Tourism is one of the world’s fastest growing industries and an important source of foreign exchange and employment for many developing countries. Since the mid 90’s we have heard of the term “Sustainable Tourism” and thought of it vaguely as something good for the planet and for the future of tourism but most of us do not really know what it is and its value.
Sustainable is Explainable. According to the World Tourism Organization (WTO), Sustainable Tourism is “satisfying current tourist and host community needs, while protecting and improving future opportunities.” Put simply, Sustainability is the capacity to endure. In ecology the word describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time with due consideration for carrying capacity. For humanity, it is the continuing maintenance of its well-being, as it depends on the natural resources’ benefits and its responsible use.
In the Philippines, the 7107 islands archipelago is blessed with a wealth of natural resources: verdant tropical forest and a stunning range of marine biodiversity, even declared in one region as a Natural World Heritage site. However through the years, ignorance, recklessness, lack of education or awareness, poverty, deforestation and destruction of marine eco systems has damaged some of the islands’ beauty and assets, the very same source that provide livelihood for millions of citizens. More so for its top beach attractions, where stakeholders and travelers alike are unaware of their responsibility to conserve and avoid damage to the places they develop or visit, now vulnerable and threatened, and worse in some, endangered. This is not withstanding the fact that global climate change has fast-tracked the destruction.
Peru, is a country made up of three vast and distinct geographical zones, the 2,414 kilometers of the Pacific coast, featuring deserts, fertile valleys, savannas and spectacular surf beaches, the majestic peaks of the Andes mountains dominated by
However, its environment faces serious issues such asdeforestation from illegal logging, air pollution in Lima, toxic waste of rivers and coastal waters from municipal and mining wastes in the Central Peruvian Andes region and erosion of its mountains. Its tourism still in its infancy stage caters to both internal and international market, however it already faces threats to its archeological sites, biodiversity and natural wonders due to massive tourism.
According to UNEP, Sustainable Tourism describes policies, practices and programs that take into account not only the expectations of tourists regarding responsible natural resource management (demand), but also the needs of communities that support or are affected by tourism projects and the environment (supply)2. Sustainable tourism thus aspires to be more energy efficient and more “climate sound” (e.g. by using renewable energy); consume less water; minimise waste; conserve biodiversity, cultural heritage and traditional values; support intercultural understanding and tolerance; and generate local income and integrate local communities with a view to improving livelihoods and reducing poverty.
Local cultures, values and traditions are affected adversely from the profusion of massive expansion without any regard for eco balance. One major loss is authenticity, a major pillar in the principle of sustainable tourism, which should maintain the geographical character of a place, its environment, heritage, aesthetics, culture and well-being of its residents.
Sustainable is Attainable. Sustainable tourism development requires the informed participation of all relevant stakeholders, as well as strong political leadership to ensure wide participation and consensus building,” according to WTO guidelines. To achieve Sustainable Tourism, all sectors have to follow a continuous process which requires constant monitoring of impacts and implement the necessary preventive and/or corrective measures at all times.
In summary Sustainable Tourism is:
- Making optimal use of environmental resources that form a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity
- Respecting the sociocultural authenticity of host communities, conserving their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values, and contributing to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance.
- Ensuring viable, long-term economic operations, providing equal socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders, including stable employment, income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities and contributing to poverty alleviation.
Sustainable tourism should not only satisfy the travelers’ needs of pleasure and relaxation but also ensure a meaningful experience that raises their awareness about preserving and conserving nature and culture while contributing to the local community as a lasting legacy.
The Coron Initiative, The Negros Initiative & The Boracay Initiative are Sustainable Tourism, Conservation and Social Responsibility frameworks being implemented in Coron, Negros Occidental & Boracay with institutional partners Zero Carbon Resorts, Green Hotels & Clean Blue. Sustainability Capacity Building and Training programs for communities, cities and destinations include Good Governance, Rio 21 Agenda-GreenEconomy, Waste Management/3Rs/MRF, Resilience, Disaster Prevention and Management. Educational programs can be customized for public and private stakeholders, LGUs, private businesses and the local community in general.
ZERO CARBON RESORTS is our joint project with GrAT for SMEs in the Tourism Industry to reduce carbon footprint by switching from use of fossil fuel to renewable energy sources especially solar energy and green technologies.
GREEN HOTELS ASIA PACIFIC is our network of the most reliable eco responsible hotels around the world to help the hotel industry embrace sustainability by integrating innovation and added value with environmental actions in a vibrant green global exchange of hoteliers, operators and responsible clients.
CLEAN BLUE ASIA is thenew industry standard for beach management and safety – ISO 13009 - CBIS standards.
References: UNEP, UN- WTO, National Geographic, Wikipedia. Photos credits: Al3 Photography for Coron, Palawan, Inkaterra for Peru