Presentations from Responsible Tourism Clinics & Forum at ITB Asia 2012

On behalf of ITB Asia and the other co-organizers, Wild Asia would like to thank you for participating in the Responsible Tourism Clinics and Forum at ITB Asia 2012. We would also like to thank all our speakers who graciously spared their time to share their wealth of experience and knowledge with us. The outcome was overwhelming and we hope that 2013 will be bigger and better. Please contact rt@wildasia.org if you wish to be part of 2013′s Responsible Tourism events.

Below you will find the full set of presentations throughout the 3-day event. Let’s continue to “Learn, Be Inspired and Make a Difference!”

Responsible Tourism Clinics

Holistic Property Management by Andrew Johns, Sanctuary Resorts

Responsible Tourism Reporting by Raj Gyawali, Social Tours

Tourism as a Tool for Conservation by Raj Basu, HELP Tourism

Responsible Tourism Forum

Greening the Supply Chain to Increase Profit in Business by Professor Geoffrey Lipman, Greenearth Travel, ICTP

New Media as a Strategic Communication in Sustainable Tourism by Jens Thraenthart, Dragon Trail

The Mulberry Learning Center Story by Andaman Discoveries

In Southern Thailand, along the Andaman Coast in the province of Phang Nga, the majority of the local economy is comprised of fishing and tree farming.  Each year thousands of Burmese migrants come to the piers and fields of Kuraburi, Phang Nga, looking for work, bringing with them their families.  The children of these Burmese migrant workers are unable to access the Thai education system and their parents often have little or no education.  They do not have legal citizenship in Thailand, nor are they recognized as citizens of Burma.  Access to education is also difficult due to discrimination, the cost of enrollment and uniform fees, lack of transportation, language barriers, lower levels of education and fear of arrest and deportation.

“The children of these Burmese migrant workers are unable to access the Thai education system and their parents often have little or no education.”

Before the opening of the Burmese Learning Centre in 2005, by the Foundation for Education and Development (FED), there were no educational facilities that could be accessed by Burmese children in the Kuraburi area.  A small center was converted into a make shift school near the Kuraburi Pier, doing its best to provide education for children that normally would be denied this privilege.  Dedicated staff delivered lessons in Thai, Burmese and English and offered a wide range of subjects such as mathematics, geography, arts, music and sports. Doing their best to deliver interesting and engaging lessons in a challenging environment and with very limited resources, the staff conducted daily classes for up to one hundred students.

In 2009, Andaman Discoveries (AD), a community based tourism organization located in Kuraburi, Phang Nga became aware of the center’s need for volunteers.  Through their operations as a volunteering based tour provider, AD began to send interested travelers to volunteer at the center for weeks or months at a time.  Volunteers conduct lessons in English, helping the teachers to learn new methods of teaching a foreign language, to keep the students active and engaged.  The volunteers also introduce activities or special hobbies and interests and work with the children in a friendly and loving way.  This offers the children interaction with foreigners that they may never be able to have otherwise, and an opportunity to develop communication skills that could be beneficial in future employment.  Since the initial set up of the volunteering program, AD has sent over 35 volunteers to the school, to share with the children skills in art and crafts, music and English language.  Before the volunteer program was set up, children often sat in classes without a teacher, patiently waiting for their turn to be taught.  Unlike children in the west, the children sat quietly, in expectation, with often the older children taking lead and sharing some knowledge.  Since the collaboration there are teachers available for most months of the year, ensuring the children are learning and interacting with teachers and volunteer staff on a regular basis.  The children’s English skills are slowly improving, whereas their self-confidence and outlook on life has improved dramatically!  The volunteering program not only aims to teach children English, but also that opportunity is for everyone and the Burmese students grasp this with both hands.

In 2011 both AD and FED recognized a dire need for a new location for the learning center, as the conditions at the school by pier had degraded substantially.  During rainy season water would flood the classrooms, bringing water up to knee level of the children. Sewage and waste water running behind the school posed health hazards to the students and teachers.  These conditions made for an unsuitable learning environment and would cause cancellation of class for days at a time.

