WHILE balancing economic development and environmental sustainability continues to be a challenge, tourism players should chart the way forward for ecotourism in South-east Asia, a salient theme that was raised during the ASEAN Tourism Conference (ATC) at ATF 2013.
“We have to take care of the goose that lays the golden eggs,” said Victor Wee, chairman, Tourism Malaysia, on sustainability and ecotourism. “Ecotourism is a two-way street – it requires the responsible, conscious and committed participation of all parties.”
Tour operators should take a proactive stance, urged Umberto Cadamuro, director of business and operations, Pacto Indonesia. “The key is to keep sustainability in mind when developing products. We would recommend incentive groups to have their CSR activities in South-east Asia. It is the responsibility of DMCs to suggest this to their clients.”
Jimmy Sim, business development manager, Dorison Travel Singapore, agreed: “Sustainable tourism enjoys a higher profile in the Western world but is still something very new in this region.”
“Hotels are the most polluting link in the tourism field. There are a lot of opportunities but it’s very frustrating as many hotel owners are just looking at dollars and cents,” said Anthony Wong, group managing director of Asian Overland Services Tours & Travel Malaysia and Frangipani Hotels & Resorts.
“General managers are often appointed for two years or so, therefore it’s up to owners to set the vision and goals for their properties.”
Since adopting green practices such as rainwater harvesting, composting and setting up a wetland at Frangipani Langkawi, the resort’s operating costs have declined by 20 per cent, Wong revealed.
Community-based tourism can be tapped to improve the well-being of the local community while raking in tourist dollars, keynote speakers pointed out. For example, PATA Foundation has partnered Canada’s Capilano University to launch homestay programmes in Vietnam’s Sapa, according to chairman – board of trustees, Mario Hardy.
Better policies and regulations should be drawn up, as ecotourism products are generally under-priced in the region, leading to high visitations and environmental degradation, Wee added.
Read more in the ATF Daily