significant changes came to local people’s lives. The strict
control of wood extraction significantly prevented locals from benefiting from the
traditional economic activity. The reserve’s establishment did not allow locals to carry
on extracting natural goods for commercial or personal use, at least in the way they
used to do before. This meant a significant negative change in the local residents’
everyday lives. A local woman commented:
“The Reserve brought some changes. We could not take out wood from the forest.
Now we can extract only wood from ‘deadtrees. Yet, this type of wood is not as
good as others; it smokes a lot and it is not enough for domestic use. So we have
to buy gas but it is quite expensive. Also we used to build houses from wood but,
J.C. Monterrubio, G. Rodríguez-Muñoz, and M.M. Mendoza-Ontiveros
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because now we are not allowed to get wood from the forest, we have to build our
houses by using concrete and other materials”.
Furthermore, people were relocated but, as Barkin (2003) also found, they were
not compensated for the reclassifications of the lands. Neither were local people
offered alternative productive opportunities; this led locals to clandestinely remove
products from the forest and search for other alternatives. Somehow this situation
has caused tensions in the community; while some locals try to protect the forest,
others exploit it for survival.
Visitors’ arrivals to observe the Monarchs started before the reserve’s
establishment. According to some informants, fortuitous visitors asked local people to
take them to see the butterflies. So people started making money from guiding
people to the forest, but economic gain depended completely on how much the
visitor was willing to pay. Once the reserve became popular, however, the amount of
tourist flows started to grow. Tourists visited the destination only to observe the
Lepidoptera; guides were then needed and locals became involved. So people,
largely males, started to offer guided tours through the forest to see the Monarchs. In
order to see the butterflies, visitors walked long distances (up to two hours), so locals
started providing tourists with horse services. The horses that were initially for
personal use and sometimes for agricultural purposes were now part of a profitable
tourist service. Horses from neighbouring communities were also brought to the
reserve for guided tours. The study revealed that these opportunities, however, were
mainly available for males, and sometimes for boys. Although informants claimed
that the reason for women’s scant participation as tour guides was mainly due to the
physical effort needed to reach the Monarchs, it was observed that traditional gender
roles may also explain much of this, for there seems to be a traditional division of
gender roles in the community.
However, although tours are guided mainly by men, ecotourism also brought
opportunities for women. Two tourism-related activities were in particular mentioned
by locals. First, handicrafts, which were originally made for local trade and personal
use, were available for tourists. The local handicraft consists of weaving baskets and
similar items made of local pine straw (see Photograph 1).
J.C. Monterrubio, G. Rodríguez-Muñoz, and M.M. Mendoza-Ontiveros
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Photograph 1 Handicrafts made by local women for sale to tourists.
Source: Fieldwork, photograph taken by first author.
Women started producing more handicrafts for sale during the tourist season.
Some even learnt how to make these handicrafts for sale to tourists. Many women
make handicrafts during the whole year, especially as the season approaches, and
keep them at home for sale to visitors out of the season. A local woman stated: “we
make these handicrafts for tourists; we make baskets and several types of
containers. We make them four or five months before the season starts. This allows
us to have extra income”. Although handicrafts are mainly made for tourists, some
are made for sale to surrounding organisations (mainly nearby hotels) during the
whole year.
Second, concurring with the work of Stronza and Gordillo (2008), this study
revealed that women found further economic alternatives in ecotourism by selling
food to visitors. Basic foods, drinks and fruits are sold to tourists, but again only
during the season.
Although the number of visitors staying near the reserve is small, some require
accommodation services. Special basic accommodation facilities were exclusively
built in the community for visitors. Because such accommodation facilities are limited
in amount, during the season, some families decide to rent their house or part of it to
tourists; this can be for one, two or more days at relatively low prices (as low as 20
USD). When houses are small, some families even leave their house and live
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temporarily with other relatives so they can offer their house to visitors and get some
additional income.
As the paragraphs above suggest, ecotourism provides locals with productive
opportunities during the season, mainly from November to March. As Rogel et al.