Andaman Discoveries began to use its extensive network to find sources of funding to help the learning center.  Through its working relationship with Planeterra, a non-profit subsidiary of the tour provider G-adventures, the two were able to secure funding from, Mulberry Marketing Communications, for the construction of a new school.  AD was also able to receive funding for the purchase of land from a private donor so the school could be moved from the pier to a nice field that was once a palm oil tree farm.  The new area and building would provide the perfect place for these children to receive a quality education.  In June of 2012, the construction was completed and the school was proud to be opened as the new Mulberry Learning Center.  The new building has capacity to provide education for up to two hundred students, offering classes according to the Burmese curriculum as well as lessons in Thai and English language.  A new playground offers the children a safe and healthy environment for play and exercise.  The completion of a small room for computers will be able to offer these children an opportunity to learn skills that are requirements for most employment in this technological time.  Future plans include an organic garden to provide healthy vegetables and fruits for the school.

Even with all of the accomplishments earned over the last year, the Mulberry Learning Center is still in need of additional funding to cover basic expenses like teachers’ salaries, a proper kitchen structure and lunch programs.  Andaman Discoveries continues to actively seek funding to assists this project for success in the future, so it can continue to provide a quality education and opportunity to this special community.

Sustainability Training for Tour Operators – October 2012 (Bangkok)

Following our recent partnership with Travelife, Wild Asia is proud to announce the 2-day ‘Sustainability for Tour Operators’ training course organized by Travelife this October in Bangkok. The free course is targeted at tour operators (company executives, contracting and marketing managers) and travel associations and tourism boards.

Dates: The training will be provided twice

  • 17th & 18th October (Wednesday & Thursday)
  • 24th & 25th October (Wednesday & Thursday)

Venue: Bangkok, Thailand (exact venue TBC)

After completion of the training, participants will be offered support in the use and implementation of the knowledge, methods and tools that have been acquired in the training. This support will be in the form of follow-up meetings and individual coaching sessions. The ultimate goal is to prepare travel operators for sustainability certification in order to increase your competitiveness in the global markets.

The training will be conducted by Chris Thompson and Naut Kausters, both leaders and practitioners in sustainable tourism with more than 20 and 15 years’ experience individually. The training is designed to be hands-on and interactive using a variety of learning techniques.

What will you learn?

At the end of this course you will be able to:

  • Understand the concept of sustainability in tourism
  • Recognize the key environmental, social and economic impacts of tourism
  • Understand the roles and responsibilities of tour operators (inbound/outbound)
  • Identify the types of actions tour operators can take in the field of transport, accommodation, excursions and customer communication
  • Identify quick wins for your own business and for your suppliers
  • Set realistic sustainability targets and identify methods of measuring success
  • Identify personal sustainability USP’s (Unique Selling Points)
  • Communicate sustainability achievements in an effective way to your clients
  • Use your sustainability achievements to create more business (marketing)

How to register?

Book early as training slots fill up quickly. To register, complete the registration form below and email to n.kusters@cbi.eu. You will receive a confirmation upon successful registration.

Choose from the two dates: 17th & 18th October (Wednesday & Thursday) OR 24th & 25th October (Wednesday & Thursday)

Cost: Free of charge. Sign up now!

Registration deadline: 30th September 2012.

Participants should have relevant experience in the tourism business and master the English language on professional level.

Stay in touch for the latest training updates and sign up for Wild Asia’s e-alerts.

Download the Agenda and Registration Form

[Download not found]

Supporting organisations

  • TEATA, Thai Eco and Adventure Tour operator Association
  • ATTA, Association of Thai Travel Agencies
  • ABTA, The British Travel Association
  • ANVR, The Dutch Association of Tour operators and Travel Agents
  • CBI, Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries
  • IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative
  • Travelife, Sustainability in Tourism
  • Wild Asia, Responsible Tourism Initiative

[message type="simple"]

Wild Asia & Travelife

For more than ten years Wild Asia has been working across Asia championing the benefits and potential of developing a tourism industry that benefits local places and people through their Responsible Tourism Initiative (RTI). Wild Asia’s RTI works with businesses to improve their social and environmental practices to meet and exceed global standards. By creating partnerships with businesses within the industry, they aim to inspire and create change to benefit our environment, wildlife, people and communities.

