This past semester, I traveled abroad and spent four months in Townsville, Australia. During my semester abroad, I was able to develop a unique insight on the process and components of ecotourism in the city of Cairns, Australia. Cairns is a major tourist destination located in tropical North Queensland. Being an environmental studies major, I have taken numerous classes aimed at understanding the role that tourism has on the environment, both negatively and positively. Ecotourism is defined as tourism directed toward exotic, often threatened, natural environments, especially to support conservation efforts and observe wildlife. It is extremely important to focus on and develop this industry to continue efforts of conservation and preservation of the natural environment. Many of these areas are becoming threatened due human presence and interference. Australia’s natural environment is a source of attraction for international and local travelers. Ecotourism is a major sector of the broader tourism industry that is growing in size, due to the popularity of these beautiful and exotic natural settings. Ecotourism is a major economic generator that provides sustainable employment opportunities that focus on developing local pride and positive social outcomes.
Cairns is home to the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest, two natural wonders of the world. I wanted to explore firsthand how ecotourism shapes, influences, and develops a unique culture within the community surrounding it these natural areas.
I have a special interest in conservation efforts that not only protect the natural environment, but that also enhance the overall social factors of specific areas. I think it is critical to understand and embrace moving forward dealing with serious threats to precious ecosystems. If our population will to grow and expand, there needs to be a serious effort to conserve the natural environment.
When I traveled to Cairns, I noticed a striking difference in the overall demeanor of the city compared to where I had been living in Townsville. The tourist attraction of the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest was a major reason for this difference. Part of my research was aimed at talking with local businesses to understand their position on ecotourism and how it affected their perception of Cairns. Many of these businesses were involved in targeting tourists and helping accommodate a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to see these exotic environments in ways they would never forget. The main purpose of organizing these trips were to help educate and reinforce the fragility of the ecosystems and reinforce the value they obtained. The people I spoke with discussed and emphasized how critical it was to organize trips for people who want to visit the area to ensure the impact was as small as possible.
It was an incredible and insightful experience being able to talk personally with the people who see the impacts of the tourism industry on a daily basis and how that affects the conservation efforts of the pristine environment.