With its wealth of national parks and exceptionally unique biodiversity, ecotourism in Madagascar is a relatively easy thing to source. An ecotourism holiday in Madagascar has typically involved immersion in the country's flora and fauna, but has been criticised for falling short in regards to sustainability. While Africa's biggest island nation has experienced a boom in ecotourism, its development of sustainable tourism products and initiatives have been much slower to emerge. It has only been since the government, NGOs, and the private sector have become increasingly concerned with the establishment of sustainable ecotourism, that the industry has received the structure and plan necessary to make those goals a reality.
Tourism Master Plan
Madagascar's Tourism Master Plan, developed in 2003, contains a sincere concern over sustainable development, and at its core, examines tourism's role in the larger scheme. Madagascar's ecotourism industry, according to the TMP, is an integral part of success in the island nation, but must be reformed so that its products and structures are fundamentally sustainable.
Further, the TMP focuses on poverty reduction through tourism (also known as Pro-Poor Tourism), the protection and conservation of socio-cultural heritage and environmental resources, the sustainable development of local communities, the sustainable development of local infrastructure, and job creation for locals. These key goals are standard in any developing nation's approach to implementing sustainable tourism development, and are critical for the future success of ecotourism in Madagascar, a country with extensive, and potentially vulnerable, natural and socio-cultural treasures.
Locally Conscious Ecotourism Tour Operators
Go To Madagascar, a group of tourism operators and actors in tourism development from throughout Madagascar, is also dedicated to 'tourisme durable', or sustainable tourism. They state that since Madagascar's environmental assets are vulnerable, and the socio-cultural integrity must be maintained, many independent hoteliers have already implemented a number of initiatives to benefit the locals. Many hotel operators hire local staff, purchase their food and building products locally, and focus on the preservation of the local environment. Additionally, the hotels implore guests to follow and respect these three pillars of ecotourism.
Also co-managed by Go To Madagascar and Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa is the Fair Trade Madagascar project, designed to focus on ecotourism, promoting locally beneficial tourism, and preventing foreign economic leakage in Madagascar's ecotourism industry. Further to this, in 2008 the only eco-labelling initiative on the island, Green-Label Madagascar, certified four products in an effort to acknowledge those tourism entities who are making legitimate achievements in ecotourism, as well as reducing greenwashing efforts by those making false claims at being eco-friendly. These initiatives demonstrate just how highly Madagascar prioritises integrity in its ecotourism industry.
If you are seeking a responsible, community-based, local experience of ecotourism in Madagascar, look into Lambahoany Ecotourism Centre. Located in Tamatave, the Lambahoany Ecotouriesm Centre actively follows the UNDP Millennium Development Goals, and works towards similar objectives to those established by the Madagascar Tourism Master Plan. Lambahoany's strategy includes the use of ecotourism as leverage for development, community improvement, and cultural and natural conservation and preservation.
The Lambahoany Ecotourism Centre welcomes tourists to the region, providing bungalows, and facilities with information on the parks and cultures of the region, lessons on sustainability and ecotourism in Madagascar, and introductions to the villages that work with the Lambahoany Ecotourism Centre.
Ecotourism in Madagascar
There is much to be learned about Madagascar through its ecotourism initiatives. This vast and unique island possesses much to be proud of, and thus much to protect and preserve. The commitment demonstrated by NGOs, private entities, government, and local operators is very much what is necessary to enhance and sustain ecotourism practices in Madagascar, and should be regarded as an example for similar nations throughout Africa and elsewhere in the world.
Photo Credit: mfavez