Ecotour providers in the Kyushu region: the characteristics of Japanese ecotourism and its relationship with global warming
Ecotourism is a type of tourism that is popularly regarded as an environment- friendly activity. Thus, we tend to think that it has a positive relationship with climate change. However, in Western literature, many studies indicate that ecotourism is not environment-friendly in terms of climate change, and that it actually contributes to global warming substantially owing to the use of airplanes by tourists. In Japanese scholarship, there is no substantial research on this topic. This paper reports on a study in which three methods were used to evaluate the relationship between ecotourism and climate change in the Kyushu region of Japan: content analysis, a mail survey, and participant observation. The results indicate that it is a tenuous positive relationship but a varied negative relationship; that is, the impact depends on the type of ecotourism. The ecotour providers in Kyushu do not have explicit ideas on how ecotourism relates to global warming, and their actual contribution toward a low-carbon society is limited to activities such as consumption of locally produced foods, recycling lunch boxes, and using less fossil fuel during tours. Discussed is the existence of a positive but weak relationship and a variegated negative relationship in Japan together with the negative relationship emphasized in Western literature. The conclusions suggest that Japanese ecotourism’s emphasis on revitalization of local communities influenced the formation of a varied negative relationship to a certain degree.