(2011) state, while tourism-related occupation rates are high during the season,
employment for locals is temporary; tourists do not stay in the community before or
after the butterfly season. Although locals have to look for alternative economic
activities during the time in which the species is not in the locality, for many, such
activities represent a valuable and sole source of income. For some ecotourism
provides with the only opportunity for employment, yet, for others it becomes simply a
complementary source of income. Particularly, the cultivation of maize and avocado,
the construction of houses and small infrastructure, the sale of domestic animals,
immigration to the United States, pine resin collection, and forestry (commonly illegal)
remain productive activities both during the season and for the rest of the year, as a
male informant commented,
“Many people work for tourism during the season but a few also have their
cultivation at the same time. For example, I rent my horse and I become a guide
during the season but I also cultivate maize. When the season is over, though, I
work in house construction and sometimes I even have to emigrate to look for a
job and send money to my family from there”.
Increased awareness of natural resources
The local people knew about the existence of the Monarchs before visitors arrived in
the reserve. However, they did not know much about the species; thus they were
unaware of the importance of the Monarch as a unique biological phenomenon in the
world. When scientists, governments and Non-Government Organisations, and
tourists started to observe the Monarchs, the local people became aware of the
species’ importance. A local housewife remembered:
“I think the fact that tourists come to see the butterfly has helped us locals to
appreciate the forest and the butterfly. When we were children, we used to see the
butterflies but did not know what they were exactly. When people started to come
to see the butterflies, we realised that they were important. We all then started
valorising our resources, including the butterfly and the forest; they became more
important and we protect them now”.
J.C. Monterrubio, G. Rodríguez-Muñoz, and M.M. Mendoza-Ontiveros
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117
People noted that the Monarch was a tourist attraction and therefore a source of
income for them. They also became conscious of the importance of safeguarding the
species’ habitat: the forest. Thus some people acknowledge that thanks to the
establishment of the reserve and due to the adoption of ecotourism, their
appreciation for and recognition of natural resources have changed for better.
Local residents are now more willing to protect the resources, including the forest
and the butterflies themselves. In fact, locals have adopted different strategies to
protect them. Some informants claim that awareness of the importance of protecting
the natural environment is shared with visitors. Not only are tourists informed about
the characteristics, migration and other possibly interesting facts about the butterflies,
but they are also told how important it is to protect the local flora and fauna. Tourists
are not allowed to visit the Monarchs on their own; for they can adopt behaviours that
may disrupt the natural environment. Tour guides therefore have become an
important means to protect the Monarchs during tours.
The Monarch is not the only resource that locals have learnt to protect. The forest
also gained special protection, although this comes from the recognition of the
Monarch as a source of income. Many members of the community are now aware
that if the forest is not conserved, then the Monarchs may stop migrating into the
reserve; tourists would thus stop coming, and as a consequence income would be
significantly reduced. Some of the actions that people –sometimes together with
government institutions and through incentive-driven programmes- have
implemented are basically reforestation and the implementation of forest rangers to
watch for illegal deforestation and fires in the reserve.
Community organisation
As a consequence of ecotourism, there has been a change in the local people’s
organisation. Before the reserve became popular, visitors asked the local people to
take them to the Monarchs and offered to pay. But to certain extent the locals’ turns
to guide tourists, and therefore to benefit from them, was based on “luck”; that is,
only the people that were approached by tourists were those who could benefit.
Guides back then could not charge a specific amount, since there were no “official”
fares for visiting the reserve. As a local man reported,
“At the beginning only a few visitors came in search of the butterflies. We did not
have any charge established back then, we did not know how much to charge
J.C. Monterrubio, G. Rodríguez-Muñoz, and M.M. Mendoza-Ontiveros
Enlightening Tourism. A Pathmaking Journal, Vol 3, No 2 (2013), pp. 105-124 ISSN 2174-548X
118
visitors to guide them to the butterfly, so the fees to the visitor was established by
the ‘guide’. There was not a committee who decided how much we had to charge
to visitors. We were not organised”.
According to the interviewees, the increasing number of visitors required the
establishment of specific forms of organisation, because some people benefitted
while others did not. Then, in order to extend the benefits of ecotourism to more
people, locals created a commission to decide on several issues for the season.
Decisions about who will be in charge of the ticket sales, the types of services to be
provided, horses, guided visits, and the sale of foods and handicrafts, are made
collectively each year. This way, there are now more chances for a larger number of
residents to benefit from tourism. The same informant claimed,
“we are now more organised, we now receive training for guiding tourists, and we
now know what to tell tourists about the butterfly. There is now more control in the
community; we now try to take turns for guiding visitors so that everyone has the
same chance to benefit”.
