Ecotourism and marine protected areas: Case Study of perceptions of tourism operators in Nova Scotia
As “Canada’s Ocean Playground” Nova Scotia relies on a healthy ocean to support its economy and citizens’ livelihoods. As part of the economic development strategy, the province is seeking to significantly increase its tourism industry from $2 billion CAD to $4 billion CAD by 2024. Because much of the province’s tourism products is nature-based an increase in tourism will result in more pressure being put on coastal and marine ecosystems. With the government of Canada recently announcing the protection of 13.8 per cent of its ocean, the creation of marine protected areas (MPAs) may provide the opportunity for growth in ecotourism. As stakeholders, the view of tourism operators regarding marine protected areas and ecotourism are important to understand because they conduct their business in coastal areas that could become MPAs in the future. A case study method was used to describe tourism businesses perceptions of ecotourism and MPAs. Perceptions were derived from interviews with five tourism operators. Each case provided unique insights to the potential opportunities and concerns related to MPA designation in Nova Scotia. Although there are concerns about restricting regulations and the need for proper management and planning, ecotourism in MPAs provide a unique opportunity to advance conservation objectives and support the local economy of communities simultaneously through using MPAs may be a useful marketing tool for ecotourism leading to increased employment, cultural exchange, and environmental education.