The Future of Wildlife Tourism

This month we published Wildlife Tourism Futures edited by Giovanna Bertella. In this post the editor explains how the idea for the book came about.

It was during one of my walks in the forest that I started wondering how wildlife might coexist with tourism in the future. Having witnessed the boom of whale watching in the Arctic, I had serious concerns about the possibility for a bright future. Was I too pessimistic? I might have a tendency to be too critical. Sometimes worries overshadow possibilities. While I was captured by such thoughts, my dog’s attention was captured by something else. A stuffed whale! Such a strange coincidence finding a stuffed whale in the forest while thinking about whale watching. Probably a toy forgotten by a child. Still, could it be a sort of sign? Could the future of whale watching be in the forest? Could tomorrow’s whale watching be very different from today’s whale watching?

A few days after this episode, I was invited by Channel View to submit a proposal for a book about the futures on wildlife tourism. The proposal soon turned into an invitation to colleagues passionate about wildlife and tourism. This invitation included two requirements: contributors had to use critical thinking and imagination to develop future scenarios that covered various aspects of the future of wildlife tourism, such the experiential dimension of wildlife encounters, the educational and managerial aspects, and the ethical implications. 17 exceptionally engaged authors answered my invitation and, together, we started to work at the first draft of the book Wildlife Tourism Futures.

The book developed in a strange time, the COVID-19 crisis. Critically imagining the future of wildlife tourism while the world was in the middle of a pandemic derived from a zoonosis added an extra dimension to the project. Many times, I found myself wondering how close we should be to wildlife at all. Discussing challenges and future possibilities with the book chapter authors helped me to reflect deeper on what I wish and what I fear about how we approach wildlife.

Eventually, the book took the shape of a journey into Terra Incognita, the unknown land that symbolises our future. The book is now finished and we would like you to join this adventurous journey. The authors will be your guides and will show to you how the futures of wildlife tourism might be. Exploring alternative futures, you will find yourself questioning the present, pondering your beliefs, and evaluating the choices you have today in order to influence your and others’ tomorrow. Some of the futures you will visit are inhabited by caring tourists, professional and responsible operators, and include technological solutions to protect the wildlife and enable a sort of inter-species fellowship. Other futures are definitely dark, dominated by unsustainable practices that leave little or no space to wildlife. The book will not provide you with any definitive answer, suggesting that, ultimately, each of us, in our roles as students, practitioners, scholars and tourists, can contribute to build the future.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Tourism Ethics by David A. Fennell.

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