Ecotourism, a tool that links Impact Investing to Conservation on the Ground? Conceptualizing the Case of Ecotourism and Conservation in Lao PDR

University essay from Lunds universitet/Institutionen för kulturgeografi och ekonomisk geografi; Lunds universitet/LUMID International Master programme in applied International Development and Management

Abstract: Environmental and forest conservation have long been perceived as a constraint to economic growth and development. With a growing understanding of the benefits from ecosystem services for people, and benefits for conservation when managed by local people, synergies between conservation and development have become more prominent. This research paper analyses this link by looking at ecotourism as a tool to link development and biodiversity conservation in forest ecosystems. For ecotourism to be a successful tool that contributes to sustainable conservation, it is required to have a social and environmental impact, contribute to national economic growth and is linked to sources that provide sustainable finance. The case of Lao PDR’s ecotourism sector has been chosen to position ecotourism within these cornerstones and conceptualize an incorporation of the private sector and private investments. Specifically, a growing market for impact investing presents an important source of funding for starting and developing locally managed ecotourism enterprises that contribute to conservation. Intermediaries, such as impact investment rating organization can play a vital role to connect capital providers to small enterprises on the ground. Furthermore, decision- makers’ perceived relevance of private investments in conservation related enterprises can contribute to the sustainability of ecotourism and thus, also conservation.

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