Of course, this type of organisation is not totally due to ecotourism. People used to
have their own community meetings before ecotourism started. These meetings,
however, were held to discuss and make decisions about money distribution, land
issues, and other community related issues. Ecotourism, thus, required changes in
the existing community organisation to deal with tourism demands.
Other impacts
While this study focused mainly on the benefits of ecotourism in the local community,
some local concerns inevitably emerged during fieldwork. While the establishment of
the reserve opened new economic opportunities for some people, there are people
who seem not to have access to the benefits, particularly those who are not involved
in the organisation of tourism. For those whose participation in ecotourism activities
is for some reason limited or insufficient to make ends meet, the forest remains an
option. However, the restriction of access and use to forest resources (wood and
pine resin mainly) have led some people to cut down trees clandestinely. This
certainly has caused conflicts in the community since, as Brenner (2009) warns, the
natural resources are being disputed among different local stakeholders; then, while
cutting down trees is a source of income for some locals, for others it represents a
threat.
J.C. Monterrubio, G. Rodríguez-Muñoz, and M.M. Mendoza-Ontiveros
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6. CONCLUSION AND DISCUSSION
This paper suggests that ecotourism has brought positive changes to the local
communities in the Monarch reserve. Employment opportunities, conservation
awareness and local organisation have been positively transformed as a
consequence of tourism activity. For some people, this case may represent a
“successful story”, particularly when taking into account that for many developing
countries, ecotourism is promoted as a mechanism for economic growth and
environmentally sustainable development (Telfer & Sharpley, 2008: 103). For others,
however, the goals of ecotourism have not been met in this case. The literature
suggests that despite the large number of visitors in the destination, tourism has not
become a socioeconomic development mechanism for local communities; nor has it
reduced the pressure on the exploitation of natural resources (Barkin, 2003; Brenner,
2006).
From an outsider’s perspective, the nature of employment that tourism generates
in the locality may be low-skilled, lower paid and seasonal in nature. For some,
therefore, the actual social and economic benefits of ecotourism in the locality are
questionable. This may be reasonable when considering that other economic
activities or even other forms of tourism are more profitable. However, when
assessing the socioeconomic benefits of ecotourism and its contribution to social
development, it should be borne in mind that neither ecotourism nor any other form of
tourism by itself will become the key to social development. As Barkin (2003: 373)
notes, “ecotourism [...] cannot be successful in isolation. Such activity must be
actively integrated into a broader institutional nexus in which diversified production
and social organization are reinforced”. So ecotourism should be accompanied by
other economic activities and social capacities not only to increase the probability of
success but to reduce possible drawbacks that ecotourism alone may entail.
While there is a general recognition that ecotourism can offer more opportunities
for local people, it is also clear that without other complementary productive activities
that create jobs and income, they will continue environmentally destructive activities
that also threaten the viability of the fir forests in which the Monarch nests (Barkin,
2003: 377).
J.C. Monterrubio, G. Rodríguez-Muñoz, and M.M. Mendoza-Ontiveros
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Nevertheless, when assessing whether ecotourism has brought social benefits to
the community, it is necessary to take into account how the community has changed
from its original status, and how it perceives this change both at individual and
collective levels. In this particular case study, the social and economic opportunities
that people had before the introduction of ecotourism were significantly scant;
ecotourism brought, for some, a complementary source of income and, for many, the
only alternative they have ever had. It is recognised here that the economic income
of locals has not dramatically increased as a consequence of ecotourism. However,
some residents’ living conditions have been considerably improved. The
improvement of life quality should not be assessed by the parameters that
researchers have set as ideal, but by the local residents’ perceived life satisfaction,
the feelings of well-being, and the beliefs about the standards of living (Yu,
Chancellor & Cole, 2011); social improvement should have to do more with how
people in destinations perceive and experience the social changes rather than how
we, as researchers, define and measure the benefits of tourism.
This study suggests opportunities for practical implications. In particular, it is
observed that regional and local governments’ interventions should address the
social implications of ecotourism in the communities. Special attention should be
given to provide locals with necessary and adequate knowledge, skills and support to
benefit from tourism and related activities. While locals have valuable natural
resources, they have limited knowledge about how to use them positively for their
own benefit. Additionally, governments should also actively provide alternatives for
other productive activities. This can eventually have a positive impact on the
reduction of high levels of emigration. All these efforts can be supported by
organisations –including external tourism enterprises- that benefit from the
community and its resources. Hotels, travel agencies and tour operators can
significantly contribute to the improvement of people’s livelihoods in the communities.
