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. . Ecotourism speaker lectures on Ecuador

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By Megan Parker
Staff Writer
Friday, November 10, 2000

Frank Hutchins, a researcher from the department of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, gave a talk entitled "Encounters in the Amazon: Ecotourists, Shamans, and the Search for Paradise" on Nov. 7 in Viking Theater.

Hutchins, originally from Kentucky, received a B.A. in political science from the University of Kentucky. After attaining his B.A., Hutchins joined the Peace Corps, which placed him in Ecuador for two years. Upon returning to the United States, Hutchins received his Master's Degree from the University of Kentucky and worked for a newspaper in West Virginia. He attended graduate school at the University of Wisconsin and wrote his dissertation on Ecuadorian ecotourism, which he will be defending next week.

An important factor Hutchins took into consideration during his research was the nature of Ecuador's tourism. He noted that the reasons behind, and impacts of, tourism are based heavily on the country itself. For example, tourists visting the Amazon rain forest and tourists Mall of America have very different reasons for visiting, and therefore leave different impact.

In Ecuador, several problems have arisen due to the high number of tourists. For example, tour operators based outside of Ecuador have exploited parts of the country and its inhabitants. Ecuador's residents feel increased pressure to cut down the rain forest and build cabins for tourists to stay in. Also, culturally insensitive tourists offend the country's citizens.

Problems also occur when the country receives its principal income from tourism rather than other industries. If tourism revenues were to run out, the country might turn to oil development and logging for its income.

However, some organizations in Ecuador are working to use the money generated by tourism for beneficial purposes. For example, an increasing amount of the revenues are being spent to improve education by paying teachers higher salaries and offering scholarships to children.

Hutchins also spoke about the push for the community to take an active role in tourism. "There are a lot of communities where the tour operator becomes parasitic on the community," he stated. Apparently, tour operators based outside the country retain the profits and employ Ecuadorian residents for only some of the available jobs. If local communities gain control of the industry, they will have rights to all the jobs and all the profits generated by them. They will also be able to prevent further destruction to the rainforest.

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