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159    Does Absence of Charismatic Species Impact the Ecotourism Potential of Central Mediterranean Islands?

           anguzzi, Scuderi & Pasta, 2006) which also contribute  The emphasis made on flora as a way to overcome the
           to the ecotourism potential of such islands. The situ-  limited presence of large terrestrial charismatic fauna
           ation has been aggravated by some conservation meas-  comes as no surprise. In fact, the Mediterranean Re-
           ures such as stopping hunting on such species (Gippoliti  gion is considered to be unique due to richness in species
           & Amori, 2004).                                    and the high rate of endemicity found in vascular plants
             One should keep in mind that various specialised eco-  (Gippoliti & Amori, 2006). In the Maltese Islands, over
           tourism excursions to observe specific species including  2000 species of terrestrial plants have been recorded to
           microfauna have also been reported in literature (Har-  date (Schembri, 2003). Furthermore, the archipelago
           vey Lemelin, 2007; Wollenberg et al., 2011). Further-  also supports a number of strictly endemic species (in-
           more, studies have shown that tourists with a high zo-  cluding 23 plant species) and other species (including
           ological interest are willing to pay higher prices for spe-  some 20 species) which are sub-endemic to the Maltese
           cialised biodiversity high-quality tours (Wollenberg et  and circum-Sicilian islands (Lanfranco et al., 2013). In
           al., 2011) thus sustaining conservation initiatives of such  addition, one finds charismatic plant species which tend
           species too. This is thus an opportunity which is be-  to garner attention including the 12 species of orchids,
           ing overlooked and underestimated. For instance, the  some being rare whilst others being endemic (Cutajar
           Maltese archipelago hosts 10 micro-bat species (Baron,  et al., 2017). In the case of the Aegadian Islands Maret-
           2007) which have not garnered attention for ecotour-  timo hosts no less than 500 plant species (Gianguzzi et
           ism purposes. This could possibly be due to a failure  al., 2006) and some nine endemic plant species can also
           to engage knowledgeable ecoguides who can offer inter-  be found in the archipelago (Pasta & La Mantia, 2013).
           pretation in the field. This also explained the emphasis  Flora on the Pelagian islands is considered of exceptional
           made of botanical trips which led to some ecotourists  interest and includes 21 strictly endemic plants (Pasta,
           expressing some disappointment on the lack of atten-  La Mantia & R¨uhl, 2012; Pasta & La Mantia, 2013).
           tion given to marine environments even if these have in-  Pantelleria is characterized by abundant plant species
           teresting attractions such as ma¨erl beds and rare coral  richness (approximately 600 species), with the presence
           reefs (Margottini, 2011). In this regard, one should note  of six endemic plant species (Gianguzzi, 1999; Gian-
           that interpretation is a fundamental element of ecotour-  guzzi, Cusimano, Cuttanaro & Romano, 2013; Pasta
           ism (Weaver & Lawton, 2007). Meanwhile, whereas in  & La Mantia, 2013).
           the islands under Italian jurisdiction the possibility of  The approach of seeking other ecotourism targets bey-
           ecoguides specialising in nature-based excursions exist,  ond large terrestrial charismatic species is also bene-
           no such provisions are allowed under Maltese Law. As  ficial to overcome seasonality experienced in the area
           a result, operators need to engage not only an official  of study especially on smaller islands. Butler (1994)
           tourist guide holding a license by the national author-  distinguished between natural and institutionalised sea-
           ity but also an expert in the field making operations  sonality. In the case of natural seasonality, which is
           unfeasible.                                        influenced by climate, this can be easily overcome in
             In the case of the Maltese Islands national species  the area of study, as the climate of the islands makes
           have been designated on the basis of a number of cri-  such seasonality less pronounced allowing several out-
           teria including that species are charismatic and serve as  door activities to be held throughout the entire year.
           a symbol to raise environment awareness thus serving as  Furthermore, the peak of certain activities such as bird
           flagship species. These include the blue rock thrush as  watching and flower gazing do not fall in the traditional
           the national bird, the Mediterranean Killifish as the na-  tourism season while the season of the ecotourism activ-
           tional fish, the Maltese freshwater crab as the national  ity such as dolphin watching extends well beyond the
           invertebrate, the Maltese rock-centaury as the national  tourism season. In the case of institutionalised season-
           plant and the Sandarac Gum tree as the national tree  ality which originates due to lifestyle such as work and
           (DOI, 2018). This implies that even if charismatic mega-  education commitments one should keep in mind that
           fauna are lacking, the possibility of applying the concept  ecotourism tends to attract older tourists, whose holi-
           of flagship species in the area of study is still possible.  days are not tied by work or school holidays (Garrod
             The identification of endemic species including smal-  & Wilson, 2004). This implies that diversification of
           ler non-mammals as charismatic species also reflects  ecotourism opportunities is crucial to ensure that such
           findings of other research in the field. It has been found  islands can also target this segment of tourists off-season
           that endemism, which is relatively high on islands and  and mitigate seasonality.
           archipelagos, can play a vital role to influence visitors  On several islands in the area of study Sand, Sun
           to contribute financially for conservation purposes and  and Sea (3S) tourism and coastal-based tourism are
           for ecotourism purposes (Verissimo et al., 2009).  the predominant form of tourism. This has also led to
                                                              a scenario whereby extensive parts of the coast have

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