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33-34 | Avril-Août 2016
Tourisme et ressources naturelles

Tourism and Natural Resources
Turismo y recursos naturales
Edited by Bruno SARRASIN, Olivier DEHOORNE and Dominique AUGIER
L'îlet Long (côte atlantique, Martinique)
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Credits : O. Dehoorne, 2011

This edition of Revue Etudes Caribéennes focuses on the links that unite and oppose tourism and natural resources, specifically in southern countries. In a context of increased media coverage of issues related to biodiversity (including threats to it), tourism – particularly ecotourism – is often presented as a mean to reconcile conservation and development. Local authorities, despite the existence of a specific environmental regulatory framework, often have insufficient resources (human, material, financial) to manage the increase of visits to protected areas, and the potential impact of these visits on natural and human environments. In response to this problem, international financial institutions and associated organizations offer to try to find a balance between mass attendance and low volume attendance in order to develop "high quality tourism" in southern countries. Even if this were possible, what criteria can be used to "stop" the development of a tourist site or region for environmental reasons? The “natural” geographic evolution of tourism – in other words, essentially based on the development of nature tourism and accessibility of these resources – already causes huge political and economic problems. Governments (central, regional or local) are hardly able to arbitrate over the long term in a context that would allow finding a balance between tourism development and preservation of natural areas.

The relationship between tourism and natural resources often revolves around two specific objectives: to develop a product with less impact, but at  high cost and a target volume of visitors that contributes to economic profits, but that causes the least ecological / social degradation possible. This position epitomizes both the complexity and the many paradoxes of nature tourism development. Social interactions and the expansion of private appropriation of natural and agricultural areas highlight the challenges of managing common resources and their sustainability, especially in the southern countries. In this context, development objectives, natural resources and the strategies of key stakeholders are difficult to reconcile, and the relationship between leading actors do not always correspond with these objectives.

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