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A thesis of the University of Granada compares the possibilities of ecotourism in Cabo de Gata Coast and Bañados del Este (Uruguay)

A trip responsible with the environment to enjoy, appreciate and study nature at the time as promotes its preservation with a low environmental and cultural impact. This could be a definition of ecotourism, a practice that attracts more and more people, interested in giving their leisure time a different dimension, distant from the concept of massive tourism so frequent in coast areas.

It is about walking in the country, rambling, observing the fauna and flora typical of the place, en an activity that includes local population, who usually play a constructive function and are not kept out the management. To observe how this practice is developing, Inmaculada Puertas chose Cabo de Gata, in Almeria, and Bañados del Este, in Uruguay. They are two distant spots but with similar features, which have been recognized by the UN as Biosphere Reserves.

Under the supervision of professor Margarita Latiesa, of the Department of Sociology of the University of Granada, has observed the coincidences and differences in ecotourism management and, above all, in the way tourists enjoy it. Their profile is similar in both cases. The number of men and women is practically the same, with an average age of about 37 years old, with high academic education and incomes superior to the average.

According to random surveys distributed in both places, these persons usually travel accompanied by “friends”. In the case of the persons interviewed in Almeria, they opted to the same extent for travelling with their “partner”. The final assessment of the activity is usually very positive because “a large majority, independently of the place, would recommend their relatives and friends to visit these reserves”, explains Puertas.

Economic strength

As for the involvement of local population, there is a higher involvement of social agents in the case of Rocha, in Uruguay. They show a higher interest in visitors and try to help them, as they are aware of that ecotourism is a powerful contribution for the economic boom of the area. Legal protection is different too. Whereas in Cabo de Gata it is well defined, in the Bañados del Este there is certain confusion. Recently, a law on wild areas has appeared, but it does not solve all the problems.

The period chosen by eco-tourists to enjoy nature is spring, from October to December in Uruguay. Tourism offer is very heterogeneous. Material resources and infrastructures are quite different, and they are better in Spain. However, the basis is the same. The natural characteristics are very similar, with coast areas, sierra and pools. And landscape pollution too. In Almeria and Rocha you can see “forbidden constructions that destroy the landscape. In Cabo de Gata there are many greenhouses and in Uruguay there are buildings in the beach, some of which have already been demolished”, says Puertas.

Further information: Inmaculada Puertas. Department of Sociology.
Phone number: 636 45 12 74.