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Impacts of Ecotourism: A Case study of Pulau Ubin Island, Singapore

Info: 5263 words (21 pages) Dissertation
Published: 5th Jan 2022

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Tagged: Environmental StudiesTourism



Many developing countries frequently use ecotourism as an excellent tool for promoting sustainable development. In many instance, ecotourism is suitable way to protect natural environment and create socio and economic benefit for the local community. What David Weaver says that interest in ecotourism is rationalized among tourism planners and marketers by number of potential assumption regarding sector’s environmental, economic and socio cultural benefits (Weaver 1999). There are some ecotourism projects that support to the local community. On the other hand, many ecotourism projects have failed to address some fundamental issues and don’t generate the very benefits that are expected to provide by ecotourism. Economic gain of ecotourism may turn into social and environmental damages when inadequately planned and implemented it. Anyhow, ecotourism has continued to gain popularity over the two decades and has developed into worldwide phenomena that show no signs of slowing down. The fact is that ecotourism is one of the rapid growing sectors in the tourism industry (Sharpley 2003). The demand for ecotourism is increasing at an annual rate of 10 to 30 percent (TIES 2000). In this circumstance, it is important to recognize possible physical environment, socio-cultural and economic impacts and its effectiveness as a strategy for sustainable development.

Problem statement

There are lot of negative impact on the environment and local community due to unsustainable planning and management of ecotourism (Honey 1999). In rural areas, managing and controlling the development of ecotourism may be somewhat complex because of lack of experiences on the subject of the carrying capacity of the host destination. Therefore, it is necessary to have an assessment of potential physical environmental, socio-cultural, and economic impact of ecotourism for the planning of sustainable ecotourism development in an area. Further Analyzing the potential of ecotourism as a strategy for sustainable development of a particular area is important to carry on development activities in future. In that way, Pulau Ubin doesn’t experience rapid urbanization like other parts of Singapore. Still it has its own nature and unspoiled environment. But, Singapore government implements several ecotourism development projects on this small island right now. Those projects are so much problematic and controversial. There are strong voices regarding environmental protection of the Island. Thus, indentifying potential impacts of ecotourism and its compatibility for sustainable development must be studied in Pulau Ubin Island Singapore.

Justification of the study

According to available literature, ecotourism is growing rapidly in Singapore (Herbig). At the same time, one of the problems regarding ecotourism is that it is developed without satisfying knowledge of the impacts on local environments. It is a rather new type of tourism and yet there are few clear papers written in this field particularly about Pulau Ubin. Therefore, it is better studying about potential physical environmental, economic and socio-cultural impact of ecotourism and its compatibility for sustainable development in Pulau Ubin Island Singapore. Therefore this research attempts to fulfill these objectives as much as possible.

Objectives of the research and research question

Objectives of this research are:

  • To assess possible physical environmental, economic and socio-cultural impacts of ecotourism
  • To investigate the potential of ecotourism as a strategy for local sustainable development.

The following research questions will be used to address the purposes of the research:

  • What kind of impacts are on the physical environment, economic and socio-cultural due to development of ecotourism?
  • What sort of factors should be taken into account before introducing ecotourism in the Pulau Ubin Island?
  • How ecotourism can be utilized as a tool for local sustainable development

Study Area

Pulau ubin is the second the largest, first one is Pulau Tekong, offshore island of Singapore. It is located in the strait of johor just opposite to Changi. Pulau Ubin has been described as being boomerang shaped. Pulau Ubin is about 8 Km length and 1.3 to 1.7 Km breadth with the area of 10.3 Km2. It is almost flat land. The highest point is Puaka hill. It is around 74m height from sea level. Pulau Sekudu or Frog Island (opposite Chek Jawa), and Pulau Ketam (opposite Ubin Lagoon Resort) are the two major offshore islets which are very near to the Pulau Ubin. There are several rivers which are meandering through Pulau Ubin in which Sungei Besar and Sungei Mamam are the main rivers.

