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Whale watching creates an economic value for whales beyond consumption and therefore assists in the conservation of the species. However sustainable management is needed to avoid deleterious impacts on the whales and the industry. This paper uses a range of qualitative methods to examine the characteristics, management and perceived sustainability of the relatively newly established whale watching industry in Sri Lanka. It is clear that the laissez faire development of the industry has resulted in some poor conservation outcomes for the whales as well as variable tourist experiences. The Sri Lankan government has introduced legislated regulations aimed at managing the industry however it must ensure adequate human and financial resources are provided to ensure the effective implementation of the regulations and therefore the sustainability of the industry.
Whale watching in Sri Lanka: Perceptions of sustainability
Jeremy Buultjens
, Iraj Ratnayke
, Athula Gnanapala
Southern Cross University, Australia
Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka
abstractarticle info
Article history:
Received 28 July 2015
Received in revised form 23 February 2016
Accepted 28 February 2016
Available online xxxx
Whale watching creates an economic value for whales beyond consumption and therefore assists in the conser-
vation of the species. However sustainable management is needed to avoid deleterious impacts on the whales
and the industry. This paper uses a range of qualitative methods to examine the characteristics, management
and perceived sustainability of the relatively newly established whale watching industry in Sri Lanka. It is clear
that the laissez faire development of the industry has resulted in some poor conservation outcomes for the
whales as well as variable tourist experiences. The Sri Lankan government has introduced legislated regulations
aimed at managing the industry howeverit must ensure adequate human and nancial resources are providedto
ensure the effective implementation of the regulations and therefore the sustainability of the industry.
Crown Copyright © 2016 Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Whale watching tourism
Wildlife tourism
Sustainable tourism
Sri Lankan tourism
1. Introduction
Wildlife tourism, of which whale watching is an important compo-
nent, is seen as a way to promote the conservation of various species
through raising tourist awareness on conservation issues and by gener-
ating economic benets (Mustika, Birtles, Welters, & Marsh, 2012;
Tisdell & Wilson, 2001). Whale watching, since its beginnings in the
mid-1960s, has grown into a global industry that provides substantial
economic benets to over 70 countries that provide viewing opportuni-
ties (O'Connor, Campbell, Cortez, & Knowles, 2009). These opportuni-
ties, by promoting conservation, can assist in ameliorating the impacts
of commercial whaling that resulted in the decline of many whale pop-
ulations (Cisneros-Montemayor, Sumaila, Kaschner, & Pauly, 2010).
While the growth of the industry has provided many conservation
and economic benets there are also concerns that the poor manage-
ment of tourism may be resultingin negative impacts on whales includ-
ing changes in vocalisation and respiration patterns, surfacing and
swimming behaviour, feeding times and group size (Higham, Bejder,
& Lusseau, 2009; Parsons, 2012). These negative impacts not only
have a detrimental impact on whale populations they also threaten
the sustainability of the industry. In order to address these negative im-
pacts (as well as improve visitor satisfaction and safety) a number of
destinations have introduced guidelines and/or codes of conducts
aimed at ensuring the sustainable management of the industry (Cole,
2007; Garrod & Fennell, 2004; Parsons, 2012).
Effective guidelines and management strategies are important since
they help ensure that tourism development does not result in negative
environmental outcomes, loss of amenity, reduced demand for the tour-
ism product and reduced economic benets accruing to local communi-
ties (Parsons, 2012). However, Cressey (2014) asserts that guidelines
are often inadequate. In addition, the adoption of unsustainable prac-
tices has often been encouraged because of the political and economic
pressure to attain short-term benets from tourism at the expense of
delayed environmental impacts (Buultjens, Ratnayake, Gnanapala, &
Aslam, 2005).
Sri Lanka is a developingcountry that has recently experienced a rel-
atively rapid development in its whale watching industry. Since 2008,
numbers have increased from an estimated 620 tour participants
(O'Connor et al., 2009) to nearly 80,000 in 2014 (Coast guard represen-
tative 15, personal communication). The purpose of this paper is to pro-
vide an overview of thedevelopment and characteristics of the industry,
its management as well as stakeholder and visitor perceptions of the
industry's sustainability. This study has a particular focus on the indus-
try situated in Mirissa due to the low level of development in the two
other whale watching sites located in Trincomalee and Kalpitiya. This
study is important since empirical research on whale watching is critical
if the growth and carrying capacity of the whale-watching industry are
to be understood properly (Higham et al., 2009). This is especially true
for a country like Sri Lanka where the tourism industry is expanding
rapidly and whale watching is in its infancy. Hopefully the ndings
discussed in this paper will provide valuable insightsthat can contribute
positively towards the management of whale watching tourism in the
This paper begins by presenting anoverview of whalewatching and
effective management regimes adopted at different locations around
the world. This is followed by a description of the Sri Lankan tourism in-
dustry. The next section provides a description of the methodologyused
in this study followed by a description of the whale watching industry
Tourism Management Perspectives 18 (2016) 125133
Corresponding author at: School of Business and Tourism, Southern Cross University,
PO Box 157, Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia.
E-mail address: (J. Buultjens).
2211-9736/Crown Copyright © 2016 Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Tourism Management Perspectives
journal homepage:
and the perceived tourism impacts associated with its development.
This is followed by a discussion and the conclusion to the paper.
2. Whale watching
Wildlife tourism, including whale watching, is a specialised and
highly important component of the tourism industry (Higginbottom,
2004). It can involve encounters with non-domesticated (non-human)
animals in either a natural environment or in captivity (Higginbottom,
2004). Properly managed wildlife tourism, by creating economic
value, provides an incentive for the protection of wildlife and the envi-
ronment. It can also enhance a destination's appeal and visitor experi-
ence (Ballantyne, Packer, & Sutherland, 2011). The failure to provide
effective sustainable management can potentially result in serious prob-
lems to arise including the injury or death of wildlife, habitat alteration
and the modication of natural behaviour (Banerjee, 2012).
Whale watching, a sub-category of wildlife tourism, is dened as
tours by boat, air or from land, formal or informal, with at least some
commercial aspect, to see, swim with, and/or listen to any of the spe-
cies of whales, dolphins and porpoises(Hoyt, 2001: p. 3). It began in
Massachusetts in the 1960s and has since grown into a substantial
global industry. The value of whale watching ismulti-fold. Firstly, it cre-
ates an economic value for whales beyond consumption through
injecting tourism revenue into local economies. Secondly, whale
watching is valued for its contribution to environmental education
and scientic research (Lambert, Hunter, Pierce, & MacLeod, 2010). It
also assists in changing peoples' perspectives on the use of whales for
tourism opportunities rather than for food. The change in perspective
of usefulness in anthropocentric terms is considered crucial to whale
species' long term recovery. This is especially important since most
whale species worldwide have been recovering from the brink of ex-
tinction since 1986 when the International Whaling Commission de-
clared a 10 year moratorium on whaling (Chen, 2011).
The substantial economic benets from whale watching can play an
important role in assisting in the recovery of the species. For example, in
1998 the industry was estimated to generate over US$1 billion p.a. with
over 9 million whale watchers in 87 countries and territories (Hoyt,
2001). Within ten years the industry had grown to generate a total ex-
penditure of US$2.1 billion p.a., with 13 million people participating
across 119territories and countries in 2008 (O'Connor et al., 2009). Fur-
thermore there are approximately 3300 operators offering whale
watching trips globally, employing an estimated 13,200 people. In
Asia, where whale watching has emerged as the world's important
new destination, the number of whale watchers has grown from
220,000 in 1998 to over 1 million in 2008; expandingfrom 13 countries
offeringwhale watching activities in 1998 to 20 in 2008 (O'Connoret al.,
2009). At a local level it is estimated that the average number of opera-
tors per community is four and the number of direct jobs per whale
watching operator is seven (Cisneros-Montemayor & Sumaila, 2010).
