Madagascar presents researchers and policy makers with a classic conservation conundrum: how to protect biodiversity at the same time as delivering economic growth and creating alternative livelihoods that place less pressure on ecosystems and biological diversity. Since the 1980s, Madagascar has been a hotbed of conservation activity (see Chapter 7 by Kull). Efforts to protect Madagascar’s flora and fauna have centred primarily on the designation of protected areas (see Chapter 10 by Virah-Sawmy et al.). However, there has been a growing recognition amongst policy makers of the need to move beyond simple strategies of ‘fortress conservation’. Not only have protected areas often failed to stop impacts such as logging and forest clearance but the creation of protected areas has often imposed significant costs on rural households due to loss of access to natural resources (Ferraro, 2002). In an attempt to improve the performance of protected areas and reduce conflicts with rural households, conservation organizations and government ministries have experimented with a wide range of schemes to involve or create benefits for communities living around parks. Over the past ten years, policy has increasingly turned to nature tourism to try and solve the challenges of both biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation. In this chapter, I discuss the reasons why most forms of nature tourism in Madagascar have had a limited impact as tools for integrated conservation and development. I start by providing a brief overview of Madagascar’s tourism sector. Having set the scene, I use a political ecology approach to argue that tourism’s lack of success to date has been due to two main factors:
i) conflicting perceptions and priorities between different stakeholders; and ii) an uneven distribution of the costs and benefits of managing nature for tourism. As a result, expectations that tourism will deliver a ‘win-win’ solution are often overly ambitious. There are important questions about the power relations in such schemes, with nature tourism helping to reinforce the ‘top-down’ politics of forest management (see also Chapter 7 by Kull and Chapter 9 by Corson). I argue that, rather than seeking cure-all solutions, policy makers must be more willing to engage with alternative perceptions and priorities when it comes to natural resource management, and should be ready to accept trade-offs and compromise if nature tourism is to play a more effective role as a tool for conservation and development in Madagascar.