Pulau Ubin is made up mostly of granite. This controls the much of the activities of the island. Especially the name Pulau Ubin arises from this crucial geological structure. Pulau Ubin doesn’t experience rapid urbanization and industrialization like main land of Singapore. Still it has its own traditional way of living. Most of the people inhabit with the scattered settlement model. Major portion of the population around two third is Chinese and rest is Indians and malays. Major activities of income are subsistence farming, commercial fishing and net-cage fisheries, prawn farming, coconut plantations and so on. This small island is very popular for leisure and recreation activities among local and international tourist. (http://www.wildsingapore.com/ubin/places/geography.htm).

Figure 01 Map of the Study Area


Research design

Research design helps researcher to decide research approach. That is to say, either qualitative or quantitative or the combination of both. Further, research design put a basic for analyzing the collected data. This will lead the researcher to think of time availability, practical problems and so on (Kitchin and Tate 2000). There are no specific rules and regulations as to how to develop research design. When Kitchin and Tate (2000) point out regarding research design, it is very difficult to give a guideline as to how to design a research. Most of the time, research design is the outcome of the knowledge and imagination of the researcher (Kitchin and Tate 2000). This means, research design comes from researcher’s own view and judgment.

Selection of the research methods will vary according to the nature of the research. Besides, a research method depends on the research problem, research question and experiences of researcher. Accordingly, I adopt qualitative methods in this research to perform well. A literature review will be done to get more information regarding this study. In fact, Secondary data will be used as a supportive data to the primary data. In this research, qualitative methods will be used as key method to get information since this is going to deal with environmental, Economic and socio cultural impact of the ecotourism. Most part of the research may deal with community based activities.

Justification of the methodology

The qualitative method that I choose in my research is based on the nature of the study. This research partially deals with social aspect. Therefore, qualitative method is considered more suitable to assess possible physical environmental, economic and socio-cultural impacts of ecotourism. Crang (2002) points out that “Qualitative approaches have enabled the study of, and emphasized the importance of, seeing economic activity as a set of lived practices, assumptions and codes of behavior”.

Further, Qualitative method is used to understand the lived experience and to reflect on it and sharing the meaning of everyday social world and realities (Limb and Dwyer 2001). In addition, qualitative method is used to collect about the activities, behavior and problems that the people face in their daily context.

Further, qualitative methodology is considered as good to study about the diverse view of the stakeholders in the ecotourism since it involves with many different stakeholders’ interest. When we are more stick on the multiple meaning, representation then qualitative methodology is useful one (Limb and Dwyer 2001). Further, qualitative methods will help me to make sure the date that I am going to obtain from different interview in the field.

In fact, qualitative methods have its unique features as I mentioned above. But there are certain limitations in the qualitative methods. For instance, sometimes it may be bias. That is to say, there is possibility to have researcher’s influence in the finding of the research. When many researchers use qualitative methods in their research, theme may be same, but interpretation of the same theme will be in different point of view according to researcher’s background. When Kvale (1996) points out regarding researcher’s bias, he says that, there is lack of objectivity in the qualitative research. Objectivity means here is freedom from being bias. There is another critique about qualitative methods that, information for the research use to collect from very small amount of respondents. Therefore it will not represent whole population or the society.

Data Types, Sources and Collection

This research will be contained both primary and secondary data. Most of the researches and other articles which are related to the study will be reviewed as secondary data. For instance, previous research about the Pulau Ubin Island. Basically, both primary and secondary data will be used to prove the objective of the research. Secondary data will be functioned as more supportive data to the primary data.

Methodology of research

Methodologically, this study will be carried out in three phases.

Phase I concerns the literature reviews. This will be accomplished through searching literature on tourism and ecotourism to discover the possible impacts of ecotourism on visited destinations. The literature review covers books, articles, and website data which will be systematically assessed to identify the three major areas of economic, socio-cultural, and physical environmental impacts on eco-tourist destinations and ecotourism as a strategy for local sustainable development. Primary factors of above mentioned areas will be identified that influence of ecotourism developments and their impacts on the local levels.

Phase II applies the factors elaborated upon in Phase I to assess the Pulau Ubin Island. This will be done by using the data that I am going to collect in Pulau Ubin Island during the summer of 2008. The data collection will include observations, interviews with elected officials and some governmental and private business entities, tourists (if possible both international and national tourist) and some secondary data sources.

