Nature-based tourism and sustainability in the Beaufort-Delta Region, Northwest Territories, an analysis of stakeholder perspectives

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Dressler, Wolfram H.
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The purpose of this study was to provide a comprehensive review of the social, economic and environmental impacts of nature-based tourism within the communities of Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk and Aklavik, Beaufort-Delta Region, NWT. The specific goals of the study were: (1) to voice institutional, Inuvialuit, visitor and tour operator perspectives regarding present and desired conditions related to nature-based tourism; (2) to identify and assess any discrepancies between present and desired conditions; and (3) to assess existing tourism guidelines and suggest new guidelines and sustainable nature-based tourism planning objectives. The study was based on a structured questionnaire with nature-based tourists (N = 171), and formal interviews with Inuvialuit elders (N = 30), institutional representatives (N = 23) and local tour operators (N = 22), respectively. Participant observation was used at whaling camps. The field research component dealt with how each stakeholder's function interfaces with local cultural and economic goals and environmental integrity. The results revealed that community stakeholders, and in particular, Inuvialuit elders and tour operators, thought that the economic potential of nature-based tourism was high, and consequently support for it was also high. Inuvialuit elders and institutional representatives argued that nature-based tourism has served as a valuable vehicle to help break down cultural barriers, revive culture, and support subsistence activities. Despite such optimism, discrepancies do exist between the desired and existing conditions of the nature based tourism industry. Issues include: (1) the potential misinterpretation, commoditization and interference of beluga hunting and other cultural activities by tourists; (2) the disturbance of terrestrial animals and waterfowl and trampling of tundra vegetation by tourists and tour operators; and (3) the inequitable distribution of economic benefits of nature-based tourism.