These substantial income and employment benets, especially for
developing countries, are likely to increase as long as the industry is
managed sustainably at a destination level. Unfortunately this may not
be the case in all destinations and this will have signicant impacts on
whale populations. Whale behaviours can be affected when there are
too many boats or when the boats approach too close to the cetacean.
However, it is often difcult to establish the long-term negative conse-
quences of these short-term behavioural changes (Parsons, 2012). The
behavioural changes induced by tourism activity can include modica-
tions in swimming behaviour, travelling direction, travelling path, trav-
elling speed, group size and coordination, feeding time, surfacing
intervals, and displacement from the disturbance area (Chen, 2011;
Higham et al., 2009; Parsons, 2012; Weinrich & Corbelli, 2009). Longer
term impacts can include chronic levels of stress resulting in negative
effects on health as well as reduced reproductive rates (Orams, 2004;
Parsons, 2012). In addition whales can also be killed or injured as a re-
sult of collisions with whale-watching vessels, especially in areas
where there is a high intensity of whale watching trafc. The speed of
the vessels also contributes to collisions (International Whaling
Commission, 2003).
The negative impacts from whale watching have encouraged many
countries and states to introduce different laws, guidelines and codes
to manage the industry (Cole, 2007; Garrod & Fennell, 2004; Parsons,
2012). The introduction of guidelines and/or regulations has been the
most common method of trying to mitigate the impacts of tour boat
whale-watching (Parsons, 2012). However, there are nointernationally
binding laws regarding whale watching despite the International Whal-
ing Commission considering the legal aspects of whale watching includ-
ing modellegislation from around the world (O'Connor et al., 2009). In
general most whale watching guidelines are entirely voluntary while
approximately one-third are regulatory or legal(Garrod & Fennell,
Most guidelines attempt to prevent vessels from harassing animals
and/or striking whales, and include features such as minimum approach
distances, speed zones, buffer zones, approach angles, noise controls
and spatial or temporal refuges(Australian Government Department
of the Environment and Heritage, 2006; Parsons, 2012; Wiley, Moller,
Pace, & Carlson, 2008). These measures are expected to protect whales
and the valuable industry that develops around them. Despite the exis-
tence of guidelines many do not curtail invasive activities such chasing
whales because they do not include a comprehensive set of expected
behaviours (Garrod & Fennell, 2004). Parsons (2012) also notes that
the existence of guidelines, regulations, or laws is often not complied
with due to poor compliance and monitoring as well as a chronic lack
of enforcement. The lack of monitoring and enforcement arises from
various reasons including a lack of resources, logistic support, capacity
and will (Parsons, 2012). Voluntary codes of conduct, which are often
seen as softvisitor management tools (Cole, 2007), are enforced pri-
marily by ethical obligation and peer pressure(Garrod & Fennell,
In addition to the provision of guidelines it is becoming increasingly
accepted that education and interpretation are important components
of a satisfying tourism experience, especially those occurring in the nat-
ural environment and involving wildlife (Luck, 2003). Education/inter-
pretation provided on-board whale-watching vessels is likely to be
viewed as an important part of the tour (see Mayes & Richins, 2008)
as well as increasing customer satisfaction (Parsons, Warburton,
Woods-Ballard, Hughes, & Johnston, 2003). Moscardo and Saltzer
(2005, p.8) note that there is a substantial correlation between the
amount visitors believed they learnt about the wildlife during their
visit and their overall satisfaction with the wildlife experience.An
equally important outcome from education/interpretation is that it
can help reduce the negative impacts on whales (Newsome, Moore, &
Dowling, 2002). Bentz, Rodrigues, Dearden, Calado, and Lopes (2015)
also note that overcrowding can also reduce visitor satisfaction.
Another method for managing the impacts of whale watching is to
limit the number of licences issued to operators (Kessler & Harcourt,
2013). The selection process used to determine the allocation of licences
could be utilised to ensure reputable operators gain the licences.
3. Tourism in Sri Lanka
The potential of tourism to contribute to the country's economic de-
velopment was initially articulated in 1960s with the release of the rst
Tourism Management Plan in 1967 (Ceylon Tourist Board, 1968). After
the release of the Plan the industry experienced considerable growth
in international visitation during the 1970s however with the
commencement of the Civil War in 1983 numbers stagnated at between
400,000 and 500,000 visitors (SriLankanTourismDevelopment
Authority, n.d.). In addition to the stagnation there were some
substantial declines experienced in the aftermath of various serious
terrorist events. Since the war ended in 2009 international visitation
has increased rapidly from 447,890 in 2009 to 1.5 million visitors in
126 J. Buultjens et al. / Tourism Management Perspectives 18 (2016) 125133
2014 (Sri Lankan Tourism Development Authority, n.d.). This rapid
increase in visitation has put serious pressure on tourism infrastruc-
ture as well as the environment and wildlife (Buultjens, Ratnayake, &
Gnanapala, 2015a, 2015b), including whales (SriLankan Airlines,
2012). This pressure on whales is likely to continue since the level
of whale watching in a country is signicantly related to the size of
its overall tourism industry (Cisneros-Montemayor et al., 2010).
Initially the tourism industry was almost exclusively focused on the
mass international sea, sun and sandmarket based on the south and
west coast as well as the centrally located cultural triangle. Both these
destinations were relatively sheltered from the War. Consequently
tourism and economic development in general was markedly affected
in the northern and eastern regions. Other tourism markets including
nature-based, eco and wildlife have been relatively undeveloped how-
ever there is an increasing awareness amongst government and
private-sector organisations that these are important market segments
that can provide substantial benets with minimum impacts (Buultjens
et al., 2015a, 2015b). For example, the Refreshingly Sri Lanka Visit
2011 marketing campaign by Sri Lanka Tourism promoted twelve expe-
riences, one of which was nature and wildlife. This marketing initiative
was supported by tourism policy aimed at developing these experiences
(EML Consultants, 2012). Based on evidence elsewhere, the develop-
ment of these markets, including whale watching, can be expected to
provide added value to tourism in the country (Cisneros-Montemayor
et al., 2010).
Despite the relative lack of development of the wildlife market, a
number of international and domestic tourists are interested in viewing
wildlife, especially elephants, in their natural habitat. As a result of this
interest many tourists visit national parks in the country. Unfortunately
many of these areas are not managed effectively for a variety ofreasons
(Buultjens et al., 2005).
4. Methods
The study reported in this paper used a range of qualitative methods
consisting of document analysis, semi-structured interviews, active par-
ticipant observation and secondary data obtained from online media.
The use of these various sources of data allowed for triangulation that
enabled the researchers to examine where the data converged and, in
turn, provide credibility for the ndings (Bowen, 2009; Denzin, 2006).
The document analysis involved a review of the literature and docu-
ments relating to the administration and visitor management in whale
watching in Sri Lanka. The data sources included government policy
documents, government media releases, peer-reviewed academic
journals and books, and commentary from a range of websites. The au-
thors were aware that the documents used could vary in terms of the
quality of the data used (Bowen, 2009; Rosenberger & Stanley, 2006)
however the use of other research sources helped to substantiate the
documentary data.
In addition to the document analysis, 23 semi-structured personal
interviews were undertaken in July 2012, November 2012 and April
2013 with a range of stakeholders.The saturationcriterion determined
the sample size for this study (Patton, 1990). Interviews are a widely
used research method that allows for the exploration of ideas and
meanings (Qu & Dumay, 2011). The stakeholders interviewed in-
cluded members of the Department of Wildlife Conservation
(DWLC), members of the Sri Lankan Navy and Coast Guard, aca-
demics, representatives from the private sector in the Sri Lankan
tourism industry, including from peak organisations, inbound tour
operators, whale watching boat operators as well as various repre-
sentatives from conservation groups.
Interview participants were selected via a non-random, convenience
and snowball sampling method (Kitchenham & Peeger, 2002; Coyne,
1997; Patton, 1990) where appropriate interview participants were
identied by other participants. The researchers had some contacts
that were approached initially and then they followed up with other
contacts from the networks of the initial participants. This non-
probability sample was used because it was relatively easy to determine
appropriate respondents however it is important to notethat the partic-
ipants cannot be considered to representative of a target population.