Phase III these data will be assessed according to the identified factors for two purposes: first, to assess possible physical environment, Economic and Socio-cultural impacts of ecotourism in Pulau Ubin Island; second, to look into the potential of ecotourism as a strategy for local sustainable development.

Sample selection

Respondents will be selected by using snowball sampling methods to address the research question and objective of the study. Snowball sampling methods will help the researcher understanding of the problem and research question. For example, key informants will be selected based on their professional status to get more and more relevant information. Tourists will be selected randomly including local tourist. This will diminish some kind of inconveniences to the researcher.

Primary data will be collected through around 30 semi-structured interviews that will conduct with 30 people from June 15th to August 15th 2008. These interviews include: 14 villagers, 3 owners of restaurant, 2 employees of the restaurant, 4 employees from companies that are working in the study area, a person from central environmental authority of Singapore, a person from Ministry of Environment of Singapore and 5 tourists (both international and local). Therefore a total of 30 interviews will be conducted and analyzed as part of this research.

Semi-structured Key informant and individual interviews

In this research, primary and data will be gathered by using semi structure interview and direct observation. Semi structured interviews will be used to collect data from both individual and key informants. Semi structured interviews acts as an effective tool for collecting basic information stakeholders regarding ecotourism. “Qualitative methods are methodologically appealing because they allow a wide range of experiences to be documented, voices to be heard, representations to be made and interpretations to be extracted. Open ended qualitative interviews are, after all, the obvious way of allowing people to speak for themselves about their own view and experiences of the world” (Limb and Dwyer 2001).

When we have interviews it generates lots of information very quickly. So it helps researchers to handle lot of topics of the research at a time. Sometimes, qualitative interview helps us to clarify the problems raised by the interviewer. Always interviews are really good for studying peoples’ understanding of meaning, describing their experiences, clarifying their own perspective on their day to day live (Kvale 1996).

There are certain critiques on the in-depth and semi structured interviews. That is to say, in-depth and semi structured interviews are very much dependent on the skill of the interviewer. This means, amount of the expected data is based on the expression of the interviewer and how interviewer interacts with informant. In many instance, interview may divert into another direction due to the skill of argument or interest of the informant and sometime there is chance to mislead the interviewer by the key informant (Mikkelsen 2005). This is also one of the disadvantages of having interviews. In the in-depth interviews, it is very difficult to keep important question from omitting that can address our research objectives. Always researcher has to be very careful on the topic and related question when he conducts interviews. Good interviews require expertise – in both subject matter and interaction (Kvale 1996). In addition, flexibility of researcher in sequences and words of the interview may affect the result of the informant namely there may be different answers from the different perspective (Mikkelsen 2005). All interviews in this research will be carried out with take into account all of these strength and weakness of the interview. Interview guides are formulated to conduct these interviews (see appendix 01).

Participant Observation

Other than interviews, participant observation will also be engaged. Participant observation activities contain living with a family in the community, working with them and spending time to understand their activities, behaviors and so on (Laurier 2003). In that way there are possibilities to attain in tourism activities, and meetings of local residents in Puau Ubin Singapore. Participant observation will be used to harmonize and support the interview process in three ways; first, it yields insights that assist in the formulation of questions for interviews. Second, it makes easy relationships with local residents. Finally, participant observation offers the opportunity to confirm or question the information gained through interviews. When Smith (2001) points out “there are lots of thing that can only be obtained through participant observation”. Participant observation and interviews are not separate activities, but mutually informative methods. When Kitchin and Tate (2000) point out that direct observation is an inductive method to obtain fruitful information. It is important to note, however, that in this research the interviews are the primary source of data, while participant observation plays a supporting role.

Data analysis

Data of this research will be analyzed according to the theoretical frame work and objective and research questions of this research. The collected data in this study will also be analyzed according to the theoretical framework of the research. The collected date from interviews will be transcribed and coded into theme in relation to the concept, theory and interviewees’ response and researcher’s observations. In addition, secondary data will be analyzed by using text analysis. Use of the secondary date will help us to get more understanding of ground situation of the field.

