Ecotourism in the world has been quite big over the years, but has grown in population in the more recent years. There are many different definitions to what ecotourism really is and even if it should be hyphenated because of the history behind it. With or without the use of the hyphen in the word ecotourism, has often resulted in use of the term being little more than a marketing tactic to give businesses and apparent green edge on the competition (Ross, 1999). Ecotourism has been defined in several ways. First, ecotourism, according to The Ecotourism Society, is a purposeful travel to natural areas to understand the culture and the natural history of the environment; taking care not to alter the integrity of the ecosystem; producing economic opportunities that make the conservation of the natural resources beneficial to the local people (Ross, 1999). A second definition by The World Conservation Unions Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas, defines ecotourism as an environmentally responsible travel and visitation to relatively undisturbed natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature that promotes conservation, has low visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local populations (Ross, 1999).

Many of the definitions of the word have the same basic meaning. When compared to mass tourism, ecotourism not only stresses the appropriate use of all resources, but also emphasizes community development to meet the economic, social, and cultural needs of the community (Khan, pg.988). Mass tourism on the other hand creates initiatives in Third World countries that are directed towards satisfying the needs of the tourists (Khan, pg.988). Ecotourism development is most likely to be at a smaller scale, locally owned, with low import leakage and a higher proportion of profits remaining in the local economy. Mass tourism has the potential to degrade the environment, ecotourism promotes the conservation and preservation of the ecosystem, so as not to disrupt the flora and fauna, wildlife, and habitat (Khan, pg.989-990). Ecotourism is a big problem in several countries throughout the world. With trying to preserve the natural environment of areas, and the growing industry of mass tourism and ecotourism, countries, such as South Africa, have grown to try to adapt to ecotourim travel and mass tourism travel.


South Africa has become one of todays most popular destinations for ecotourism travel and travel in general. It has many things to offer to visitors who are looking to tour and travel nature based areas that are protected by the government. Ecotourists travel all over South Africa for all different reasons. Some go to South Africa to hunt big game, some travel they’re just for the experience.

Geographic Location

South Africa is on the southern most tip of the continent, with the Indian Ocean on its eastern and southern coasts and the South Atlantic Ocean on its western coast (World Book, pg. 608). It is made up of four provinces, which include Natal, Orange Free State, Cape Province, and Transvaal. South Africa is relatively undeveloped, but growing (Loon, 2001). It is also the richest and most highly developed country in Africa (World Book, 608).


The population in South Africa includes blacks, whites, colored, and Asians. These four categories are what each individual living in South Africa has to fit into. The estimated population in South Africa was 34,944,000 in the year 1988 (World Book, 608). In a more recent survey, the population for South Africa has now bumped up to 43,647,658 in the year 2002 (www.Encarta.msn). You can plainly see the population growth in just twelve years. That is thirty-six persons per square kilometer (www.Encarta.msn). The blacks, or Africans, make up about seventy three percent of the population in South Africa and are further divided into subgroups according to their traditional ethnic divisions (World Book, 608). The whites make up about fifteen percent and are split up into two subgroups which are Afrikaners, and Afrikaans, who are either Dutch, German, British, and French descent who all speak English (World Book, 608). The colored people make up about nine percent and are mixed of black, white, and Southeast Asian descent. Last, are the Asians who make up about three percent of South Africas population (World Book, 608).


South Africa has two main languages, Afrikaans and English. The Afrikaans language was developed by the Dutch, but includes other words from European languages and from Asian and African languages.(www.library.think About ninety percent of the colored people in South Africa speak Afrikaans, and the rest speak English (World Book, 613). In the 1994 constitution, the government added another nine languages to the South African vocabulary. They include: Zulu, Xhosa, Sesotho sa Leboa, Tswana, Sesotho, Tsonga, Venda, Ndebele, and si Siwati (www.Encarta.msn). This includes ninety eight percent of the South Africans speaking all of these eleven languages.


There are a couple of different religions in South Africa that the people there practice. The number one religion is Christian. Ninety-two percent of the South African population makes up the Christians, while two percent make up Hindus and another two percent make up the Muslims (www.Encarta.msn). The Hindus are of mainly Indian descent, and the Muslims are of Indian and colored descent. Out of all the Christian churches, four thousand out of those African independent churches claim eight and a half million adherents (www.Encarta.msn).


Recreation is a major role in most South Africans lives. Sports play a major role in schools in South Africa. Rugby is the number one sport played by Afrikaners (www.Encarta.msn). South Africa even hosted and won the 1995 rugby world championships. Another popular sport in South Africa is cricket. Mainly the English speakers play this. Some other popular sports are swimming, water sports, tennis and golf, especially in the white communities (www.Encarta.msn).


The government in South Africa is a parliament. It became a republic in 1961 and the constitution the office of president as head of state (www.Encarta.msn). In 1984 however, a new constitution was made and included a trilateral parliament of white, colored, and Asian houses, but excluded the black majority all together (www.Encarta.msn). The parliament consists of two houses, the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (www.Encarta.msn).