Caution needs to be applied in making statistical inferences from this
sample (Kitchenham & Peeger, 2002).
The interviews were guided by a set of pre-determined questions
about the Sri Lankan whale watching however there was considerable
scope for the exploration of ideas. The interview participants were
asked their views on how important they felt whale watching was to
the tourism industry; the ability of the industry to expand; the current
sustainability of the industry; and its contribution to regional develop-
ment and employment creation. In discussing the sustainability of the
industry, participants were asked to discussthe issues facing the indus-
try, the effectiveness of the current management regime as well as how
best to improve managementof the industry. Content analysis was con-
ducted using NVivo (2010) using themes identied by researchers.
The active participant observation was used to collect primary data
to enable an increased understanding of the behaviour of the operators
and their staff (Podoshen, 2013) and also allowed the authors to deter-
mine the accuracy of the information gained in document analysis and
interviews. The researchers participated in ve tours with ve different
operators from Mirissa during July 2012 and November 2012. Prior to
the undertaking tours the researchers did not alert the tour operators
or their staff to the research project. Covert observation, while widely
used, does raise ethical considerations however in this case it was con-
sidered that the ndings would not result in any adverse outcomes for
the research participants and that the purposes of the research would
not be undermined (Oliver & Eales, 2008).
The participant observations were recorded immediately after the
tour had been completed since it was not practicable to be record
them during the tour. The delay in recording the notes and the fact
that reality is constructed andas such, reality and truth are coproduced
by the researcher and the participants being investigated(Kwek & Lee,
2013; p. 305) mea ns that ndings need to be treated with caution.How-
ever its use with the other sources of data provides more condence in
the observations.
Finally, the content analysis of Internet-based information about
whale watching in Sri Lanka was conducted in two periods. The rst
was in October and November 2012 and the second was June and July
2014 using the key words whale watching in Sri Lanka,Sri Lankan
whale watchingand whale watching tourism in Sri Lankawithin a
Google search.
The top ten ranked website results from each keyword search were
then recorded and analysed. Using thematic coding, each result was
categorised as: Tour operators or tourism industry websites; privately
owned or community websites; destination review or trip advisory
websites where individuals could post blogs or comments about a des-
tination; and private blogs containing unsolicited travel information
from past experiences of whale watching in Sri Lanka. Approval to use
comments was not sought since the comments are already in the public
domain. The use of four qualitative sources provided a high level of con-
dence in the results from the study.
5. Findings
5.1. Whale watching in Sri Lanka
Three locations in Sri Lanka offer opportunities for whale watching.
These are Mirissa in the south-west, Trincomalee in the north-east
and Kalpitiya on the west coast. In addition, a large navy boat leaves
from Galle; a town located 34 km north from Mirissa. The two species
of whales in these locations are the blue (Balaenoptera musculus) and
sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus). The blue whale is classied as
endangered with an estimated 5000 to 10,000 blue whales remaining
worldwide. Unlike blue whale populations in other parts of the world,
127J. Buultjens et al. / Tourism Management Perspectives 18 (2016) 125133
those in the Northern Indian Ocean do not appear to migrate beyond
this single ocean basin (Anver, 2012; de Vos, Christiansen, Harcourt, &
Pattiaratchi, 2013). Sperm whales are currently listed as a vulnerable
species and are protected by a whaling moratorium (Fig. 1).
The history of whale watching in Sri Lanka dates back to 1983 with
small scale operators departing from Trincomalee, however develop-
ment was constrained by the on-going civil war in the region. The lim-
ited development of the industry meant there were few benets for the
local community (Hoyt, 2001). The next phase of the industry's devel-
opment began in 2008 at Mirissa after sightings of blue and sperm
whales close to the shore in the previous year (Tour company represen-
tative 4, personal communication; Anver, 2012). Since 2008, there has
been a rapid and substantial increase in whale watching at this site
(Williams, 2013b). This growth has occurred to a large extent because
the tourism industry is well-established in the region with a number
of large resorts and popular beaches located in close proximity. In addi-
tion, tourism in the region was largely unaffected during the war and
has rapidly increased since it nished.
The ending of the war is expected to also facilitate the future devel-
opment of the sector in Trincomalee (Buultjens et al., 2015a). This de-
velopment will be assisted through increased visitation to the region
as well as the government's commitment to developing tourism in the
northern and eastern regions of the country. The government has also
identied Kalpitiya, a relatively undeveloped tourism destination on
the west coast, for substantial tourism development, including whale
and dolphin watching (Tjolle, 2011). In 2012, this site lacked the re-
quired accommodation and infrastructure necessary to cater for large
number of tourists (In-bound tour operator 12, personal communica-
tion) and is a rather wind-blown and unfriendly place(Tourism Rep-
resentative 18, personal communication). However, like Trincomalee,
Kalpitiya is expected to provide substantially increased opportunities
into the future as the country's tourism industry expands.
The existence of whales at these three locations means that there are
whale watching opportunities available allyear. For example, due to the
prevailing weather patterns in Mirissa and Kalpitiya the prime viewing
period is between November and April, while May to October are the
Fig. 1. Map of Sri Lanka and whale watching sites.
128 J. Buultjens et al. / Tourism Management Perspectives 18 (2016) 125133
best months in Trincomalee. Currently some boat operators, including
the Navy, move their boats between Mirissa and Trincomalee.
5.1.1. Value adding to tourism
In additionto providing a year-round tourism experience the expan-
sion of whale watching has contributed substantial value-adding to the
existing land-based terrestrial wildlife attractions. The whales are seen
as giving Sri Lanka a competitive advantage over similar destinations
such as India and allows the country to provide viewing of a diversity
of large and charismatic animals during a short 1-2 week tourSri
Lanka is also promoting its own Big Five which includes the blue
whale, sperm whale, leopard, sloth bear and Asian elephant(Inbound
tour company representative 4, personal communication). A major at-
tract becoming the new fad for promoting Sri Lanka. Now marketing
to clients in coastal areas [sic](Tour boat operator 9, personal commu-
nication). The whales have become such an important attraction that
some companies are bringing tourists just for whale watching tours
(In-bound tour operator 2, personal communication).
The expansion of the whale watching industry is unsurprising given
its popularity in other destinations around the world (O'Connor et al.,
2009; Williams, 2013b). As stated above, Mirissa, due to its proximity
to large numbers of tourists, has experienced substantial and rapid
growth. In Mirissa in 2008, two well-known operators began to run
larger boats focusing predominantly on blue and sperm whales. At the
same time many local shers started to convert their rudimentary sh-
ing boats to tour boats of varying standards (Williams, 2013b). The two
large operators focused mainly on the international market, whilst, ini-
tially, the other operators focused more on the dolphin watching mar-
ket consisting mainly of local clientele (approximately 80% Sri Lankan)
(O'Connor et al., 2009). The small touroperators' services were irregular
and/or minimal. It was estimated 620 people participated in whale
watching in 2008 and that they contributed a total expenditure of US
$51,200 (O'Connor et al., 2009). The total employment in the Sri
Lankan whale watching industry in 2008 was estimated to be just
eight people (O'Connor et al., 2009),however an average annual growth
rate of 9.5% was expected to result in many morejobs. In 2012, the small
tour operators were also heavily dependent on the international market
with over 90% of tour participants from overseas (Coast guard represen-
tative 15, personal communication).
In 2012, the industry had clearly expanded but the laisse-faire na-
ture of the industry's expansion meant it was difcult to determine
the number of boats or number of visitors. No formal records were
kept in 2012 and for most of 2013 while the gures for 2014 may not
be completely accurate. In 2012, it was estimated that there were 11
boats operators from Mirissa who catered for 15,000 tourists (Coast
guard representative 15, personal communication). Other people pro-
vided a range of estimates. For example, an in-bound tour company rep-
resentative (4, personal communication) suggested there were around
15 boats leaving Mirissa Harbour and catering for 10,000 visitors per
annum. He noted that this enabled the local community and the hote-
liers around the area to benet from a thriving whale watching indus-
try. A tour boat operator (2, personal communication) estimated that
there were 20 boats leaving Mirissa and that a number of shing
boats have been converted and many others are being converted
they are uncomfortable seating and very bumpy [sic].The uncertainty
about the number of boats leaving Mirissa underlines the need for a
more effective method of maintaining records. In addition to the boats
based at Mirissa, the Navy ran a large passenger ship from Galle Port,
34 km away.