Finally, it must be recognised that the findings presented here, and perhaps also
the conclusions drawn, are somehow limited due to the qualitative approach adopted.
First, even though different voices were incorporated, the results of this study cannot
be extrapolated to the rest of the community and less so to other communities. This
is mainly due to the relatively small number of informants participating in the study.
Therefore, this study’s contribution could be improved by the adoption of quantitative
approaches aiming to obtain representative data. Whilst quantitative methods can be
J.C. Monterrubio, G. Rodríguez-Muñoz, and M.M. Mendoza-Ontiveros
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useful to overcome these limitations, however, the qualitative approach adopted in
this study does offer an exploratory perspective that can be useful for further
research. Second, some longitudinal research may also be useful to overcome some
of the possible drawbacks related to the transversal character of the study. By
constantly monitoring ecotourism-related changes in the locality, socioeconomic
disadvantages can be mitigated before serious harm occurs in the community.
With regard to further research, issues such as the benefits of ecotourism at family
and individual levels are still unknown. Analysing how ecotourism in the reserve
provides local families with socioeconomic benefits and costs may help identify the
actual and potential impact of tourism in the livelihoods of those who experience it.
Furthermore, little is still known about how the local culture is being transformed by
tourism; the cultural impacts of ecotourism, thus, become not only a research
opportunity but also a research need in the location.
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Article info: Received 04/01/13. Accepted 27/11/13. Refereed anonymously.
... It has been featured in books (Agrawal, 2017;Pyle, 2014) and articles describing monarch butterfly migration (Brower, 1996;1995;Brower & Malcolm, 1991;Flockhart, Pichancourt, Norris, & Martin, 2015;Urquhart, 1976), conservation (Gustafsson, Agrawal, Lewenstein, & Wolf, 2015;Toone & Hanscom, 2003), economics (Honey-Rosés, López-García, Rendón-Salinas, Peralta-Higuera, & Galindo-Leal, 2009;Missrie & Nelson, 2005), management practices (Jaramillo-López, Ramírez, & Pérez-Salicrup, 2015;Tucker, 2004), and monitoring strategies Vidal, López-García, & Rendón-Salinas, 2014), and has been shown in videos, movies, and via social media. Researchers (Barkin, 2000(Barkin, , 2003Brenner & Job, 2006;Monterrubio, Rodríguez-Muñoz, & Mendoza-Ontiveros, 2013;Zebich-Knos, 2008), not-forprofit organizations (e.g. International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), World Wildlife Fund (WWF)), and tour operators (EcoColors, Natural Habitat, Worldwide Quest), have defined the opportunity to view monarch butterflies as ecotourism. ...
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Child labour in tourism is a worldwide phenomenon but its implications have been significantly absent from tourism academic discourses and policy designs. Local children's voices speaking on their participation in tourism labour need to be heard if a more comprehensive understanding of tourism social dimensions is to be gained. This study's objective was to gain a preliminary understanding of children's participation in tourism labour in two rural communities in Mexico's Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. Based on the idea that children may be the best informants about themselves, this study's findings reveal that children actively participate in remunerable labour during the tourism season in the reserve. While children's participation is voluntary and represents more than a means to earn a complementary livelihood and an opportunity for their development, their participation places them at risk of physical harm and health problems and contributes to preservation of traditional gender roles. The study offers practical and methodological implications.
Article
The article considers the prospects of tourism development in five countries of Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. The author analyzes cultural, social and economic aspects of the tourism industry in the region. The main directions of activity of international organi-zations in the framework of tourism promotion programs are given. Central Asia has a huge potential for the tourism development. The study of the current state of tourism in Central Asia is becoming increasingly important. Tourism resources have every chance to become part of the national wealth of the countries of this region. In the group of factors determining socio-economic development of the countries in the region are natural resources, the level of production and investment, social infrastructure, management quality, international competitiveness, etc. The need for the regional development management system is conditioned by regionalization processes inherent to the current economic situation, oriented to ensuring positive national economic dynamics and maximum using the region’s potential. The studying problem of regional development makes it possible to justify, as one of the directions of its solution, the use of cluster technologies oriented to those branches of the economy that can become a vector of regional development. According to experts, the tourism industry is one of the most profitable sectors of the economy of the region. This industry covers numerous sectors of the economy and various links between them. The main tourist routes in the present time, covering many objects of the Great Silk Road, do not offer a more detailed study of the local historical, architectural and archaeological heritage. The lack of infrastructure facilities is the reason for this. This fact forces us to search solutions, which will provide a comfortable environment for both tourists and researchers. At present, the Central Asian countries occupy a very modest place in the world market of tourist services. According to many experts, the demand for sanatorium, tourist and excursion services has decreased due to the transition period, and the existing network of tourist institutions, boarding houses, rest homes needs reconstruction. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, tourism in the Central Asian republics began to develop independently, without common approaches and concepts. In many respects this is determined by the fact that the new states have chosen their own models of socio-economic development, different from each other. The different level of political freedoms, economic development features determine the current state of the tourism industry in various countries of Central Asia. The perspective of tourism development in this region is quite difficult, but an interesting task, necessary for familiarizing humanity with the most interesting culture of peoples inhabiting Central Asia and developing the economies of countries.
