ECOTOURISM ASSESSMENT: APPLYING THE PRINCIPLES OF ECOTOURISM TO PADDLE-BASED RECREATION IN ST. LAWRENCE ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK AND ENVIRONS
McLaughlin, Juliene Melissa
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This study explores the concept of ecotourism in terms of Honey’s (2008) seven principles of ecotourism (involves travel to natural destinations, minimizes impacts, builds environmental awareness, provides direct financial benefits to conservation, provides financial benefits and empowerment for local people, respects local culture, and supports human rights and democratic movements) and their application to the paddling industry of St. Lawrence Islands National Park (SLINP) and environs. SLINP and environs is located within the Thousand Islands Region of Eastern Ontario, and for the purpose of this research, includes all of the land and waterways along the St. Lawrence River extending as far as Jones Creek in the northeast to, but not including, Howe Island just southwest of Gananoque. The market and demand for paddle-based recreation in SLINP and environs is examined to determine if ecotourism is a feasible alternative to conventional tourism. Subsequently, Honey’s (2008) principles of ecotourism are applied to explore the role of paddle-based recreation within an ecotourism framework of the defined region. Specific recommendations were developed to better comply with these principles. General recommendations concerning the universal applicability of the principles were also prepared and included considerations for quality control measures and established tourism destinations. Ecotourism has traditionally been viewed as a panacea concept for developing countries to stimulate the economy, as well as, directly provide support for conservation efforts. This research instead examines the concept of ecotourism for a relatively sustainable, single activity within an established tourism destination of a developed country. If the recommendations are correctly implemented, the long term implications could include a reshaping of, first, the regional tourism industry and then, potentially the tourism industry at large, by encouraging a more holistic approach to tourism.