Ecotourism in New Zealand: A Catalyst for Sustainable Development
Chand, Niharika Namrata
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Since the 1980s, when ecotourism had emerged, a paradigm shift has occurred from mass tourism towards ecotourism. This shift indicates an increase in travellers’ decision making based on environmental awareness and an inclination to travel to destinations which are rich in nature. New Zealand prides itself upon its nature-rich and sustainable environment and, in the tourism context, the brand image portrayed in international marketing is founded on being clean, green, and pure. Nonetheless, the concept of sustainable development can be more coherent amongst ecotourism operators. To understand how operators implement sustainable development practices in the ecotourism sector, this research analyses and critiques the relationship between sustainable development and ecotourism in New Zealand primarily from the tourist perspective. This is based on a website analysis and social media reviews of six ecotourism operators in New Zealand. These operators are based in the regions of Auckland, Rotorua, and the Bay of Islands. This study is pursued through an in-depth review of the literature, a thematic analysis applied to the qualitative data used, in conjunction with relevant academic literature, to explore the underlying themes of the relationship. The concept of greenwashing is also discussed. The key findings highlight the positives and negatives of the respective ecotourism operators in New Zealand. From the visitors’ experiences, it is evident that the ecotourism sector can become a catalyst for sustainable development in New Zealand.