Validity and reliability

In qualitative research, validity and reliability are two most important factors that should be taken into account when designing, analyzing and evaluating quality of the research. Conclusion of the qualitative research should be very strong and natural to accept it without further doubt or confusion (Kitchin and Tate 2000). There should not be bias in order to get validity and reliability in qualitative research. Validity in qualitative research is a tool to make sure the logical order, foundation, and soundness of the research (Kitchin and Tate 2000). Validity depends on the nature of the theme that we investigated in the field (Kvale 1996). Normally, validity in qualitative research means that true and certain of findings. It can be motioned in anther way that validity measures the truthful of how far reached its intended objectives. Researcher uses series of question to maximize the validity of the research. Each question should be justified in relation to the objectives and research questions of the research to establish validity. Most of the time, validity interlink with empirical knowledge of the subject and area of the research.

Reliability is some sort of trustworthiness of the research and findings. Validity and reliability are the two side of a coin because there is no reliability without validity. Presentation of validity will be good enough to reliability later. Patton (2002) says that ability and skill of the researcher in a qualitative research will have major influence on the validity and reliability. In addition reliability will depend on the respondent’s answer. Form instance, some informant will be reluctant to answer for some sort of question and sometimes they give sort of wrong or biased information. Therefore this will reduce the level of reliability of the study.

I have planned to use a combination of qualitative methods to minimize the risk of bias. I will use both semi structured and direct observation to collect primary data. It helps me to crosscheck the data that I am going to collect in the field. I will keep my position as research student and try my best to convince my respondents. And also I will follow the ethical concept of conducting research. Further, snowball sampling method that I am going to use in this research will help me to get more correct or useful informant. This will increase validity and reliability of this research. Besides, there may be some kind of short comes in the date collection and interpretation. It is extremely not easy to avoid some unexpected incidents in the field. I as a researcher will try my best to keep validity and reliability of this research.


Since Ecotourism and sustainable development is a broad topic, it is difficult to include all aspects. Therefore this research has been limited to identifying potential environmental, social and economical impacts of ecotourism and also, analyzing the potential of ecotourism as a strategy for local sustainable development.

The study area has been limited to an Island to have in-depth study.

Field work period is limited to two months.

Researcher (me) may face some kind of language barrier in the field. Most of them speak Chinese. But there are people who speak either Tamil or English. Therefore, I hope that I would be able to manage it.

Since the study area is very new for the researcher, it may consume few days to get familiar with the area and people.


Crang, M. (2002) Qualitative methods: the new orthodoxy? Progress in Human Geography 26, 5 pp. 647-655.

Honey, M. (1999). Ecotourism and Sustainable Development: Who Owns Paradise? Washington, D.C.: Island Press.

Kitchin, R. and Tate, N. J. (2000). Conducting Research in Human Geography: Theory, Methodology and Practice, Pearson Education Limited, Essex.

Kvale, S. (1996). Interviews: An Introduction to Qualitative Research Interviewing, Sage Publications, Lund.

Legends of Ubin [Online] // Wildsingapore web site. – 2003. – 03 15, 2008. – http://www.wildsingapore.com/ubin/places/geography.htm.

Limb, M. and Dwyer, C. (2001). Qualitative Methodologies for Geographers: Issues and Debates. Oxford University Press, New York.

Mikkelsen, B, (2005). Methods for Development Work and Research: A new guide for practitioners, SAGA Publications, New Delhi.

Patton, M.Q. (2002). Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods (3rd ed.), Sage Publication, London.

Paul Herbig, P( ?) CULTURE Influlences ON ECOTOURISM PARTICIPATION Marketing and the Environment Lecture Series Lecture 4: available at www.herbigandsons.com/lecture/Ecotourism.doc reviewed on 2008/04/21.

Sharpley, R. (2003). Tourism: Tourists & Society, ELM publication,Cambridgeshire.

Smith, V. L., and Eadington, W. R. (ed) (1992). Tourism Alternatives: Potentials and Problems in the Development of Tourism, New York, John Wiley.

The International Ecotourism Society, (2000) Ecotourism Statistical Fact Sheet, Journal of Travel Research. Available at http://www.ecotourism.org/WebModules/WebMember/MemberApplication/onlineLib/MemberApplication/onlineLib/Uploaded/Ecotourism%20Factsheet%202000.pdf reviewed on 2008/04/21.