In 2013, it wasestimated that between September and December in
Mirissa up to 30 boats catered for 17,925 tourists of which approxi-
mately 93% were foreigners and 7% local. In 2014, 34 boats catered for
79,219 tourists departing from Mirissa Approximately 94% of customers
were international visitors. The number of whale watchers leaving on
the ex-navy vessel from Galle is estimated to have been about 7000
per annum in 2012, 2013 and 2014 (Coast guard representative 15, per-
sonal communication).
The relatively rapid growth of the industry has been made possible
because only a small investment is required in the rst instance (see
Cisneros-Montemayor et al., 2010). For example, many local shers,
who are already familiar with the area, have converted (or are
converting) their shing boats into tour boats (Tour boat operator 2,
personal communication). The shers have been attracted into the in-
dustry because it offers a desirable alternative income for shers (Aca-
demic 1, personal communication). The involvement of local shers
provides an increased livelihood base for communities and ensures a
contribution to local economic development.
Tour operators require a licence from Coast Guard and DWLC the
organisations responsible for managing the industry in early-2012. The
eld work and the interviews seemed to suggest there were no limits on
the number of boats goingout. Most boats left Mirissa in the early morn-
ing at approximately the same time. Water, breakfast and life jackets
were provided to passengers. The boats could be out for between 3
and 5 hours and some up to eight hours depending on the sighting of
whales; this time is highly variable as will be discussed later. The
boats, except the Navy boat, generally have approximately 5 to 6 crew
including a captain and a life guard. Some boats also had a tour guide.
The boats took between 20 and 50 passengers while the Navy boat
catered for 300 predominantly local passengers. According to a tour
boat operator the Navy boat provides very poor viewingdue to the
large number of passengers (2, personal communication). Most opera-
tors charged between US$50100, except for the Navy boat which
charged SLR3500 (US$26) for domestic adult tourists and US$60 for
adult international tourists. The boats, except the Navy boat, travelled
anywhere between 4 and 40 nautical miles to nd whales (Academic
1, personal communication).
5.2. Whale watching management and impacts
The rapid expansion of the industry in Mirissa has put signicant
strain on the whales and resulted in varied tourism experiences (Aca-
demic 11, personal communication). As noted by SriLankan Airlines
(2012), who formed a partnership with Whale and Dolphin Conserva-
tion UK to improve the management of the industry, “…these beautiful
creatures are increasingly threatened and endangered by a combination
of irresponsible, unregulated whale watching and ship strikes.
In response to the industry's growth the government introduced the
Sea Mammals (Observation,Regulation and Control)Regulations (Regula-
tions hereafter) in 2012. A need for regulations was recognised by most
stakeholders and after much discussion between the DWLC, re-
searchers, boat operators and hoteliers the Regulations were drafted.
The effectiveness of the Regulations will depend on the DWLC having
the required expertise and nance. The Regulations are intended to en-
sure to the greatest extent, possible, the peaceful and natural existence
of all sea mammals whosenatural habitat is within the territorialwaters
of Sri Lanka and assist to regulate and control vessels used by visitors for
the purpose of observing such sea animals(Government of Sri Lanka,
As a part of the legally protected wild fauna of Sri Lanka, whales and
dolphins come under the protection of the DWLC (Ilangakoon, 2009)
however, until mid-2012 the Coast Guard had responsibility for manag-
ing the boats and recording the tourist numbers on the boats. This re-
sponsibility has been passed on to the DWLC. The introduction of the
Regulations requires tourist boat operators to obtain a licence from
the DWLC and pay an annual fee of 5000 rupees (approx. US$40). Oper-
ators willneed to provide evidence of vehicle sea worthiness, full insur-
ance and adequate safety equipment. The Regulations also require
operators to make passengers aware of the need for conservation mea-
sures and the restrictions thatapply tothem before they commence the
trip. The DWLC is to prepare the printed material containing the restric-
tions. In addition every boat will have to have on-board a guide who has
129J. Buultjens et al. / Tourism Management Perspectives 18 (2016) 125133
been trained and is registered by the DWLC. TheRegulations alsospecify
vehicle speed and viewing distances as well as prohibiting tours from
taking place in inclement weather.
5.2.1. Perceptions of overcrowding
In 2012, the absence of an effective management regime had re-
sulted in some serious problems for the industry in Mirissa. It is very
likely that these problems will arise at the other two sites as whale
watching increases. One in-bound representative suggests a solution
would be to have few larger boats with greater visitor carrying capacity
and better safety features used [instead] of thecurrently only small 6-
seater boats(Tour company representative 4, personal
In Mirissa a major issue is the lack of an ofcial limit on the number
of vehicles servicing the industry. In addition there are major concerns
with the behaviour of some boat captains and their crews at sea. It ap-
pears the lack of control on the number of boats and the behaviour of
some has resulted in the social and environmental carrying capacities
being very close to, if not already, exceeded (Peak tourism representa-
tive 20, personal communication; Williams, 2013a, 2013b). At the
time of the research the intention was that all boats would be relicensed
if they met the requirements of their licence (Government representa-
tive 23, personal communication).
The lack of control on the number of boats and behaviour reduces
visitor satisfaction but more importantly is likely to have deleterious im-
pacts on the whales.
If no controls are put in place on the boat num-
bers operating, there could soon be 3550 boats taking visitors out
daily which is unsustainable and seriously threatens to compromise
the quality of the experience(Inbound tour company representative
4, personal communication). For example, when there is a sighting of
a whale, a number of vehicles rush to and congregate where the animal
is sighted. In their desire to reach the sighting the vehicles often travel at
high speeds (Ilangakoon, 2009; Williams, 2013a; Personal observation).
One of the researchers on a trip in especially rough conditions felt very
unsafe as the boat travelled at high speeds chasing whales. With the
congregation of vehicles, there is also on pressure on the captain to
push closer to an animal to gain the bestview for the passengers.
This problem is experienced in number of other countries
(Ilangakoon, 2009; Williams, 2013a). Not only do some of the boats en-
croach upon the whales they also chase them at high speed after they
submerge and then surface to breathe again (Ilangakoon, 2009; Per-
sonal observation). On one trip attended by a researcher up to six
boats chased a whale and its young calf; probably resulting in severe
stress for both. On another trip a commentator noted that [A]ll the
other commercial whale watch boats, regardless of their size and who
was operating them, were harassing the whale throughout this encoun-
ter making it change its natural behaviour due to the stress they were
causing it(Ilangakoon, 2009). She goes on to note that the “… boat
attempted to get right on top of the whale to get the tourists within
touching distance of it, making the whale dive hurriedly to get out of
the way. This also happened on some of the trips attended by the re-
searchers where the boats drove over pods of dolphins. Even more wor-
ryingly an Academic had this observation:
I was on a boat When they were chasing the dolphins I told them just
to stop and idle the boat. Soon the dolphins came near the boat. I was
shocked to see one of the crew with a harpoon. I stopped him he
was trying to harpoon one of the dolphins so the passengers could get
a better look at it (Academic 1, personal communication).
