Ecotourism: The Blue Ocean Strategy

By April 24, 2012 Ocean Solutions

Last week Speak Up For Blue posted an article on how Ecotourism can help protect the Oceans for 2 reasons:

1) They have a vested interest in protecting the Ocean. No healthy Oceans…No TOURISTS!; and,

2) They actually have a passion for the Oceans.

SCUBA Diving EcotourismAs usual, Speak Up for Blue shared the post with over 40 groups on social media including Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and followers on Twitter to make people aware of Ecotourism and start a discussion on how we might help grow Ecotourism around the world.

The response was AWESOME! Many people, including Ecotourism operators responded voicing the advantages and disadvantages of the Ocean-Friendly business. Here are a couple of the resulting statements:

“Great video, I always pick my holiday spots according to how good their ocean/sea appears to be. I also look out for environmentally friendly companies when it comes to scuba diving.” from Karen Hall, Sea Sheppard Conservation Society Group (LinkedIn)

“Always consider the 3 Es, Environment, Education and Entrepreneurial development” from Rick Morris, Ocean Revival Group (LinkedIn)

“I agree with you that the tourism industry has a vested interesting in the health of the ocean but there is fierce competition within the tourism industry both internationally and in most cases locally. This often results in competition based on price which then leaves little money left over for environmental protection. With my survey I found that almost 90% of divers consider the diving they did good or very good even though most marine environments including those where most of these divers had been are seriously degraded. This indicates that currently the economic argument for the tourism industry to invest more in ocean management and protection is very weak.” from Bastiaan Vermonden, founder of, in Linked Scuba Divers (LinkedIn).

There were many others that professed there “Likes” for Ecotourism; however, there were many comments that were similar to the comment above speaking about the dangers of too many ecotourism operators doing the same thing.

Ecotourism Competition

SCUBA Diving Ecotourism CompetitionFor example, one person sent me a private message describing the huge number of diving operators along a coastline all competing for the same SCUBA Diving clients. The SCUBA divers are taken to the same diving locations, which eventually get degraded because of the number of people that visit the site. Eventually, the sites are destroyed and divers want to go to a new pristine site because they travelled a fair distance to visit beautiful reefs. The operators are forced to bring their divers to a new, pristine Ocean environment, which will eventually get degraded because boats will drop anchor on the bottom of the Ocean destroying corals and inexperienced and careless (some, not all) divers will touch/knock over the wildlife (a big no no) eventually destroy it forcing the operators to move to another dive site. This happens because of competition of the same operators offering the same services to their customers in the same place. It’s a negative feedback loop that happens in many places around the world within and beyond the SCUBA Diving industry.

The Blue Ocean Strategy

Okay, this first strategy may not qualify as the Blue Ocean Strategy, but be patient as the next point below will.

1) Designate Marine Protected Areas (MPA) to Manage Ecotourism (and other things) – The best solution (although not the easiest!) is to create a management strategy that offers dive operators permits to dive in specific areas within a particular piece of coastline. The strategy usually involves the designation of MPAs, which take a long time to designate and requires strict enforcement for the MPAs to succeed; and,

2) The Blue Ocean Strategy – The interesting thing about this strategy is that it doesn’t really have any direct link to Blue Oceans. The Blue Ocean Strategy is more of a business strategy to help businesses to differentiate themselves from competitors. For instance keeping with the diving example: A dive operator can differentiate herself/himself from other dive operators by offering excursions such as Ocean education dives or Ocean clean-up dives for those die hard SCUBA divers who want to protect the Oceans (and believe you me, there are many of them found in the Tank Bangers Group on Facebook).

The main point is ecotourism operators need to be innovative in there business approach so they don’t have to get into a war with similar operators to make a living. Many tourists will pay to do something different and as other businesses have proven, customers are willing to pay more for something not offered anywhere else.

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Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Andrew, I applaud your thinking about and raising this subject about how competition in the ecotourism market is degrading the very resources it relies on.

    First let me disclose I have a vested interest in Blue Ocean Strategy because I am the MD of BOS Australia. But let’s see if I can help progress the discussion.

    It is an interesting proposal to suggest that if ecotourism operators were better at differentiating their services that this would lead to more profitable businesses and hence more investment I ocean protection.

    But I fear that there would be some further perverse behaviour. It would potentially encourage more specialised operators, more tourists, more and more degradation.

    I think BLue Ocean Strategy can be used here, but it needs to be used in the context of the entire ecotourism economic ecology, not simply on a dive shop by dive shop basis. There needs to be an overall marine park Blue Ocean Strategy which local operators are encourage and/or legislated to contribute to the development of, and ultimate rollout, support and refinement over time.

    For example, this is a perfect example of where a regulate oligopoly or even monopoly is justified in some marine parks ie. for only a sustainable number (both economically and environmentally) of operators to be licensed to operate under regulated conditions.

    Space doesnt allow me to do this justice but in Blue Ocean Strategy style this would require bringing industry participants together to determine precisely what we are aiming to eliminate (eg. Environmental degradation), reduce (eg. Unsustainable competition), raise (environmental protections dn repair), create (collaboration throughout the industry).

    Blue Ocean Strategy can certainly be used to develop a sustainable solution, but I think in this case it will require more than individual operators and in fact a larger pool of collaborators.

    I will post your piece in a Blue Ocean Strategy LinkedIn group and see what others can come up with.

  • Andrew Lewin says:

    Thanks for the comment Andrew! It is really great to have someone from Blue Ocean Strategy comment on this post.

    I do agree that there is not enough space to fully describe how Blue Ocean Strategy can help Ecotourism while protecting the Oceans.

    I look forward to hearing how the Blue Ocean Strategy LinkedIn Groups will comment on this subject matter.

  • Hi Andrew,

    Can you fix the name of my website in the article? Its not

    Thank you

  • admin says:

    Oops, sorry about that…it’s now fixed.

  • Ben says:

    Very good discussion,
    All people need the ocean life to survive.
    Many potential strategies combined?
    Here are a few in particular ~
    Tourism to view and cleanup trash.
    Global collaborative solution discussion.
    Fundraising regarding ecosystem remediation.

    Sincere appreciation for your ideas Lewin!

    Ben H, Vancouver BC

  • Stephney says:

    I appreciate the work of you all guys. You all do a great job.

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