Weaver, D. B. (1999). Magnitude of Ecotourism in Costa Rica and Kenya, Annals of Tourism Research, 26(4), 792-816.


Appendix I

Interview guide

Individual Interview guide 01

Individual questions

  • Your occupation?
  • Your age?
  • How long you are living in this area?
  • What kind of economic benefits you gain from ecotourism in this island?
  • What is your experience with ecotourism?
  • Are you working in the tourism industry in this island?
  • What economic activities are undertaken by your family members?
  • What is your average income per month?
  • How does ecotourism support you to improve standard of living?
  • What is your perception on ecotourism in this island?

General questions

  • Is there any impact in this island due to ecotourism?
  • Is there unemployment problem in this island?
  • Could you observe any impacts on local employment in this island after set up ecotourism?
  • How do the economic benefits from ecotourism support the services to the island?
  • Most villagers are involved in which aspects of ecotourism?
  • How do the villagers utilize their natural resources to support tourism?
  • What are the local attitudes about sustainable ecotourism?
  • What does the island still need to support sustainable ecotourism?
  • How has the villagers’ quality of life been influenced by the advent of tourism?
  • What are the negative impacts caused by tourism on the island?

Key informant Interview guide 02

Individual questions

  • When was these hotels established here?
  • Why did you decide to establish ecotourism here?
  • What is your experience with ecotourism?
  • Have you observed any conflict related to community conservation?
  • Do you think local people benefit from Ecotourism? How?

General questions

  • Who is the management authority?
  • What is the source of funding for management of these hotels?
  • What are the potential tourist attractions here?
  • Where do visitors come from? International or local?
  • What are the good and bad things about Ecotourism on the Pulau Ubin Island?
  • Who is in charge of Ecotourism activities on the Pulau Ubin Island?
  • What are the benefits and challenges about running ecotourism in this area?
  • Does ecotourism contribute to the economic development on the Pulau Ubin Island?
  • Does ecotourism contribute to conservation in the area? And How?
  • What are the opportunities and constrains on livelihood or job in this area?
  • What kind of challenges and opportunities are there in offering good services to the tourists?
  • What types of outside influences are there in the ecotourism development? For instance political influence or public opinion on environment?

Interview guide 03

For administrative officers

  • What are the general objectives towards tourism?
  • What are the specific objectives towards ecotourism development?
  • What strategy (or policy) exists for ecotourism development in the Island?
  • What legal documents exist to regulate tourism/ecotourism activities in the Island?
  • What are the specific rules and regulations in these documents for tourism and ecotourism activities?
  • What monitoring mechanisms have been put in place to monitor ecotourism development?
  • What benefits have been realized in terms of ecotourism revenue (e.g. employment, conservation, services, other) for community development?
  • What measures have been put in place to ensure that the local heritage is not threatened by the development of ecotourism in the area?
  • Who are the major stakeholders involved in the management of the ecotourism in Pulau Ubin Island?
  • What challenges have been faced with regard to ecotourism development in Pulau Ubin Island?
  • What are the major constraints that inhibit ecotourism development in Pulau Ubin Island?
  • What opportunities exist for ecotourism development in Pulau Ubin Island?
  • What future plans exist for ecotourism development in this area?

Interview guide for Tourist

  • What are your motivations for visiting to this island?
  • What did you like most during your stay on this island?
  • What did you dislike about the stay here?
  • What kind of gifts, souvenirs and services would you like to have available?
  • What are you expectations from the trips to the island?
  • Which elements of sustainable ecotourism do you believe the Island best meets?
  • How did you travel to the area?
  • What is your length of stay in this island?
  • Number of people in your travel party to the island?
  • How did you learn about the island ecotourism?
  • Where are you from?
  • What is your occupation?
  • Who much money you are going to spend during your stay here?
  • Age?
  • Do you think you will travel to this island again?
  • Do you have any other suggestion and comments of your visit?
  • What do you think about ecotourism on the island?
  • What are good things and bad things about ecotourism on the Pulau Ubin Island?

Appendix II

Work plan of report writing



May 2008













June 2009


Proposal preparation




Field work






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