Although carrying capacity is a widely reference concept, as we discussed in the previous section, In fact, many people find it is difficult to apply, and difficult to use particularly in urban areas where there are large number of tourists, and so face with the problems is associated with carrying capacity, its originators come up with other ideas. One of the most important of these is limits of acceptable change. This recognizes that as soon as tourists visit area, then the area would change in varies ways. So, the question has to be asked what changes are acceptable, and what changes are unacceptable. The answers to that question would depend very much on the goals and objectives that are set for the area of concerned.
But the question that follows, who decides what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. And we can go back to earlier ideas that we discussed about scientific studies, about the changes and impacts occur, as well as the views of perhaps local people as judged through perception studies.
So, changing from carrying capacity to limits of acceptable change could potentially be away of changing the important decision makers from scientists and top-down approaches to the role of local people and bottom-up approaches. It depends on what system we are working in, and whose ideas and opinions should have priority. Regardless of carrying capacity or limits of acceptable change, tourism destinations and sites have to been managed. And there are many things that can be done besides focusing on the numbers of visitors as is implied by the notion of carrying capacity. We can manage the physical site itself, for example, by hardening the site so that it can accommodate large number of visitors.
In Canada, for example, whether there is small population and vast of open areas, there is tendency to leave paths relatively natural, perhaps putting down woodchips, or certainly not making the mini concrete or barriers In China, on the other hand, there is a tendency to put concrete pebbles down, so that a large number of people can use the sites. We may want fertilize water or replace sites and reintroduce species that have been lost. We can develop new facilities or relocate old ones, there are many options for what we can do to manipulate the site. I can only provide a few examples.
But in addition to changing the site itself, we can also modify human behavior, directly requiring visitors to do different things, to pay for example for a mission, or be much stricter about the enforcement activities, what is allowed, what is not allowed in a particular site. We can zone uses by saying that certain activities are occurred in this location but not in that location. We can restrict activities, so you say you can’t use mechanized activities here, you can’t drive your car in this area, and in these ways, we can restrict the amount of use in a particular area, very directly by requiring that visitors comply with regulations.
Also, there are many indirect ways of changing visitor use, providing with information about where to go, what to do, what to see, we influence their behavior. Interpretation, telling stories, so they understand the importance of features in the areas their visiting can change their behavior. We can set eligibility requirements, requiring people to have particular skills before they are allowed to do particular activities such as climbing a rock or requiring to buy a license before they go fishing or hunting. This is just a brief list of some of the things that managers might do. There are very long lists in the literature which need to be consulted for a much wider range in management strategies.
The importance I want to emphasize is it’s more than manipulating numbers of visitors but a wide variety of management strategies can be drawn upon. Another set of ideas which has received attention is the recreation opportunity spectrum, which is more defined to become the tourism opportunity spectrum. The idea here is rather than focusing on a particular site. One considers the whole series of sites, so a certain place is highly developed, and other places are highly protected. So, there is a whole range of intensities of use and degrees of naturalness through our various tourism components.
And so, the recreation opportunity spectrum, looks as settings, physical, social, managerial situation in particular places, so there is much more management emphasis in urban areas than there is in wilderness areas or nature reserves. The activities that are allowed, so for instance, you obviously can get a car in urban areas but you may ban cars in nature areas. The kinds of experience that are provided and visitors seek from very highly managed, congested experiences in cities through to less closely managed and less crowded and more natural experiences in remote areas.
So, the recreation opportunity spectrum looks multiple sites at the same time, an accommodation of settings or environments, the activities that are allowed, and the experiences that are provided, and appropriate to specific levels of management all of the same time.
In the classic formulation of this, sites were marked according to primitive with very few facilities, low numbers of visitors, through semi-primitive non-motorized, through semi-primitive motorized, through roaded natural areas, right of way through urban areas which are highly crowded with moto cars or other vehicles and highly managed. These ideas have been extended from recreation into tourism, and people of worked on a spectrum of experience for ecotourism by itself. For example, where I live in Ontario Canada, a provincial park system has individual parks classified as natural, wildness, or recreation, depending upon the range of facilities that are provided and experiences that are sought.
Throughout the world, also in particular parks, there is often zoning of core areas and buffer zones to recognize the kind of activities can or cannot be undertaken within these places. These ideas then recognize that activities, and management, and experiences, and impacts all are related. And can be categorized purposely varied from place to place, because visitors want different experiences, some visitors want a quiet, others want more stimulating experiences, but even the same individual probably wants very different experiences at different times in their life or at different times even within a single holiday.