It appears that the [some] operators and crew have little under-
standing of their impact on whales(Academic 8, personal
communication; also personal observation) while others are clearly
very conscious of the possible impacts of their actions (Personal
5.2.2. Perceived impacts on whales
The stress caused by overcrowding and inappropriate behaviour of
operators threatens the sustainability of the industry. The continuing
presence of boats can inuence breeding patterns, feeding behaviour
and other social interactions (Warburton, 1999). Another consequence
is that whales may be forced to move (Dixon, 2012). As a Tour operator
noted (14, personal communication)Not want too many boats because
whales may go away because of too many boats [sic]. The possible
movement of whales is especially important in Mirissa since one of
the most heavily trafcked shipping routes in the world is 15 miles off
the southern coast of Sri Lanka. This is the major channel for ships
headed to the Indian Ocean(Dixon, 2012; see also Anver, 2012; de
Vos et al., 2013). Whales in this channel are atrisk of being killed by col-
lisions with large container vessels that use the shipping lanes. Each
year around 45 blue whales are killed by ship strikes (Inbound tour
company representative 4, personal communication). In 2011, an un-
precedented twenty whale carcasses (not all blue whales) were
seen around the island... But researchers say the number of blue whales
struck could be ten to twenty times more since blue whales often sink
soon after they are struck(Dixon, 2012). Unfortunately it appears that
the aggressive pursuit of whales by tour operators is chasing the
whales into the paths of the ships(Academic 1, personal communica-
tions). There is concerns also that noise from boats especially the large
Navy boat's engine will disturb the whales (Tour operator 14, personal
5.2.3. The visitor experience
The variability in the behaviour of the operators (Williams, 2013b;
Personal observation) resulted in a highly uneven visitor experience
and this variability was reected in the commentary on the user gener-
ated websites. The harassment of whales by the boats, overcrowding, a
considerable time spent on rough seas with some boats spending up to
six hours at sea, sea sickness and safety concerns on board the ships
(Williams, 2013a, 2013b; Sri Lankan Airlines, 2012) contributed to
poor visitor experiences. As one disgruntled participant noted:
BE RESPONSIBLE!Reviewed 28 February 2012Unfortunately the
growing tourist trade in Marissa has led to a lot of cowboys[or Spout
Chasers] who are just out for moneyTheysee a whale spout in the dis-
tance and a scrum of boats goafter it atfull throttle,their clients yelling
and shouting with excitement. This frightens the whale and she dives,
coming up after a long wait as far away from the boats as she can get.
Then the process repeats. This is not whale watching. It is whale harass-
Unfortunately in 2014, despite the introduction Regulations, many
people were still having unsatisfying experiences:
We were taken hostagesReviewed 19 October 2014we could see
that the crew was unable to control the 70 passengers on board and ev-
erything looked in a mess. Shortly after leaving the harbour people
started to get sea sick [due to rough seas with][A]bout 80%of the
passengers [vomiting]After four hours of hopelessly looking for
whales,watching bags of vomit we nally told the crew we had
enough and want to go back. The crew said that everybody want to
go on and we told them to put it for vote (sic). After most people raised
thier [sic] hands in favour of going back,the crew said we're turning
around [sic].Itwasalie.Itwasn't until half an hour later where they -
nally said that now we are really turning back. The feeling we had was
like being hostage The only thing mattered to them is to go forth so
they wouldn't have to refund us for not seeing whales. Worst experience
ever!! Don'tgo!!!!
It should benoted that operator behaviour varies widely and it is the better operators
who havesuffered due to the irresponsiblebehaviour of others(Williams, 2013b; personal
130 J. Buultjens et al. / Tourism Management Perspectives 18 (2016) 125133
One of the most concerning negative aspects emerging from the
commentary is safety. One reviewer noted:
Most dangerous travel company ever experienced.Reviewed 3 Octo-
ber 2014This company was chaotic at best but in reality could seri-
ously have injured the people on boardthe boat was completely full
disorganised staffrushed to get extra life jackets from a neighbouring
vessel prior to our departureAfter around 3 or 4 h of sailing without
seeing any whales [some people wanted to return to port while
others wanted to keep looking for whales]As a solution’…the team
hailed down another boat that was heading back to shore and
attempted to move those who didn't want to stay over to this boat. Peo-
ple were rushed to jump over to the other boat,without life jackets,
whilst the two boats were unsecured and banging against each other
in rough watersIn all my years of travelling I have never seen the
safety of tourists so disregarded as I did today.
The safety of passengers were also be threatened by a possible acci-
dental whale touch arising from a boat venturing too close to a whale.
An accident or the threat of one is likely to have a major impact on the
industry (see Ilangakoon, 2009). Despite the manynegative experiences
there were also many very positive experiences had by whale watching
visitors including one for the company that received negative feedback
outlined previously. For example:
unbelivable!!!![sic]Reviewed 7 October 2014it was more than we
ever imagined. we were bit skeptical weather [sic] we see any at all...
but we saw lot of them... plus hundreds of dolphins too... you have to
wait for the right seasons as whales worn't[sic] be there year long.
but seeing such massive creatures so close is an experience of a life
time... no words to explain!!!
5.2.4. Education and interpretation
The importance of education and interpretation for visitor satisfac-
tion and enhancement of wildlife welfare is clearly identied in the lit-
erature (see Luck, 2003; Mayes & Richins, 2008; Parsons et al., 2003)
however this aspect is lacking in the Sri Lankan industry (despite the
aims of the Regulations). On the trips attended by the researchers
there was some attempt to provide this however generally they were
unsuccessful. For example, on onetour the education and interpretation
consisted of an employee showing some tourists an English version of a
whale identication book. The employee spoke only rudimentary En-
glish and many of the participants did not appear to be English speakers
anyway. On another tour there was an attempt to provide some formal
education and interpretation with a staff member providing and speak-
ing to a map of the area. Again the employee's English prociency was
low, there were many nationalities on board and the way people gath-
ered around the map meant only a limited number of passengers
could see it and hear the employee. It appearedonly a few of the passen-
gers were engaged in education and interpretation. These personal ob-
servations were supported by various interview participants.
6. Discussion
The whale watching industry in Sri Lanka has grown relatively rap-
idly and haphazardly in short period of time. This growth has provided
substantial benets with the potential for providing even greater bene-
ts in the future. However, in order to ensure ongoing benets, it is ap-
parent that the management of the industry needs to be addressed
The management problems facing the industry are similar to those
experienced in a number of other whale watching destinations
(Parsons, 2012). At the present time it appears that there are too
many boats providing whale watching experiences although it is very
difcult to ascertain exactly how many boats are involved in the indus-
try. The difcult in accurately determining the number of boats
providing tours is, in itself, indicative of a management problem. It
also appears that thenumber of people isplanning to enterthe industry
with many shers converting their shing boats into tour boats. The
number of boats in the industry as well as the optimum number for
an effective and efcient industry, need to be determined.
Another area that needs to be addressed is the behaviour of some of
the boat operators. There is clearly a wide variation in operator behav-
iour in regards to their boat's interaction with the whales. This interac-
tion is perceived by stakeholders and customers to impact on the
whales and the visitor experience, which is currently highly variable.
It is difcult to establish how the inappropriate behaviour of tour
boats fully impacts on the whale population. The relatively recent dis-
coveryof whales off the Mirissa coast has meant there is comparatively
little data available on the ecology of blue whales at this site (de Vos
et al., 2013). Whale watching can have a wide variety of short-term ef-
fects on whales (Parsons, 2012;Highametal.,2009)andthisappearsto
be occurring at this site. However it is more difcult to determine longer
term impacts (Higham et al., 2009). Determining the longer term im-
pacts of the industry in Mirissa is further complicated by the location
of a shipping lane in close proximity to the whales' habitat.
To minimise the impacts on whales and ensure a consistent quality
visitor experience a stable and effective management structure is re-
quired. The introduction of the Regulations is a good rststepinanat-
tempt to establish management guidelines. This is a common method of
trying to mitigate the impacts of boat-based whale-watching (Parsons,
2012) however there needs to be sufcient resources provided to en-
able the DWLC to implement and police them effectively. It is highly
likely that adequate resources will not be forthcoming a characteristic
feature of protected area management in Sri Lanka (see Buultjens et al.,
2005) and many other countries (de Oliveira, 2003).
