Tourism as a tool for communicating complex environmental issues : Applying the ecosystem services framework to nature-based tourism activities across Iceland

University essay from Södertörns högskola/Miljövetenskap

Abstract: Throughout the twenty-first century, the lowering cost and increased availability of travel options has resulted in virtually uninterrupted economic growth of the international tourism sector. While financially beneficial, the increased movement of people has also been shown to have a negative impact on the environment, leading to the growth of a more environmentally-friendly approach to travel called nature-based tourism. One country at the forefront of the nature-based tourism movement is Iceland, and while the sector has grown significantly in the country over the past decade, the way in which information concerning environmental issues is communicated to tourists has not been widely researched. Being the case, the aim of this study was to examine the extent to which environmental issues are communicated to the general public through the use of the ecosystem services framework. Four popular nature-based tourism activities were selected for analysis; a whale watching tour, a horse riding tour, a boat tour of a glacial lagoon and a spa experience in a geothermal hot spring. A literature review concerning how the ecosystem services framework related to each of these tours was carried out and findings were compared to observatory data gathered through participation in said tourism activities. Results showed that while scientific publications could be found for each tour/ecosystem service combination, information concerning environmental issues was not widely communicated to participants in the nature-based tourism activities using the ecosystem services framework.

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