Much debate and confusion has surrounded the terms ‘nature based tourism’ and ‘ecotourism’. Ecotourism is often used interchangeably with other terms such as nature based tourism, sustainable tourism, green tourism, responsible tourism and soft tourism. While some elements of these different tourism types are similar, the terms are neither synonymous nor mutually exclusive.
On the other hand much attention has been paid to the question of what constitutes Eco-tourism. There are numerous concepts and definitions in exist. Ecotourism was first defined by Ceballos-Lascurain in 1987 . The term eco-tourism has been defined in Sri Lanka as responsible travel to natural and cultural areas that conserve the environment and improve the well-being of local communities.
The main objective of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is also highlights the conservation of biological diversity whilst the other objectives of the Convention talks about the sustainable use of its compo nents and fare and equitable share of the benefit sharing etc., at the same time the main components of eco tourism is also highlights contribution to conservation of biodiversity as its first component.
The CBD also talks about the Use, Study and Save concepts and it is implied based on the definition that the Eco tourism is the only tourism that involves all three components. Therefore, it is clear that the Eco-tourism has a direct link in conserving the Bio-diversity both in terms of theoretical and practical aspect.
This paper discusses the eco-tourism and the conservation of bio-diversity in Horton Plains National Park. About 432 visitors were interviewed in obtaining the view of the promotion of eco-tourism as a tool for the conservation and the importance of bio-diversity. 55% of the total surveyed visitors are mainly visiting the park with the purpose of nature tourism.
Horton Plains consists with different eco-systems through its uniqueness within the Park and this will be a rare experience and opportunity for eco-tourists. Unique status of biological diversity is an important ecological service of Horton Plains. Endemism and rareness of species of these resources add positive value to the biologi cal diversity of the National Park. However, roadside fires, unauthorized parking of vehicles, off-road driving and walking are factors that are highly contributing to the destruction of habitats. The forest die-back is another major problem and the preliminary studies indicated that 22 species of plants are affected by die-back .Over visitation contributes much towards the destruction of Park’s bio-diversity.
Although, one can visits different ecosystems through HNP’s uniqueness which will be a rare opportunity for eco-tourists it is important that the nature is conserved for the future. As any other natural resources, Horton Plains should also have its own carrying capacity that can sustain the uniqueness of its resources. Therefore, the conservation of bio-diversity must be given priority through the promotion of ecotourism to ensure the sustainability of the tourism in the park and also to conserve the bio-diversity instead of expanding the mass tourism in the park.
Nazeema, A.LS, Kotagama, S.W
Department of Zoology, University of Colombo