The lack of resources is likely to constrain the strengthening of the
institutional capacity of the DWLC to respond to actual or potential is-
sues facing the industry (see de Oliveira, 2003). The lack of funding
will prevent the DWLC from effectively monitoring the behaviour of
the tour boats. It is also likely to prevent management from conducting
carrying capacity studies that are required to determine appropriate
visitation levels. There is recognition of the need for these studies
however it is recognised that the funding is unlikely to be available in
the short term at least (Government representative 23, personal
Increasing the institutional capacity requires increased resources to
be provided for the managing agency. Additional funds could be raised
by increasing the licence fees for boat operators. The increase in fees
may also deter some operators thereby relieving visitor pressure on
the whales and adding to the visitor experience. The requirement of a
licence fee may discourage any ill-prepared tour operators from operat-
ing in the industry; as long as the operators are effectively policed.
Increased fees could be used by the DWLC to effectively train the
people who are to accompany all boats to ensure operators abide by
the Regulations and possibly provide interpretation. Funding could
also be used for the provision of formalised and on-going training and
awareness programmes for boat operators. There have been privately
funded workshops however there is a need for formalised on-going
An improvement in trainingcould also be accompanied by the intro-
duction of an effective interpretation programme for visitors. Currently,
most visitors receive very little interpretation including information
about the whale watching rules and regulations. Improved interpreta-
tion will enhance the visitor experience as well as aid the operators to
explain their actions to potentially dissatised customers.
An alternative measure could be theadoption of a participatory con-
servation approach. The DWLC has already successfully introduced a
similar strategy in turtle conservation especially in Rekawa, where a
local conservation group is effectively collaborating with DWLC to run
community-led conservation and protection initiative for turtles.
There may be potential to introduce a similar process around the
131J. Buultjens et al. / Tourism Management Perspectives 18 (2016) 125133
whale watching industry. It is important that local communities are
closely involved in the planning for a sustainable industry and the im-
plementation of conservation measures since they often have the
most to lose from restrictive management policies (see Ransom &
Mangi, 2010).
The increased funding could be provided for undertaking research
into the whales, their habitat, the impacts of the industry and carrying
capacity levels. Many people suggest that there is a need to limit the
number of whale watching boats a strategy successfullyimplemented
in other countries. It is important that the levels of visitation are deter-
mined through empirical carrying capacity studies.
Finally, the existence of whale watching opportunities in Trincoma-
lee offers the potential to involve the Tamil minority in the tourism in-
dustry. As Novelli, Morgan, and Nibigira (2012) note the development
of the tourism industry offers an opportunity for poverty reduction as
well as the promotion of peace in countries that have experienced pe-
riods of conict. In order for this to occur there is a need for the govern-
ment to provide a set of inclusive sector development actions as well as
ensuring the empowerment of the community (Daley, 2006). In the
post-war period this has yet to happen to any great extent (see
Buultjens et al., 2015a).
7. Conclusion
Well managed whale watching is recognised as an important factor
in assisting conservation as well as enhancing a destination's appeal and
providing a signicant boost to the local economy. Unfortunately there
are perceived concerns about the management of whale watching in Sri
Lanka and therefore its sustainability. The relatively recent identica-
tion of whale populations off the coast at Mirissa and the accompanying
rapid expansion of international and domestic tourism industry in the
country have placed increased pressures on the natural environment.
The introduction of the Regulations has provided the DWLC with the
opportunity to address the problems associated with the development
of the industry howeverit appears that theDWLC is currently hampered
by a severe lack of funding.
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Jeremy Buultjens is an Associate Professor with the School
of Business and Tourism at Southern Cross University,
Australia. His research interests include Indigenous tourism
and entrepreneurship, tourism in protected areas and re-
gional development. He has also worked with col leagues
from Sabaragamuwa University to examine aspects of tour-
ism management in Sri Lanka.
Iraj Ratnayke, PhD (Utara Malaysia) is currently attached to
the Department of Tou rism Management, Sabaragamu wa
University of Sri Lanka, as a Senior Lecturer. He has served
as the founder Head of the Department of Tourism Manage-
ment. Dr. Ratnayake also contributed as a member of edito-
rial boards and also act ive in reviewing manuscripts for a
number of national and international journals. His research
and literally presentations mainly encompasses develop-
ment and promotion of special interest tourism and tourism
planning indeveloping countries. Besides research and writ-
ing, he also participates actively in training and consultation
projects include tourism information systems, site planning,
visitor management, product marketing, and community
Athula Gnanapala is a senior lecturer/HOD in the Depart-
ment of Tourism Management, Sabaraga muwa University
of Sri Lanka. His research interests include consumer behav-
iour in tourism including motivation & satisfaction, sustain-
able tourism planning & de velopment, tourism and green
marketing.Dr. Athula Gnanapala has published scholarly pa-
pers and research reports on a variety of tourism issues. He
completed his PhD in Tourism Management at the Xiamen
University, P.R. China.
133J. Buultjens et al. / Tourism Management Perspectives 18 (2016) 125133
... The market cap of the WDW industry is estimated to be more than US$2 billion annually (Mann, 2017). WDW is regarded as a panacea for cetacean species conservation and delivering economic opportunity across the world (Mustika et al., 2012;Buultjens et al., 2016). Hoyt (2001) claims that WDW provides crucial income for local communities, enhances the ability of scientists to study cetacean and their habitats for a long-term conservation and fosters tourist's awareness about cetaceans and the importance of preserving their habitats. ...
... Focusing on issues related to cetacean tourism and its management, past studies have centered on tourism's impacts on whale-dolphin behavior (Janik and Thompson, 1996;Orams, 2000;Lusseau and Higham, 2004;Tyack, 2008;Amrein et al., 2020), tourist vessel collisions (Waereebeek et al., 2007;Carrillo and Ritter, 2010), tour operator compliance (Sorongon, 2010;Sitar et al., 2016), tourist preferences (Kessler et al., 2014;Lee et al., 2019b;Lissner and Mayer, 2020), tour operator regulations (Giles and Koski, 2012;Chalcobsky et al., 2017), controlling tourist numbers and carrying capacity (Hoyt, 2005;Fernandes and Rossi-Santos, 2018), sustainable whale-watching (Orams, 2001;Hoyt, 2005;Lambert et al., 2010;Wearing et al., 2014;Buultjens et al., 2016;Lissner and Mayer, 2020), and charging fees to offer support for SWWT (Lee et al., 2019b;Lissner and Mayer, 2020;Malinauskaite et al., 2020). The explosive growth of the nature-based travel sector, along with the attendant threats to the environment and increased concern about protecting the remaining natural ecosystems have showcased major challenges to tourism development (Boo, 1990). ...
... Although proximity to whales and dolphins enhances the tourist experience, Curtin (2008) claims that tourists are also aware of the potential negative impacts on wildlife. To provide the "best" whale-dolphin watching experience for the tourists, the tour operators were found to be in the habit of chasing the whale/dolphin pods (Buultjens et al., 2016;Sitar et al., 2016;Prakash et al., 2019;Amrein et al., 2020). In contrast to chasing marine mammals for a better view, Orams (2000) argues that the tour operators do not need to chase the whale/dolphin pods to satisfy the tourists, since doing so does not greatly influence the satisfaction level of the latter. ...
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Balancing the sustainable practices of whale watching and cetacean species conservation is an enormous challenge for the countries that rely on whale watching tourism industry. In this study, we employ the choice experiment method to estimate the tourists' heterogeneity preferences (THP) on different attributes to establish an impact mitigation program in Taiwan. We found that the scenario of integrated cetacean conservation and sustainable whale-dolphin watching has the highest welfare effects among all the proposed scenarios. Features that affect the differentiation of THP are: (1) tourists' awareness, and conservation attitudes, (2) nationality, and (3) monthly income. The findings from this research could assist the government and tour operators to tailor their policy and management strategy that respond to the present issues by focusing on time schedule management, vessel slowdown distance, set up maximum boat numbers, build-up operational guidance, and by establishing a conservation fund.