Travelife, developed in 2005, was set up to support an efficient and cost effective introduction of sustainability principles for the tourism industry. They offer industry-wide standards for sustainability management and certification and provide best practice guidance and support for tour operators implementing them through the provision of training, tools and references. Travelife, originally initiated in Europe, is already supported by more than 15 national travel associations who promote Travelife across their members.

The partnership with Travelife is a perfect marriage of values. Wild Asia will be the Asia based Travelife delivery partner, offering training and support to tour operators across the region. Tour operators will benefit greatly from having locally based expertise at hand.

Together, the sustainability partners will support tour operators achieve green accreditations, enhancing the tourism offer for customers and improve marketing for the region. Adopting responsible tourism principles through the Travelife training programme and management systems will not only improve participants’ corporate social responsibility profile, it will also provide significant cost saving opportunities, enhance relationships with staff and host communities, and open doors to new marketing avenues.

If you are a tour operator based or operating in South East Asia and are interested in beginning your journey towards sustainability, please contact Wild Asia to enquire more about joining the Travelife scheme. Contact rt@wildasia.org.

[/message]

   Wild Asia Logo 

Taman Negara: Sweating, Swimming and Sustainability

For many visitors to Peninsular Malaysia, Taman Negara (Pahang) is on the hot list, described by Rough Guides as “the most spectacular jungle scenery you’ll ever come across”. It’s easy to see why our largest national park is also our most popular with travellers from home and away.

But just how is the world’s oldest rainforest coping with high volumes of guests? Amy from Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Initiative (and writer of our Let’s Unravel Travel series) goes exploring through the national park to see what evidence there is of tourism related issues.

Tree-mendous Taman Negara?

It’s my first visit to Taman Negara and I’m very excited to see what nature the dense jungle has to offer. Travelling throughout Malaysia as a tourist, you are bombarded with imagery for Taman Negara’s adventure, its natural wonders and its greenery.

For those of you who have not yet visited, I’ll set the scene. Picture walking on a boulder strewn beach to a gurgling river, shadowed by an emerald jungle so tall and dense that at first it appears impenetrable. Tributaries of the chocolate coloured river meander through secret passages into the forest’s unknown, leading groups on boats of hollowed trees. Mysterious jungle sounds of exotic birds echo and the humidity and heat hit you like a wave. At first glance Taman Negara is everything it’s promised its leech-proof sock sporting guests it would be: a tropical paradise. Delve a little deeper and the scars of tourism begin to show.

My first disappointment is right at the entrance of this beautiful national park. It is swarming with jetskis and engine powered boats that buzz like mosquitoes. I doubt I’m alone in dreaming of a silent gliding canoe through the trees to reach the heart of the park. Yet the noise and commotion from what’s really populating the river has shattered me. Is this really necessary? Wouldn’t the visitor experience be enhanced if there was less river traffic?

Entering the park, however, I’m pleased to see some really positive initiatives. The onsite shop offers an inspiring scheme to reduce waste and litter, return your empty bottles and cans and get RM1 in return. The only in-park hotel has some really informative signs about Taman Negara’s visitor charter; what you should do and not do to look after this natural environment. Nature guides are advised to enhance your visit. Plant species are sometimes labeled, educating visitors about the rich biodiversity.

Yet…I can’t help but feel the negative experiences are outweighing the good work that’s clearly being done. I’m saddened to see extensive footpath erosion when efforts have been gone into building robust walkways (which are damaged and closed in places, forcing heavy booted tourists to trample on beaten earth or vegetation). I cringe at poorly maintained educational signs that are overgrown or covered with litter. I shudder at a traffic jam of chugging boats that dodge boys (yes, not buoys!) in a designated family swimming area. And I lose sleep over the unethical promotion and delivery of village safaris to Orang Asli (aboriginal) settlements.

Luckily, I’m not alone in these concerns. In 2010 the Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management from the Universiti Teknologi MARA Shah Alam, performed a research project on the sustainability and visitor impacts within the national park. Their findings revealed that visitors themselves are disappointed with overcrowding, litter and soil erosion. Worryingly, these visitors also believe “that the environmental conditions are likely to worsen in the future if the management does not take immediate action”. (Othman, Anwar and Kian, 2010)

So what happens now?

