Welcome to our blog, which features a new topic every month, with different experts sharing their opinions and knowledge in these original articles.
*Please note that the views presented in these articles are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of the Pacific Asia Travel Association
ฺby JJ Harvey, International Coordinator, Green Fins
It is not often that people associate the SCUBA diving industry or snorkelers with being a potential leader when it comes to fighting climate change or other marine conservation aspects in today’s climate. However, due to initiatives such as Green Fins, more and more diving and snorkelling businesses are becoming the new weapon in the fight to ensure the sustainability of one of the world’s fastest and increasingly popular activities in what is now the world’s fastest growing industry – tourism.
Green Fins is paving the way to unite politics and marine conservation efforts to ensure the sustainability of popular diving destinations around the world. Established through a partnership between the United Nations Environment Programme and The Reef-World Foundation, Green Fins uses a unique and proven three-pronged approach; green certifications of dive centres, strengthening regulations, and environmental education for dive staff, divers and governments. Over 400 dive and snorkel operators across six countries have signed up for free membership, and are using Green Fins as a platform to set examples of sustainable business operations. Participating members are awarded a unique certificate based on annual assessments that is co-signed by the national government, the United Nations, and The Reef-World Foundation.
The need for leadership in the travel and tourism industry has never been more critical. As a society and industry, we are grappling with large scale global and regional challenges – climate change, over-crowding at tourism sites and the resulting strain on infrastructure and social and economic inequality in many destinations – that require a new type of leadership from truly progressive entities.
Most governments appear unwilling or unable to lead, especially National Tourism Organisations (NTOs) needing to follow agendas dictated by national governments. Civil society, while highly engaged on sustainability issues, typically does not have the scale or infrastructure to deliver the required change. And multilateral associations, including the UNWTO, seem to be beholden to the political whims of national members.
by Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts, Sri Lanka
At Cinnamon, Inspired Living means that everyone starting from our guests to our neighbours and every stakeholder of the Cinnamon offering is encouraged to live life to the fullest, be inspired by vibrant experiences and awakened to the potential of sustainable living.
While Sri Lanka gets worldwide attention drawn to its natural world, responsible tourists flock to experience Sri Lanka’s jewels in the wild thus, it is imperative to develop a sustainable model to showcase our stewardship towards environment and conservation for which we bagged the title ‘Best Wildlife and Marine Tourism Service Provider’ at the PATA InSPIRE Awards 2015. As one of the leading hospitality chains in Sri Lanka, Cinnamon is honoured to showcase Sri Lanka’s natural world as a sustainable tourism product.
On the other hand, we are strongly committed to the seamless integration of sustainability throughout our value chain. Our approach is based on the triple bottom line of economic, environmental and social performance, and we conduct our operations in a manner that intersects advantageously with people and environments.
In the given context, we have taken a two-pronged approach in promoting sustainable tourism; on one hand, as an experience provider, highlighting iconic species such as Leopard, Elephant, Whale, Primates, Birding and dedicated photography tours to collectively promote the island’s natural diversity. As the other core purpose, we engage in conservation and awareness initiatives that help protect and sustain natural environments and uplift livelihoods in geographical areas we operate in.
by Johanna Meissner, Sustainability & Social Responsibility Associate, PATA
The one thing I have always known I wanted to do in my life is to travel. The thought of experiencing what life is like in other places of the world has always motivated my wanderlust, so you could say it was only natural that I would end up pursuing a career in the tourism industry.
I was hoping that, by studying tourism management I could live out my passion of travelling and experiencing other cultures and places, meeting people from all over the world.
I found that responsible tourism is very well suited to cater to this exact way of travelling and I know I am not the only one seeking these kinds of experiences.
by Mario Hardy, CEO, PATA
“Dear Mother Nature. I’m writing to apologise on behalf of humanity and those who have contributed to your poor health. I condemn those who have done it consciously and I hope that they have started their journey towards redemption. For those committing such deeds unconsciously, and making you ill purely out of ignorance, I hope I can make a small contribution by sharing my knowledge and make them aware of how they are affecting you.
I don’t know if it’s because of the position I currently occupy or if whether it is because I have simply become more aware of my environment but in the past several months of travel I have started to notice and pay more attention to my surroundings and the poor condition of some of our tourism destinations.
by Boboi Costas, Community Organiser, Bojo Aloguinsan Ecotourism Association (BAETAS); Founder, Grassroots Travel
There they were, debating deep into the night whether to buy that old village house, or not. On a night like this, the discussion sometimes turns into a lively argument, punctuated by the sound of nocturnal bird calls. A flash of lightning occasionally illuminates the mangrove canopy, followed by a distant roll of thunder on the horizon. It’s the beginning of monsoon. Finally, a decision was reached: they have to acquire that house, or it will fall into the hands of antique dealers in the city.
In 2009 I arrived in the river village of Bojo, Aloguinsan in the central Philippine island of Cebu. Its waterway snaked through a thin deforested mangrove forest, its water almost dark with algae and scum from the water buffalos the locals used to bring down into the river to bathe after a day’s toil in the farms, and from the waste dumped into the water. The river, fed by almost a hundred springs was an oasis where the whole community turned up to wash their clothes especially on weekends. Fishing devices for catching fries littered the water. It was dirty.
But it seemed the locals had the best of both worlds from farming and fishing. While waiting for the harvest season which happens twice a year, the men would venture out daily to the sea to fish (sometimes with dynamite) for a living. The women took care of the kids and wove grasses into mats to augment the family’s income. It seemed like all was well with the world.