... Further, it is considered a way to build awareness of the conservation of the threatened species while extracting noncommercial values. Sri Lanka is a developing country, and tourism development has rapidly influenced the expansion of WW operations, and the 'socio-economic value' of BW populations has steadily increased [16,24]. Although the whale-watching industry in Sri Lanka may provide future conservation opportunities and socioeconomic benefits, the policymakers remain apprehensive that WW activities may deleteriously impact BW populations [17,21,25]. ...
... Although the whale-watching industry in Sri Lanka may provide future conservation opportunities and socioeconomic benefits, the policymakers remain apprehensive that WW activities may deleteriously impact BW populations [17,21,25]. Furthermore, the adoption of unsustainable whale-watching practices due to the extensive competition between boat operators during peak seasons is often the result of economic pressures to achieve short-term benefits from ecotourism at the expense of displacing free-ranging BWs into busy shipping lanes and thus increasing the risk of ship collisions [16,17,24]. ...
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This paper describes the distribution, abundance and seasonal variation in blue whales (BWs) on the south coast of Sri Lanka, off Mirissa, where they are faced with anthropogenic threats. Data collection encompassed opportunistic sightings by whale-watching (WW) operations. This study revealed that large aggregations of BWs consistently overlapped with busy shipping lanes located between Dondra Head and Galle within important foraging and breeding regions on the south coast. Throughout 2015 (except June and July), 729 BWs were sighted over 177 sighting days. The sighting frequency was higher during the northeast monsoon and the first intermonsoon and lower throughout the second intermonsoon (n = 9) and the latter part of the southwest monsoon. The highest frequencies of BW encounters per day occurred in April (n = 15) and December (n = 20), while the mean annual group size per sighting was 3.07 =/- 0.24. From the January-to-April season, 13 mother–calf combinations and 1 pregnant cow were sighted off the southern coastline of Mirissa, suggesting the calving season peaks between the months of March and April in Sri Lanka. As this important habitat overlapped with the busiest shipping lanes, fishing and commercial whale watching activities, the authorities have to take action toward the conservation of this ecosystem and whales as well as their safe navigation.
... Many articles stress the need for education and awareness raising among the local communities on how to engage in wildlife watching tourism business on their own terms, benefit from it and contribute to conservation (Buultjens et al., 2016;D'Lima et al., 2018;Markwell, 2015;Newsome et al., 2012). Shortcomings highlighted in the literature include that traditionally tourism is perceived as a low entry barrier industry, yet employment nevertheless often lacks necessary competence. ...
... Current challenges stressed in the literature include absence of global governance and regulatory authorities of wildlife watching even for highly migratory species, such as whales (Bentz et al., 2013;D'cruze et al., 2017;Decker et al., 2017). Significant effort in this research is dedicated to understanding negative impacts on wild species, such as behavior change, direct harm to animals or habitat alteration, and management outlook of these impacts (Buultjens et al., 2016;Dimmock et al., 2014;D'Lima et al., 2018;Higham & Shelton, 2011;Markwell, 2015;Newsome et al., 2012). Additionally, ethical concerns regarding sustainable management of wild species for watching are of growing importance, focusing on the issues of rights and well-being of animals (Bertella, 2019;Carr & Young, 2018;Markwell, 2015). ...
... Many articles stress the need for education and awareness raising among the local communities on how to engage in wildlife watching tourism business on their own terms, benefit from it and contribute to conservation (Buultjens et al., 2016;D'Lima et al., 2018;Markwell, 2015;Newsome et al., 2012). Shortcomings highlighted in the literature include that traditionally tourism is perceived as a low entry barrier industry, yet employment nevertheless often lacks necessary competence. ...
... Current challenges stressed in the literature include absence of global governance and regulatory authorities of wildlife watching even for highly migratory species, such as whales (Bentz et al., 2013;D'cruze et al., 2017;Decker et al., 2017). Significant effort in this research is dedicated to understanding negative impacts on wild species, such as behavior change, direct harm to animals or habitat alteration, and management outlook of these impacts (Buultjens et al., 2016;Dimmock et al., 2014;D'Lima et al., 2018;Higham & Shelton, 2011;Markwell, 2015;Newsome et al., 2012). Additionally, ethical concerns regarding sustainable management of wild species for watching are of growing importance, focusing on the issues of rights and well-being of animals (Bertella, 2019;Carr & Young, 2018;Markwell, 2015). ...
... Many articles stress the need for education and awareness raising among the local communities on how to engage in wildlife watching tourism business on their own terms, benefit from it and contribute to conservation (Buultjens et al., 2016;D'Lima et al., 2018;Markwell, 2015;Newsome et al., 2012). Shortcomings highlighted in the literature include that traditionally tourism is perceived as a low entry barrier industry, yet employment nevertheless often lacks necessary competence. ...
... Current challenges stressed in the literature include absence of global governance and regulatory authorities of wildlife watching even for highly migratory species, such as whales (Bentz et al., 2013;D'cruze et al., 2017;Decker et al., 2017). Significant effort in this research is dedicated to understanding negative impacts on wild species, such as behavior change, direct harm to animals or habitat alteration, and management outlook of these impacts (Buultjens et al., 2016;Dimmock et al., 2014;D'Lima et al., 2018;Higham & Shelton, 2011;Markwell, 2015;Newsome et al., 2012). Additionally, ethical concerns regarding sustainable management of wild species for watching are of growing importance, focusing on the issues of rights and well-being of animals (Bertella, 2019;Carr & Young, 2018;Markwell, 2015). ...
... Raising awareness about nature and sustainable practices is frequently conceptualized as one of the main missions and raison d'être of NBT, which aims to help in contributing to global sustainability through experiential learning and behaviour change (Apps et al., 2018;Bentz et al., 2013;de Lima & Green, 2017;Markwell, 2015;Patroni et al., 2018;Tarver et al., 2019). Proper education and awareness among the local communities on how to provide services in an ethical and eco-friendly manner has been pointed out by many researchers as a crucial component of sustainability in NBT (Buultjens et al., 2016;Markwell, 2015;D'Lima et al., 2018;Newsome et al., 2012). The importance of skilled guides, who combine minimizing negative tourism impacts with facilitating satisfactory tourist experiences, has been repeatedly emphasized in tourism studies (D'Lima et al., 2018;Margaryan & Wall Reinius, 2017;Muntifering, 2019;Newsome et al., 2012;Patroni et al., 2018;Tarver et al., 2019). ...
... Weak performance of CSR is linked to the inability of stakeholders to formulate adequate demands (Font & Lynes, 2018), and the review of sustainability conceptualizations in NBT suggests that the central demand for NBT was to raise public awareness about nature and appropriate conduct, as well as to manage environmental impacts. Significant research effort has been dedicated to understanding negative NBT impacts on ecosystems and species involved in tourism and management outlook of these impacts (Buultjens et al., 2016;D'Lima et al., 2018;Dimmock et al., 2014;Higham & Shelton, 2011;Markwell, 2015;Newsome et al., 2012). Comparatively, demands pertaining to social sustainability remain somewhat weak. ...
... Current whale watching practices disrupt the natural behavior patterns of whales and, according to Sankalpa et al. (2021), threatens their survival. Though previous visitor satisfaction with whale watching tourism practices seems to be heavily influenced by guaranteed whale sightings , Buultjens, Ratnayake, Gnanapala, & Nedelea, 2017, it has become apparent that unplanned development of the industry has resulted in some poor conservation outcomes for the whales as well as resulting in variable tourist satisfaction ratings (Buultjens, Ratnayke, & Gnanapala, 2016). ...
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Prior to COVID-19 heavy tourist pressure was causing environmental degradation and wildlife disturbance in Sri Lankan protected areas. The pandemic abruptly stopped visitation causing devastating impacts on the entire nature-based tourism sector. At the same time, the pandemic opened a window of opportunity to rethink the way the nature-based tourism is practiced in Sri Lanka's protected areas and bring it to the “sustainable track”. In this paper, we present a “position statement” to aid planning for sustainable and resilient nature-based tourism in post-pandemic Sri Lanka by validating and employing previous work on sustainable nature-based tourism planning, and information gathered through field observations and semi-structured interviews of nature-based tourism stakeholders in Sri Lanka. Future planning will require reflection and research with the aim of developing a more responsible and ethical approach to tourism activity and the viewing of wildlife. As the present economic and energy crisis is likely to prolong social and environmental difficulties, planning for a resilient nature-based tourism industry and appropriate community engagement is a priority.
