Document Type

Honors Project - Open Access


The rapid development of ecotourism in Asia encourages new strategies to simultaneously attract tourists and preserve natural environments in formerly isolated and underdeveloped regions. Since the introduction of China’s policy of an open economy in 1978, China has recognized the opportunity to promote tourism in order to foster economic development. Compared to China’s coastal cities, the inland provinces contain few industrial cities and transportation infrastructure. For economic development, inland provinces have taken advantage of their natural areas and ethnic minorities as a commodity to attract foreign and domestic tourists in their region. While the literature addressing ecotourism often focuses on the broad social and environmental outcomes of increasing tourist activity, few studies in China assess the changing environmental perceptions of longtime local residents. This paper examines the local residents’ changing perspectives of space within a Chinese ecotourism site, and uses the Lashi Lake Wetlands as a case study. The Lashi Lake Wetlands and the neighboring city, Lijiang – both located in Yunnan Province – receive millions of tourists annually, and the strong presence of tourism impacts the livelihoods of locals. This research utilizes interviews, mental maps and participant observations collected during two months of fieldworks during the summer 2014 and examines the discourses, practices, experiences, and scales of influence for local people living in the Lashi Lake Wetlands, focusing explicitly on the past decade and residents’ changing perceptions of place as their homeland becomes and ecotourism site. Local residents recognize the economic growth brought about by ecotourism, but show concern about the environmental degradation occurring in their homeland. The Lashi Lake Wetlands residents’ motive does not always align with the motives of other proponents of ecotourism, such as entrepreneurs, tourists, NGOs, and government organizations. Further collaborative effort between all players involved in ecotourism must be pursued in order to find a common goal.



© Copyright is owned by author of this document