South Africas economy has many things to offer. It is a middle-income, developing country with an abundant supply of resources, well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors, a stock exchange that ranks among the ten largest in the world and a modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region ( The thirty- percent unemployment and daunting economic problems remain from the apartheid era, especially the problems of poverty and lack of economic empowerment amount the disadvantaged groups ( The labor force in South Africa is fifteen million who are economically active, and by occupation are services-thirty five percent, agriculture-thirty percent, industry-twenty percent, mining-nine percent, and other-six percent ( These are just some of the examples of the economy in South Africa. Some important economic sectors in South Africa are new investment in labor-intensive projects, expansion of basic infrastructure services, subsidies to promote economic efficiency, and integration into the global economy (

Ecotourism/Tourism Industry

Tourism has been a big part of South Africa for some time. Just in the year 2000 alone, African tourists got up to 2.6 billion (Loon, 2001). In tourism alone, 4.7 percent of the gross domestic product (1995) is what the South African tourism industry contributes (www.library.think The industry employs about five hundred and fifty thousand people, meaning that one in twenty five jobs are linked to tourism in South Africa (www.library.think The overall compound growth rate of the tourism industry has been over seventeen percent, which is exceptional even at an international level (Loon, 2001). The activities that fall under ecotourism are nature photography, bird watching, botanical studies, snorkeling, hiking, mountain climbing, and hunting. Most of the people who travel to South Africa to participate in one of these activities are ecotourists and mass tourists. Game and nature reserves remain the most popular category of destinations for international tourists coming to South Africa ( Hunting big game is a very big recreation sport for tourists visiting South Africa. They allow hunting on private game land and selective trophy hunting in a few game reserves. Professional hunters, which must accompany tourist hunters, negotiate a fee for the desired animal directly with the owner or manager of the land on which the animal is found (Baker, 1997). For example, the Mpakeni people near the southwest corner of Kruger National Park sell the right to hunt buffalo for R20000 each and use the revenue for community projects such as schools (Cadogan, 1995). South Africa is the ideal place to see animals in their natural environment and to see Africas Big Five, which include large game animals (www.library.think

Tourism Infrastructure/Visitors/Volume

Most of the travel coming to South Africa is international travelers from around the world. There are many flights from many European capitals to Johannesburg. Malaysia and Qantas Airways provide flights from Asia and Australia ( South Africa Airways, etc cover the regional routes. Information about hotels, resorts, transportation and airlines is readily available on Internet. Types of visitors include middle class and affluent that come to hunt or view the animals or scenery for holidays, business, or work. These tourists come from Africa, Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australia. In 1999 the greatest number of ecotourism arrivals were 4,367 from Africa, 1,027 from Europe, 245 from North America and 185 from Asia.(4)

Tourism Attractions

There are several major tourist attractions in South Africa. They include some natural, some historic, and some cultural. Kruger National Park is one of the biggest attractions that South Africa has. It is actually the fifth most important tourist attraction in South Africa ( This park is internationally know for the wildlife management, it offers a variety of amphibians, reptiles, birds and one hundred forty seven mammal species including the Big Five ( The Kruger National Park offers a park safari that includes a five-day, four night mobile, camping safari where tourists can see big game and interesting sites. Another major tourist attraction is the marine and coastal National Parks. One is the Tsitsikamma, which is a narrow coastal plain bounded by cliffs with quiet tidal pools, deep gorges, and evergreen forests. The West Coast is in the Langebaan lagoon and is a watersport paradise, and also home to 256 bird species (

The wilderness of South Africa is in the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains. This region includes lakes, rivers, lagoons, forests, beaches, and the sea ( Another is the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, which is made up of rust red sand dunes, thousands of antelope, birds of prey, desert lions, and shy leopards ( The Karoo National Park is the largest natural ecosystem in South Africa and fossils that date back 310 million years ago (

Impact of Ecotourism

In the western societies of Canada, the United States and Australia, travels to experience nature are well known. During the late 1800’s Parks were opened at Yellowstone, Banff and Niagara Falls. Africa started opening parks in 1925 called game reserves to set aside natural areas for protection and recreation.(1) With a higher demand for nature-based tourism along with the media presenting quality nature programs, people looked to travel to areas like Africa. This was the beginning of ecotourism growth.

Africa is a very successful ecotourism destination. Tourists want to travel there to discover and learn about wild natural environments. This wilderness travel involves a feeling of primitive travel in natural environments that is not disturbed too much by humans. Additionally, adventure travel in Africa seems to be a tourist’s personal accomplishment with the thrill of dominating a dangerous environment. These people are interested in experiencing, learning and photographing wild nature within natural settings. This can easily be found in Africa.