Wild Asia is currently working on a consultancy project to identify strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in some of Malaysia’s most important and breathtaking nature based tourism destinations. We’re on the lookout for things that need improving in some of our best natural assets and developing practical steps to improve the responsible tourism management of them. One of the ways is that we always recommend destinations follow the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s Criteria for Destinations. Wild Asia also offers bespoke training courses to any type of tourism operator to ensure an effective understanding of sound business practices are in place. If you are an operator and would like to know more about greening your business practices, get in touch.

References

Othman, Anwar and Kian, 2010. “Sustainability Analysis: Visitors Impact on Taman Negara, Pahang, Malaysia”. Journal of Tourism, Hospitality & Culinary Arts.

Let's Unravel Travel: Experiences from India (Part 3 of 3)

‘Let’s Unravel Travel’ Series

Our latest dispatches series brings you stories from positive grassroots initiatives and a personal account of some not-so-good tourism activities happening on the ground. Amy, Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Initiative’s latest recruit, shares some first hand experiences from India.

Sadly this is the last in the India series, but we’ve enjoyed sharing these personal accounts of responsible and irresponsible tourism examples…we’re going to do more! Watch this space. .

Praise for the goodies!

Reality Tours & Travel (Mumbai, India)

Slum tourism can be a little controversial, but I really believe that Reality Tours have hit the nail on the head and developed an inspirational responsible tourism model. Reality Tours are based in the popular Colaba district of Mumbai and they deliver eye opening city tours delivered by local people. 80% of their profits are reinvested into community initiatives, including the development of an educational community hub in Dharavi slum. Their tour to the settlement of Dharavi ensures that no photography is taken, visits do not intrude on people’s lives, money is spent within the community and that these ‘real Indian’ experiences are mutually beneficial to visitors and locals. They’re dedicated to paying their guides a fair wage and provide exciting employment opportunities for young people. More information (link to website).

  • Reality Tours gets stuck in with local events and has recently hosted music classes for youngsters and events to celebrate World Woman’s Day
  • They give guests tipping tips to ensure fair pricing strategy and to avoid embarrassment
Some things that have got me worried…

Trekking guides without correct equipment or training in Kerala (India)

Chembra Peak is Wayanad’s highest peak, nestled in a beautiful corner of Kerala. A trekking guide is compulsory. However it’s disappointing to see untrained guides taking people into fragile environments with no mobile phones, first aid kit, torches, jacket nor appropriate footwear – worse still, no food and no drink for themselves. Tourism needs to realize the huge potential that well trained guides can have in educating guests about local culture and environment as well as delivering practical steps to protect their natural assets.

[message type="simple"]

The need for Responsible Tourism and Wild Asia

These positive stories highlight the need for responsible tourism everywhere in the world and showcase that tourism can be a force for good. These are just a small handful of inspirational schemes that are out there. But the benefits to local people speak for themselves. Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Awards recognises best practice in responsible tourism, rewarding businesses by giving them the recognition they deserve. More information on our Awards.

Wild Asia has been championing responsible tourism for over ten years. But we know that in many destinations there is still a lot of work to be done. Wild Asia can provide bespoke training courses for tourism operators to raise awareness on how to reduce environmental impacts or ensure local communities benefit from tourism. The sad stories of poor tourism development show troubles from the top and bottom. Wild Asia continues to work with industry level groups to influence how tourism operates and travelers must remember to take responsibility into their own hands. Please get in touch if you are a tourism business and would like to enquire about responsible tourism training.

[/message]

(Photos: Amy McLoughlin, except image of family Dharavi slum: credit Reality Tours)

Let's Unravel Travel: Experiences from India (Part 2 of 3)

‘Let’s Unravel Travel’ Series

Our latest dispatches series brings you stories from positive grassroots initiatives and a personal account of some not-so-good tourism activities happening on the ground. Amy, Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Initiative’s latest recruit, shares some first hand experiences from India.

Praise for the goodies!