Article
Ecotourism is a market-based conservation strategy which strengthens household economies and improves attitude of people towards conservation efforts. India has tremendous potential for ecotourism. This paper is set in the context of ecotourism activities flourishing around Kaziranga National Park, a World Heritage Site, situated in north east India. The main objectives of the study are to evaluate the perception of respondents towards ecotourism and to examine how participation in this activity affects economic welfare. A field survey is conducted in the periphery villages of the park. We use random sampling to interview households and analyse the data by applying descriptive statistics as well as regression method. The results demonstrate that respondents associated with ecotourism enjoy better living condition, nourish positive attitudes towards this business and feel politically empowered. Ecotourism generates economic welfare by positively and significantly affecting different components of expenditure in the budget of a household. We recommend economic activities based on local resource and skills to generate income in the off-season. Extension of activities related to local culture, festival and other outdoor activities may diversify livelihood. Finally, government has to create an enabling environment along with expansion of eco-development projects, bank loan and training facilities.
Book
Hall, C.M. & Lew, A. 2009, Understanding and Managing Tourism Impacts: An Integrated Approach, Routledge, London. 392pp. ISBN 13: 978–0–415–77132–0 (hbk); ISBN 13: 978–0–415–77133–7 (pbk); ISBN 13: 978–0–203–87587–7 (ebk); ISBN 10: 0–415–77132–3 (hbk); ISBN 10: 0–415–77133–1 (pbk); ISBN 10: 0–203–87587–7 (ebk). For copies of the book please order on interlibrary loan or purchase online
Article
Tourism is widely considered as an effective contributor to socio-economic development, particularly in less developed countries. However, despite the almost universal adoption of tourism as a developmental option, the extent to which economic and social development inevitably follows the introduction and promotion of a tourism sector remains the subject of intense debate. This book provides an introduction to the tourism-development process. Focusing specifically on the less developed world and drawing on contemporary case studies, it questions many assumptions about the role of tourism in development and, in particular, highlights the dilemmas faced by destinations seeking to achieve development through tourism. Combining an overview of essential concepts, theories and knowledge related to tourism and development with an analysis of contemporary issues and debates, Tourism and Development in the Developing World is a valuable resource for those investigating tourism issues in developing countries. It is also useful for students studying related subjects, including development studies, geography, international relations, politics, sociology and area studies. © 2008 David J. Telfer and Richard Sharpley. All rights reserved.
Article
Tourism Impacts, Planning and Management is a unique text, which links these three key areas of tourism: impacts, planning and management. Tourism impacts are multi-faceted and therefore are difficult to plan for and manage. This book looks at all the key players involved - be they tourists, host communities or industry members - and considers a number of approaches and techniques for managing tourism successfully. Divided into four parts, this text discusses: * The growth, development and impacts of tourism* Tourism planning and management: concepts, issues and key players* Tools and techniques in tourism planning and management: education, regulation and information technology* The future of tourism planning and management: issues of sustainability and the futureUp-to-date, international case studies are used, for example the impacts of 9/11 and terrorism in Bali, to illustrate and provide a real-life context for the theories discussed. Exercises are also included to consolidate learning.
Article
Tourism impacts studies have identified three major types of positive-negative tourism impacts that dynamically change residents’ life experiences and their evaluation of tourism development. This study examines three specific impacts, perceived social costs, environmental sustainability, and perceived economic benefit, to determine their effects on resident perceived quality of life. The results indicate that the social cost dimension has no significant effect on resident quality of life, however both environmental sustainability and perceived economic benefit dimensions significantly affect resident quality of life.