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Tourism and Nature Conservation in Malaysian National Parks
Malaysia features some of the most spectacular national parks in the world. The parks - most are hotspots of biodiversity - have become a major attraction for foreign and increasingly domestic tourists. Nature tourism is at the same time a source of revenues and a threat to the environmental integrity of conservation areas. This study - based on the theory of structuration and using a triangulation of methods - analyses (eco)tourism in Malaysian national parks from different angles by asking different groups of tourists and experts about their opinions, experiences and needs. In order to learn more about the often neglected group of domestic tourists a large survey was conducted in Kuala Lumpur. The needs of foreign individual and group travellers were analysed with a questionnaire in Gunung Mulu National Park. And experts of conservation and tourism (i.e. scientists, park managers, tour operators, exponents of NGOs) were asked to assess the state and potential of ecotourism in Malaysian national parks.
Results show that the increasing heterogeneity and number of visitors and their different needs can put a strain on the environmental integrity of conservation areas. This study makes recommendations to mitigate such strains and to further sustainable tourism.