Concern about the environmental impacts of tourism has grown widely in the 1990s, corresponding with the rapid growth in the popularity of ecotourism (Ceballos-Lascurain, 1993). Various definitions and principles of ecotourism - including visitor, tour operator and host community guidelines - are described in this paper, with special emphasis on those applicable to mountainous regions in North America. Using a four-tiered, progressive ecotourism model (Ziffer, 1989), the operations of the Irwin Lodge (Colorado) are evaluated and ranked regarding environmental education (EE) and interpretation (EI), and energy use. This evaluation is based on extensive on-site data collection and analysis, and individual interviews with Irwin Lodge stakeholders (guests, employees, local community, management, and investors). EE findings indicate a need for expanded, environmental education and interpretation programs for guests and employees, based on stakeholder preferences and potential threats to the environment, and stricter recreational trail maintenance protocols. Energy findings show total annual costs for transportation, heat, and electricity services, 5% of which represent air pollution costs. Potential savings from energy conservation measures are discussed in detail, as well as a long-term cost-effectiveness analysis comparing the current system with a renewable alternative. The results of the environmental education, environmental interpretation and energy analyses are summarized in the Ziffer model as steps that the Lodge can take toward becoming an ecotourist destination. It is hoped that this research provides Irwin Lodge with concrete and useful recommendations for reducing its impact on the surrounding environment, and that similar tour operations can benefit from these results.
CSS Publication Number:
Speiser, T.A. and K.N. Wang. 1999. Ecotourism in North America Applied: Implications for the Irwin Lodge. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.