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Have we arrived yet?: Ecotourism Operators Managing Dilemmas in Sweden

The concern for the environment and social aspects have been highlighting in the concept of ecotourism. Tourism is a growing industry, where ecotourism is one of the fastest growing components in tourism today.

The increase of amount of travels and tourists in the world, has led to the acknowledgement of tourism as part of the emissions of greenhouse gases. Therefore, the framework of sustainable development in tourism has been developed as well as ecotourism.

This thesis is aiming to study the ecotourism operators’ management of facing dilemmas in the ecotourism industry in Sweden. Therefore, the study is contributing to new knowledge in the lack of research in the field. We have identified the knowledge gap which is from the frontline practitioner’s, ecotourism operator point of view on how to manage dilemmas in this strong sustainable industry, ecotourism.

We structure a literature review where we provide with broader definitions of the major concepts: tourism, sustainable development and ecotourism. Ecotourism is considered as possessing strong sustainability features. The literature review is focused mainly in Swedish context and literature supporting the business purpose of a small firm has been highlighted.

The theoretical framework is also presenting research done about the different aspects of sustainable development (economic, social and environment) with the context in ecotourism, which is also presenting the dilemmas that can occur among the perspectives. The theoretical framework ends with some suggestions on how tour operators balance the three perspectives, i.e. economic, social and environment.

The study takes form as a qualitative study with an exploratory approach. We are aiming at providing new information and knowledge in the field, which has been lacking in research in the Swedish context. By having telephone interviews with eight ecotourism operators across Sweden, we are aiming to gain heterogeneity in respondents’ selection and try to find out if there are any common thoughts and at the same time unique practices among the respondents.

Our main conclusions are answering the question on how the ecotourism operators manage the dilemmas in the ecotourism industry in Sweden. We acknowledge that ecotourism operators are expected to aim at strong sustainability which concerns on the environmental and social issues. This frames their way of operating the ecotourism business. The ecotourism operators manage dilemmas by communicating, educating, cooperating, marketing, raising price (or no raise), limiting number of tourists and by being professional.
Source: Umeå University
Author: Axheim, Kristina | Ng, Jessie Kit Wah

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