... The end of the conflict has offered new opportunities, especially in the tourism sector (Bandara, 2019), but sometimes also at the expense of local communities and their culture (Ranasinghe & Cheng, 2018). Despite Sri Lanka's relatively young position as a tourist destination, researchers urge for sustainable management of its resources, like in the cases of the deleterious impacts on whale watching (Buultjens et al., 2016a), or the precarious impact of tourism on the Vedda Community (Ranasinghe & Cheng, 2018) and on the coastal zones (Marasinghe et al., 2021). Tourism often offers new opportunities for countries that have suffered from civil wars and local conflicts. ...
In this paper, the purpose is to highlight another concept of inclusive tourism than what is usually understood as “inclusiveness.” Despite its very specific meaning: tourism is accessible to everybody by taking away the barriers that prevent a person from enjoying tourism, inclusiveness is much broader than only focussing on the demand side. The supply side of inclusive tourism stresses the underprivileged providers of tourism in the Base/Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) areas. The paper is rather conceptual and describes the relevance of the BOP frameworks with respect to tourism. Research has shown that the most inspiring cases can be found where the two criteria of entrepreneurship and co-inventor meet. However, not many cases in the tourism sector can be found here. This approach of tourism is important because entrepreneurs are appreciated due to their capabilities. They develop tourism models from their perspective, in contradiction to models that focus on applying western business perspectives. The local community is involved because their skills and motivation for participation are central. Local people become a change agent and a developer for a greater understanding of their local culture which leads to positive contributions such as the conservation of the natural and cultural heritage. This approach of inclusive tourism is illustrated by the Hiriwaduna Village Tour in Sri Lanka. Despite the importance of this model, cases in the tourism sector are rare. This underlines the fact that the tourism sector is still too much seen from the demand side of the tourists and does not include enough input on how local people would like to develop their community into a flourishing and self-reliant one.KeywordsInclusive tourismBase of the PyramidFlourishingPeople from deprived regions
... Therefore, adequate provisioning for projected losses of revenue to local businesses must also be incorporated into management plans. Without adequate provisioning for stakeholders, government directives aimed at reducing the negative impacts of ecotourism development on wildlife can be counter-productive (Newsome 2013;Buultjens et al. 2016). Such considerations may explain why some national parks continue to allow high tourist numbers and congestion of park roadways, despite clear recognition of the negative impacts on wildlife and depreciation of the tourist experience (Newsome 2013;Kudavidanage, unpublished data;Fig. ...
Complete summary of the scientific knowledge currently available on closing of the knowledge-implementation gap in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Describes interdisciplinary and innovative uses of knowledge sources and knowledge mobilization practices to halt biodiversity loss under human-driven global environmental change. Essential reading for graduate students, researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers working across sectors with biodiversity knowledge and natural resource management around the world. Available here:
... Therefore, adequate provisioning for projected losses of revenue to local businesses must also be incorporated into management plans. Without adequate provisioning for stakeholders, government directives aimed at reducing the negative impacts of ecotourism development on wildlife can be counter-productive (Newsome 2013;Buultjens et al. 2016). Such considerations may explain why some national parks continue to allow high tourist numbers and congestion of park roadways, despite clear recognition of the negative impacts on wildlife and depreciation of the tourist experience (Newsome 2013;Kudavidanage, unpublished data;Fig. ...
The high population densities of Asian nations and pressures to intensify agriculture and industry have led to high rates of deforestation that reduce wildlife populations, increasing human–wildlife conflict, and distrust between local communities and conservation practitioners. We highlight how multidisciplinary teams are required to not only document the problems and derive solutions, but to also ensure that research outcomes are translated into concrete actions. We examine a series of case studies from tropical Asia across three categories of resource use to identify key project attributes that increase efficiency of the knowledge-to-action pipeline. Attention to communication between researchers and policy makers or target communities, inclusion of communities during multiple stages of project development and implementation, and financial or other tangible incentives for affected communities including payments for ecosystem services were all features of successful conservation projects. Despite these trends, National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans from the region often prioritize research that only defines problems, without attention to the skills required to develop solutions or to mobilize knowledge for successful conservation actions. Broader recognition of conservation as a situational, transdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary science is essential to improve roadmaps for action in such a culturally diverse region.
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Tourism in protected areas in Sri Lanka has the potential to provide economic development as well as sources of the funding for maintaining the environmental values of national parks. However, for this to occur it is important tourism is managed in a sustainable manner. This paper uses a case study approach to examine the characteristics and problems associated with tourism in the most popular National Park in Sri Lanka–Ruhuna (Yala). It is clear there are a number of environmental effects arising from tourism that are degrading the natural values of the protected area resulting in lower amenity value for tourists. The problems associated with tourism are exacerbated by the lack of recognition given to the impacts resulting from religious tourists visiting the area and the lack of controls placed on their behaviour within the Park. Management has introduced various measures aimed at alleviating the problems caused by tourism, such as monthly meetings with tour operators and the provision of educational and interpretative material for local people. In addition, there are plans to construct a new road to reduce congestion currently experienced on the Park roads. However, unless funding is increased and more consideration is given to the religious tourists and their impacts, tourism in the Park will not be sustainable. r
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Purpose: This paper presents empirical evidence that focuses on the use of covert participant observation as a method of data collection and considers the ethical nature of this method as a means to create knowledge that leads to direct management action. This ethical debate centres on issues such as informed consent, rights and consequences. This paper develops the consequentialist argument by reflecting on our experiences of using covert participant observation and the consequences of using such a method in empirical management research. Methodology: Two empirical case studies, conducted independently of one another, highlight the choices we made and the justification for using covert participant observation as a means to investigate organisational issues. Findings: Whilst we conclude that this research method can be used effectively within an ethical framework, we suggest that researchers need to be more aware issues of the potential consequences on themselves in terms of the personal, emotional and trust issues that centre around deception when using covert participant observation. Research Implications: Researchers are now asked to consider the consequences on themselves of conducting covert participant observation, and in particular, to assess the potential problems arising in the form of emotional or personal implications when being deceptive. Originality of Paper: The ethical debate concerning the rights and consequences of conducting covert participant observation is extended to include a consideration of the consequences for the researcher pertaining to the collection and use of data using this research method. We go beyond the traditional aspects of the debate by extending it to consider the consequences on the researcher of using what is essentially research method based on deception.
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The 30 year war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had a considerable impact on the country's tourism industry. Yet, despite the war, the industry continued to exhibit a high level of resilience and since the end of the war international visitation has increased rapidly. This study, using a comprehensive review of literature and a series of interviews, examines the impact of the war on the industry as well as the government's post-conflict responses. Despite the rapid increase in international tourism numbers various concerns have been raised that government policies are likely to advantage large tourism operators and developers at the expense of small businesses in the informal sector. The development of the industry may also be at the expense of livelihoods of poorer members of society in other industries. A concentration on large-scale developments may reduce the resilience and therefore sustainability of the industry.
This paper examines dark tourism consumption motivations. Using a qualitative and interpretative mixed-method approach, this study traces the dark tourism motivations related to “blackpackers” and fans of the musical performance art known as black metal. Steeped in anti-Christian motifs and themes, with a history of past violence, black metal is a long-existing and still burgeoning art form that is growing in popularity throughout Europe and the United States. Through examination that involved participant observation, nethnography and content analysis, simulation, coupled with the emotional contagion were found to be key motivating aspects of this dark tourism related to black metal. Additionally, it was found, that similar to media tourists, many black metal fans seek tourism activity to reconcile comparisons between imaged landscapes and topographical reality. In addition to discussing specific aspects of the blackpacking phenomenon, larger theoretical implications related to the greater realm of dark tourism motivations are discussed.