Kenya and Tanzania are well-documented examples of successful ecotourism in Africa. In the early 1950’s with only a thousand tourists, Tanzania’s tourism increased to 350,000 in 1995 and Kenya to 865,000 in l994. The earnings in these countries from ecotourism sometimes exceed those of agriculture, they’re other important export.(1)

Kenya and South Africa have been successful leaders in ecotourism success because they national legislation, policy planning and site management. Therefore, their ecotourism is working successfully. However, not all ecotourism has been successful. Paul Eagles(1) identified five factors inhibiting Africa’s development efforts: negative market image, lack of foreign exchange for capital development, lack of trained personnel for tourism, and weak planning and management of areas.(1)

Positive Effects of Ecotourism

The positive effects of ecotourism include a better economy for the people of Africa. The exchange rate gives the tourist a good value compared to key competitors. More money is brought into the country for more jobs. The government feels that ecotourism will bring hope to millions who suffer from disease, to malnourished children and homeless people. Secondly they feel that Africa needs a broader, sustainable development for a better economy and ecotourism is a good way to do it.(2) Another positive effect of ecotourism is that the Strategic Framework for Tourism Development has been founded. It emphasizes values of socio-economic benefits for all participants and communities, community involvement in decision-making and responsibility, and sustainability. This requires balanced management of tourism resources. Additionally, ecotourism brings about a growing awareness of environmental responsibility among people of the country. Local communities are being involved in this through planning and impact studies. Publicity is given to mining projects in ecologically sensitive areas. The people of Africa are becoming more educated and learning conservation and careful management of scarce resources.(3) Other groups that ecotourism has helped are urban dwellers and international businesses.

Negative Effects of Ecotourism

Tourist use has the potential to degrade environmental quality through overuse, trial erosion, road damage, wildlife harassment, sewage runoff, and poaching. Hunting or poaching could lead to more extinction of the some animals. Another problem would be housing settlements for tourists near the parks that may scare the animals so they leave their habitat. Or likewise, letting tourists drive off main roads causing animals to be scared away. Large tour groups could cause negative effects, as the organizers could not handle them. With the development of game parks in Africa, restriction of access to resources for some groups of locals has been negative. It seems that local peasants are able to gain the least from the natural or economic resources of the parks. Additionally, if an underdeveloped country did not have great organization and sufficient funds for the establishment, protection and management of their sites, this would cause the environment to run down.


Recommendations for improving the negative impact of ecotourism are numerous. An ecotourism industry can not survive if the quality of the natural environment is degraded. The public and private sectors need to cooperate. The public sector must protect resources and determine acceptable uses and levels of use. Security of the environment is the government’s responsibility. Visitor centers also need to be established to give visitors information. Governments need to follow closely the infrastructure to keep up roads, airports, rail lines, electricity and sanitation. Also they need to have security and enforcement, monitor impacts, and limit change if it is not in the best interest of the environment. Last of all the public sector needs to be involved in conflict resolution.

The African government needs to be extremely involved in the management of the natural environment to avoid negative impacts. With inadequate financial resources for management the results will be overuse, environmental damage and ultimately the loss of ecotourism’s potential. The African government needs tax-based budgets to fund resource management.

To have a totally successful system of ecotourism, Africa needs to work with the private sector to provide services and consumer products. These people will provide accommodation, food, transportation, media, guides, clothes, souvenirs, equipment and advertising. This group needs to respond to consumer demands and develop specialized products as needed. In Africa, a poorer country, private operators provide information, but they rely on the public sector for resource protection, infrastructure and security. Likewise the public sector needs to rely on the private sector for handling day-to-day activities of the visitors in Africa. The ecotourism will be more organized and hopefully avoid the negative effects if these two groups work together. The private sector could also earn more money by printing guidebooks and having the safari vehicles both made in Africa to bring more money to the economy.(1)

The situation can be further improved by the public and private sectors working together to form data bases on Internet, along with information available in park publications and guidebooks. By providing this information, travelers will be well educated before arriving and Africa well have fewer chances of negative problems.


Africa has the potential to continue nature-based tourism growth, as people throughout the world are interested in seeing their natural environment. They are on the right track in protecting the wildlife and ecological resources. In game reserves they allow hunting and in national parks resource extraction in not allowed. They are looking at building tourist housing away from the large wildlife populations so the animals do not abandon their habitat. All of these attractions make South Africa and its national parks an ecotourism destination. They all preserve the natural artifacts such as the animals, and land structure in the region so visitors who appreciate these kinds of things can see the beautiful attractions.

Work Cited

1. Eagles, Paul F. (November 1997). “International Ecotourism Management: UsingAustralia and Africa as Case Studies.” Retrieved 4/12/02 from:

2. Moosa, Valli. (October 2001). ” Celebrating the hoisting of the World Summit on Sustainable Development.” Retrieved 4/13/02 from:

3. “Ecotourism in South Africa..” (nd). Retrieved 4/10/02 from:

4.”Tourism.” (nd). Retrieved 4/15/02 from:

5. Cadogan, G., Take an interest in conservation. Financial Times Weekend 1995, 27-28 May,III.

6. World Book Encyclopedia Vol. 18 World Book, Inc. Chicago Copyright 1988.

7. Http://

8. Http://

9. Mass Tourism vs. Ecotourism., Research Notes and Reports. Maryam M. Khan, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University , USA.1996.

10. Boo, E (1992) Wildlands and Human needs. WHN Technical Paper, Washington DC: WWF and USAID.

11. Http://

12. As well as articles marked in brackets throughout paper.