Will 2013 be the year of eco-tourism in Asia?By Graham Land Jan 15, 2013 6:14AM UTC
In the past I’ve used considerable column space hammering out just exactly what eco-tourism is and what it isn’t. Perhaps this could be reduced to the old good vs. evil argument, but that’s another can of worms that doesn’t need opening in this piece. Suffice to say, that if tourism has an ecological or human benefit that overshadows or at least counterbalances its harmful impacts in terms of culture and environment, then it can be genuinely referred to as eco-tourism, ethical, or perhaps even sustainable travel. But if it includes a human safari or a visit to a tiger farm then it isn’t ethical even if it’s billed as a “nature holiday trekking extravaganza”.
A new UN resolution, signed by 105 delegations, aims to support eco-tourism as a way of alleviating poverty while promoting sustainability. It is quoted by United Press International:
[Eco-tourism] creates significant opportunities for the conservation, protection and sustainable use of biodiversity and of natural areas by encouraging local and indigenous communities in host countries and tourists alike to preserve and respect the natural and cultural heritage.
Another fair definition.
It certainly seems that eco-tourism is a huge growth industry throughout the world, perhaps more than normal tourism. Personally I think the lines are still very blurry between the two, but at least there is a desire to do good and a growing consciousness as to what is potentially harmful or beneficial to the environment and local people of a given destination.
In Asia eco-tourism is taking off, not just in terms of countless new nature-centered or ethical activities in Asian countries, but also among Asian tourists traveling within Asia or further afield to destinations in Africa, Europe or the Americas.
At this year’s 32nd ASEAN Tourism Forum in Laos (not an eco-tourism conference) “sustainable” tourism features strongly. Read the ATF theme here.
Cambodia, which is experiencing a boom in tourism, estimates that it had 3.5 million international visitors in 2012. These growing numbers may be aided by the Cambodia’s “Green and Clean” slogan and an accompanying growth in eco-conscious resorts, but an expansion of direct flights into the country and simplified visa regulations are also being credited with the current and projected rise in tourism. Read more in TR Weekly.
And I couldn’t write about eco-tourism in Asia without including a bit about China, which is leaving no avenues unexplored, even when those avenues are made of water. Visitors to the Middle Kingdom will now be able to explore towns via boat, much like one does in a certain Italian city.
From PR Web:
The scenic three-day / two-night Ancient Water Towns of China trip offers travelers the chance to discover some of the most picturesque canal towns in Eastern China, packed with charming waterway networks that rival the famous Italian city of Venice. Travelers also have the chance to spend time with a bonsai specialist to learn the tricks of the unique art form, visit China’s largest eco forest and soak up the atmosphere in the quaint towns of Wuzhen, Suzhou, and Hangzhou.
I guess that could be forced in to the category of eco-travel, or at least the eco forest bit could. Plus there are trips to China’s “finest eco-tourism destination” – the bamboo forest of Anji County. Sounds like a nice little vacation.
For a bit of a twist see this piece from All Africa: