Graduate Project


Improving the environmental and social practices of coastal tourism operators Public Deposited

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  • From May 1999 through April 2000, I interned with the Alaska Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association (AWRTA), a non-profit organization that balances responsible tourism development with resource protection and community enhancement. I was assigned to a seven-member task force charged with evaluating the success of AWRTA's "Ecotourism Guidelines2" and was primarily involved with AWRTA's Guideline Assessment Project (commonly referred to as "AWRTA's GAP"). This project, still underway, attempts to facilitate AWRTA's pursuit of responsible tourism development by improving the environmental and social practices of AWRTA's tourism operators. Phase I assesses the overall performance of the guidelines using an environmental scanning exercise and Phase II focuses on developing mechanisms for improving guideline implementation and compliance. During Phase I, which was completed in the summer of 1999, my role was largely that of a research and technical assistant. Specifically, I assisted in: (1) reviewing the relevance and applicability of the guidelines, (2) assessing operator awareness of and compliance with the guidelines, (3) identifying and prioritizing necessary guideline improvements and (4) researching and recommending mechanisms for improving guideline compliance. Although preliminary tasks such as library research and phone interviews were performed at Oregon State University, I did spend 12 weeks working at AWRTA's home office in Anchorage. This time was spent reviewing sites and interviewing CRT operators and guides throughout the Kenai Peninsula. As for Phase II, I continued to provide the GAP task force with research and technical support from September 1999 to April 2000, at which point my role became primarily advisory. In October 1999, I briefed the AWRTA Board of Directors about the findings of Phase I and identified several issues (i.e. operator accountability, guide training, environmental education, etc.) for them to address at their 7th Annual "Ecotourism in Alaska" Conference. Although I was unable to attend this conference, I did assist the Conference Committee in developing three sessions and workshops directed at these issues. Since then, I have remained active in the theoretical discussion and development of programs and tools that enhance member compliance with AWRTA's "Ecotourism Guidelines". The remainder of this report will proceed as follows. Chapter 2 reviews the literature and provides insight into the concepts and issues underlying responsible tourism development. Chapter 3 presents a case study of the Alaska Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association. It outlines general organizational information, explains the mechanisms currently being examined by AWRTA and reports on the progress of the Guideline Assessment Project. Chapter 4 analyzes AWRTA's success by inspecting their proposed programs and tools in the context of various theoretical frameworks. Finally, Chapter 5 summarizes the information and speculates on the future success and transferability of the project. 7
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