Visitors’ perception when participating in a poorly planned ecotourism activity: the case of dolphin watching in Northeastern Brazil
Journal of Ecotourism
Dolphin watching, conservation, ecotourism, environmental education
The present study aimed at assessing the environmental perception of tourists about the impacts of an onboard excursion into nature, referred as an ecotourism activity. We interviewed 347 tourists after they attended a dolphin-watching activity at the Pipa Beach located within a protected area in Northeastern Brazil. We gathered socioeconomic information, such as gender, age, income, and schooling as well as tourists? perceptions about positive or negative impacts of the excursion, and the knowledge obtained. Of the total of interviewees, 47% identified the activity could bring negative impacts on the environment. This pattern reflects tourists? inability to detect the environmental impacts their practices can cause. Presumably, the lack of environmental education during the excursion in our study site helped maintaining a misleading perception. We strongly recommend an educational project that firstly aims at the boat owners and employees to inform them about the impacts of the excursion. Secondly, it seems of foremost importance the implementation of an educational program for tourists that attend the excursion in order to raise their environmental awareness and perception.