Kabani and Uravu homestays (Kerala, India)

Kabani is an ethical tourism campaigner, championing human rights in tourism across Southern India. It has partnered with an inspiring community bamboo cooperative to develop a fantastic homestay programme. In an area where farming is experiencing some devastating downturns, villagers have got together to create a sustainable tourism model to benefit the lives of the inhabitants. Tourists can come to the quiet village of Thrikkaipetta and stay with local families, immersing themselves in real Keralan culture for an authentic holiday. Villagers benefit from a range of capacity building training from English language, to sustainable farming; more than 1000 people have benefitted from these courses. More information (link to website)

  • Developed first India based map of identifying responsible tourism issues
  • Featured in Tourism Concern’s Ethical Travel Guide
Some things that have got me worried…

Local people’s access to public places in Varkala (India)

Varkala is at the heart of Kerala’s prized coastline. Despite being a well established beach resort, most of the development has been done sympathetically and it retains a low key atmosphere and the beach is impressively clean. However, witnessing local guys accused of ‘boob watching’ and ushered away from a part of the beach that’s ‘not for Indian’s’ is pretty disturbing stuff. Girls, put them away if it’s not acceptable and infringes on local’s values.

[message type="simple"]

The need for Responsible Tourism and Wild Asia

These positive stories highlight the need for responsible tourism everywhere in the world and showcase that tourism can be a force for good. These are just a small handful of inspirational schemes that are out there. But the benefits to local people speak for themselves. Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Awards recognises best practice in responsible tourism, rewarding businesses by giving them the recognition they deserve. More information on our Awards.

Wild Asia has been championing responsible tourism for over ten years. But we know that in many destinations there is still a lot of work to be done. Wild Asia can provide bespoke training courses for tourism operators to raise awareness on how to reduce environmental impacts or ensure local communities benefit from tourism. The sad stories of poor tourism development show troubles from the top and bottom. Wild Asia continues to work with industry level groups to influence how tourism operates and travelers must remember to take responsibility into their own hands. Please get in touch if you are a tourism business and would like to inquire about responsible tourism training.

[/message]

(Photos: Amy McLoughlin)

Let’s Unravel Travel: Experiences from India (Part 1 of 3)

Our ‘Let’s Unravel Travel’ Series

We’re pleased to announce the launch of our Let’s Unravel Travel series of dispatches style articles. The aim of this exciting new series is to raise awareness about tourism from the field; looking at inspiring grassroots initiatives and localised issues that need addressing. We’re kicking off our articles with experiences from India.

Experiences from India

by Amy McLoughlin

Let me introduce myself. I am Amy and started with Wild Asia in May 2012 to help with the coordination of the Responsible Tourism Awards. I’m a young sustainable tourism professional who has worked for the past few years in the UK as a Sustainable Tourism Adviser in a national park, following a degree in related studies. I joined Wild Asia after eight months travelling and volunteering through Asia. Don’t worry! I’m not going to bore you with my soul searching mission, but I will excite you with my sustainability searching mission!

I have spent most of the past eight months in India. Along my way I have seen some things that have shocked me, inspired me, angered me or moved me. I’d like to share some of these with you.

Praise for the goodies!

Agri Tourism India (Maharashtra, India)

An initiative developed to encourage city slickers to ‘get back to their farming roots’ on peaceful holidays in the beautiful Maharashtrian countryside. It has gone far beyond. It remains a popular get away for Mumbai and Pune residents, but it’s doing it in a way that is wonderfully responsible. Their training centre hosts a range of capacity building courses for local farmers and to date has trained in excess of 500 people. Farmers have been learning about how to diversify their farms into homestays, creating additional sustainable income as well as providing an opportunity to conserve their cultural heritage. The agricultural centre hosts a variety of cultural evenings and events for guests, including traditional bullock cart ride and opportunity to dress in local costume (that’s me in the middle!). As a result, farmers have experienced a 25% economic growth. The scheme is great news for employing woman’s cooperatives and advocating youth employment in an area when many young people flee their rural roots. More information (link to their website).

  • Tourism for Tomorrow 2011 Finalist Community Benefit
  • Responsible Tourism Awards 2011 Winner Contribution to Conserving Cultural Heritage
Some things that got me worried…

Waste management in the Andaman and Nicobar islands (India)

The quintessential tropical paradise. Beautiful beaches, swaying palms, bath like sea, pirate movie film set villages…and a shed load of rubbish. I made the calculated decision to visit the tourist hub of Havelock after learning how tourism in these islands has had a negative impact on tribal communities. I was anxious of tourist numbers, I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting a stretched infrastructure, it was good. I was not expecting to wade through sanitary towels and clamber over mountains of glass bottles to get to the beach. Nothing is being done to manage this, gulp.

