Who benefits from nature tourism?
Using nature’s beauty as a tourist draw can boost conservation in China’s valued panda preserves, but it isn’t an automatic ticket out of poverty for the human inhabitants, a long-term study at MSU shows.
The hitch? Often those who benefit most from nature-based tourism endeavors are people who already have resources. The truly impoverished have a harder time breaking into the tourism business.
The study, published in PLoS One, looks at nearly a decade of burgeoning tourism in the Wolong Nature Reserve in southwestern China. Like many areas in the world, China is banking on tourism rather than farming to preserve fragile animal habitat while allowing people to thrive.
But until now, no one has taken a close look at the long-term economic implications for people.
Wei Liu, lead author and doctoral student in MSU’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, and his colleagues took advantage of the center’s 15-year history of work in Wolong to study the complex interactions of humans and nature.
Liu says China has a political structure that heavily favors social connections. The group studied the impact of having resources in Wolong. Already having money, being educated, and having relationships with governmental officials greatly increased a person’s chances of success in nature-based tourism.
Learn more about MSU’s nature tourism study.