Next up…

Our next issue will highlight more positive and negative examples from India.

[message type="simple"]The need for Responsible Tourism and Wild Asia

These positive stories highlight the need for responsible tourism everywhere in the world and showcase that tourism can be a force for good. These are just a small handful of inspirational schemes that are out there. But the benefits to local people speak for themselves. Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Awards recognises best practice in responsible tourism, rewarding businesses by giving them the recognition they deserve. More information on our Awards.

Wild Asia has been championing responsible tourism for over ten years. But we know that in many destinations there is still a lot of work to be done. Wild Asia can provide bespoke training courses for tourism operators to raise awareness on how to reduce environmental impacts or ensure local communities benefit from tourism. The sad stories of poor tourism development show troubles from the top and bottom. Wild Asia continues to work with industry level groups to influence how tourism operates and travelers must remember to take responsibility into their own hands. Operators can play their part by educating guests. Please get in touch if you are a tourism business and would like to inquire about responsible tourism training.

[/message]

(Photos: Amy McLoughlin, except Havelock litter image: credit Brombags1 on Flickr.com)

2011 Inspiring Responsible Tourism Stories

Each year, Wild Asia reaches out to the tourism industry seeking Inspiring Responsible Tourism Stories. In 2011 we featured the Top Three Inspiring Responsible Tourism Stories at ITB Asia. These stories told the tale of what operators have done for the destination and local community. They motivated others to innovate new ideas in their destination.

A degraded rural landscape transformed into lush wildlife sanctuary, a resort fully committed to the development and success of the local community, and a courageous project to train and empower community members to work towards responsible tourism. These three Inspiring Responsible Tourism (RT) Stories were presented at the Responsible Tourism Event at ITB Asia on October 21, 2011.

Wild Asia and The Blue Yonder set out to find the most inspiring stories from around Asia. These stories were chosen in order to highlight exceptional examples of responsible tourism and have them inspire tour operators and hotels that embracing responsible practices is possible.

A judging panel comprised of members from Wild Asia, The Blue Yonder, The Green Circuit, and ITB Asia, carefully reviewed over 15 stories that were submitted from Asia. The panel of judges scored the stories on how inspirational their RT practices are and their potential for others to replicate these practices or take the experience and learning to be applied elsewhere.

The judges deliberated and three stories blew the judges away that they decided on a tie!

Top 3 Inspiring Stories

Congratulations to the top 3 winners for their efforts in responsible tourism, and inspiring others to embrace a different kind of travel; one that incorporates responsibility towards the earth and local people.

Wild Asia & Travelife Partnership

Wild Asia is proud to announce an exciting new partnership with the international sustainable tourism certification and training scheme, Travelife for tour operators.

For more than ten years Wild Asia has been working across Asia championing the benefits and potential of developing a tourism industry that benefits local places and people through their Responsible Tourism Initiative (RTI). Wild Asia’s RTI works with businesses to improve their social and environmental practices to meet and exceed global standards. By creating partnerships with businesses within the industry, they aim to inspire and create change to benefit our environment, wildlife, people and communities.

Travelife, developed in 2002, was set up to support an efficient and cost effective introduction of sustainability principles for the tourism industry. They offer industry-wide standards for sustainability management systems and provide best practice guidance and support for tour operators implementing them through the provision of training, tools and references.

The new partnership with Travelife is a perfect marriage of values. Wild Asia will be the Asia based Travelife delivery partner, offering training and support to tour operators across the region. Tour operators will benefit greatly from having locally based expertise at hand.

Together, the sustainability partners will support tour operators achieve green accreditations, enhancing the tourism offer for customers and improve marketing for the region. Adopting responsible tourism principles through the Travelife training programme and management systems will not only improve participants’ corporate social responsibility profile, it will also provide significant cost saving opportunities, enhance relationships with staff and host communities, and open doors to new marketing avenues.

Reza Azmi, Founder and Director of Wild Asia, the only Asian grown organization dedicated to responsible tourism across the continent, speaks out about the exciting new partnership. “We’re delighted to be working with Travelife. Becoming accredited Travelife Auditors and Regional Representatives is great news for Asia. We look forward to working with locally based tour operators, helping to improve their business, tourism for Asia, and protecting our diverse environment and unique and treasured cultural heritage. Sustainable tourism has never been more important, and in demand. A recent Lonely Planet survey revealed a staggering 93% of people said they would purposefully partake in environmentally-friendly travel. Businesses must step up to the demand”.

If you are a tour operator based or operating in Asia and are interested in beginning your journey towards sustainability, please contact Wild Asia to enquire about joining the Travelife scheme. Please contact us at rt@wildasia.org.


Sustainable Island Programme

Soft, white sandy beaches lining sparkling blue-green waters and coconut trees swaying in the background attract thousands of tourists every year. However, our marine ecosystem faces irreversible destruction due to the advent of industralisation. Learn about the Sustainable Island Programme (SIP) as an approach to coral reef conservation.

Sustainable Island Programme

In 2007, Reef Check Malaysia conducted 33 surveys, covering 21 sites around the islands off the East coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The results show that overall, the islands on the East coast face a number of pressures which are negatively impacting their coral reefs. These include rapid development of tourism facilities, principally resorts, which increases sewage pollution, leading to the spread of coral-smothering algae. Poor solid waste management adds to the problem.

Other development pressures (for example the recently completed marina and the ongoing beach replenishment project in Tioman Island) are resulting in increased siltation, which would suffocate the reefs. Furthermore, increasing visitor numbers are causing significant physical damage to the reefs.

Although some Reef Check surveys have been carried out in previous years, there is still insufficient data to accurately identify trends in the status of coral reefs in the East coast islands.

tiomanRealising that an extended survey programme is required to holistically address the environmental conundrum faced by the reefs, Wild Asia, together with Reef Check Malaysia, developed the Sustainable Island Programme (SIP), which was quickly mobilised into action in March 2008.

The SIP combines the strengths of Reef Check and Wild Asia in assessing the stresses faced by the reefs and coming up with a sound reef conservation management plan. This inevitably requires monitoring the condition of the marine ecosystem by surveying more dive sites and correlating it with what is happening on the islands itself.

Wild Asia’s strengths in Responsible Tourism and environmental/biodiversity conservation would come in handy as the effectiveness of reef conservation measures in the long-term would require improvements with regards to the practices and habits of dive operators, resort owners and local communities residing on the islands.

Operators committed to Responsible Tourism would have to ensure that they preserve their local environment and the people and cultures within it. They do this by careful management of all areas of their business, from the resources they buy to the care of their staff to the disposal of waste. They focus on maximising their guests’ holiday experience while minimising the impact this has on the area. Preserving our natural areas and the communities in them serves a dual purpose as it also protects the very things that so many tourists come to Asia to see, which will ultimately increase the all important revenue from the tourist trade.

OUR Reefs, OUR Heritage, OUR Responsibility

Currently only 4% of the world’s marine ecosystems is left undamaged by human impact. It is estimated that 42% of Malaysia’s coral reefs are facing high levels of risk of damage from coastal development, sedimentation, marine-based pollution, overfishing and destructive fishing. In addition to that, global warming is putting further stress on the reefs to survive as higher water temperatures for prolonged periods would result in coral bleaching and will eventually lead to the coral’s death.

With these statistics in mind, let us contribute towards highlighting the significance of coral reefs in sustaining the livelihood of millions of people dependent on fisheries, pharmaceuticals and tourism.

The Results

  • A total of 50 reef check surveys were conducted at selected coral reef sites on Redang, Perhentian, Tioman, Tenggol and Aur Islands. 
  • Islands are faced with too much stress from sewage and waste pollution, sedimentation from island development and over-capacity in terms of tourists and tourist facilities. While the increase in the number of tourists visiting the islands is desirable for economic reasons, this also brings pollution to the sea which can negatively affect the very thing tourists and visitors come to appreciate. 
  • Eco-checks on participating resorts have highlighted the obvious environmental issues the islands face and the main challenges they experience in dealing with implementing good practices. As resorts that participated in the SIP eco-checks this year are representative of operators throughout the respective islands i.e. Tioman and Perhentian, the main issues and challenges they have highlighted during the eco-checks would be applicable to almost all others. 
  • Island operators and Marine Park Officers are now switched on about the SIP and will take the lead where reef check surveys and water quality monitoring are concerned. They are able to play their role in coordinating and mobilizing people to continue the activities of the SIP.