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ISSN 1108-8931

INTERNATIONAL ECOTOURISM MAGAZINE

 Year 9, Issue 98 - July 2008

This Issue Sponsored By:
Canyon Travel (MX) - La Selva Jungle Lodge (EC) - Eco Holidays Malta (MT) - St-Géry Historic Estate (FR)
 International Centre for Responsible Tourism (UK) - 2008 Travelers' Philanthropy Conference (TZ)
    

In this issue:

Angus BeggAngus Begg (South Africa)
"The notion that travel touches every part of daily life, from politics to religion and the condition of our roads, is unpopular"

Vic NairVic Nair (Malaysia)
"Golf course development is now
emerging as a major
environmental issue in Asia "


Director’s Cut: Tourism & Travel as a Human Right

Speaking at a European Greens Conference on Tourism & Climate change in early July, and replying to a suggestion from the audience calling for a reduction of international travel on the grounds of the environmental impact of air travel, and in favour of local travel, I pointed that it would be too difficult, for example to convince the millions of Indians and Chinese not to travel abroad, and that it would be unfair as Travel is after all a human right - this provoked an immediate "no it's not" reaction from an air travel expert in the audience. What I meant of course, was that in my view, and hopefully in the view of the millions working in Tourism around the world, it is a human right. I agree that the average tourist does not really think of travel as a right, unless of course someone (say a totalitarian regime, or an excessively austere Visa regime) tries to take it away from them.

But it also happens to be the view of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). In the UNTWO's - Global Code of Ethics for Tourism (1999 - 2001) the right to Tourism is clearly described as follows:

Article 7 Right to tourism

(1) The prospect of direct and personal access to the discovery and enjoyment of the
planet’s resources constitutes a right equally open to all the world’s inhabitants; the
increasingly extensive participation in national and international tourism should be
regarded as one of the best possible expressions of the sustained growth of free time, and
obstacles should not be placed in its way;

(2) The universal right to tourism must be regarded as the corollary of the right to rest
and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with
pay, guaranteed by Article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article
7.d of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
;

Article 8 Liberty of tourist movements

(1) Tourists and visitors should benefit, in compliance with international law and national
legislation, from the liberty to move within their countries and from one State to another,
in accordance with Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; they should
have access to places of transit and stay and to tourism and cultural sites without being
subject to excessive formalities or discrimination;

While the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) states that

Article 13.

      (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
      (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.


Article 24.

      Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

In addition, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966)

Article 7

    The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work which ensure, in particular:

        (a) Remuneration which provides all workers, as a minimum, with:

            (i) Fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value without distinction of any kind, in particular women being guaranteed conditions of work not inferior to those enjoyed by men, with equal pay for equal work;

            (ii) A decent living for themselves and their families in accordance with the provisions of the present Covenant;

        (b) Safe and healthy working conditions;

        (c) Equal opportunity for everyone to be promoted in his employment to an appropriate higher level, subject to no considerations other than those of seniority and competence;

        (d ) Rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay, as well as remuneration for public holidays

All these declarations, of course were not born in a vacuum. In medieval England, the Magna Carta (1215) said something familiar:

Article 42

It shall be lawful to any person, for the future, to go out of our kingdom, and to return, safely and securely, by land or by water, saving his allegiance to us, unless it be in time of war, for some short space, for the common good of the kingdom: excepting prisoners and outlaws, according to the laws of the land, and of the people of the nation at war against us, and Merchants who shall be treated as it is said above. (For Latin fans: XXXXII. Liceat unicuique decetero exire de regno nostro, et redire, salvo et secure, per terram et per aquam, salva fide nostra, nisi tempore gwerre per aliquod breve tempus, propter communem utilitatem regni, exceptis imprisonatis et utlagatis secundum legem regni, et gente de terra contra nos gwerrina, et mercatoribus, de quibus fiat sicut predictum est. )

Going further back, in many ancient civilizations the Traveller is someone sacred, protected by the most powerful gods, for example Yacatecuhtli (Aztec), Odin (Nordic), Zeus (Greece), Hasamelis (Mesopotamia), while everyone is aware of the close relation between tourism & travel, politics, ethics/religion in important ancient events such as the Olympic Games.

If/when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights comes up for revision, it should explicitly state the right to Tourism & Travel as a basic human right for all, accessible by all, and encourage all states to guarantee it to all their citizens. Travel and open borders (for humans not just for capital) are the best recipe for a multicultural and multipolar world with less strife, nationalism and racism. Ecological tourism and tourism for the masses are perfectly compatible, to deny this is simply elitist, undemocratic and, frankly, irrelevant, it will happen!

More Director’s Cut

Obituary - Chandra de Silva, Director/CEO of Ranweli Holiday Village

Chandra de SilvaChandra de Silva, an ECOCLUB Member since 2002, a pioneer of Ecotourism in Sri Lanka passed away on Tuesday 10th June. I am very sad that I never got the chance to meet him in person but grateful that I had the honour of interviewing him for our magazine. His views against greenwashing, on the incompatibility of luxury with ecotourism, on treating employees as partners, on the importance of constant education and improvement, are still very relevant today. I am also grateful that our Members gave him the joy of voting Ranweli Holiday Village as the winner of our first ever Awards in 2004.  The project which involved the creation of an organic vegetable plot and green house in school premises close to the Lodge, as all things that Mr de Silva was involved with, was implemented in a thorough, enthusiastic and scientific way. Besides turning (and maintaining) what was once a beach resort into a multi-award winning Ecotourism facility, he found time to be the founder President of the Ecotourism Society of Sri Lanka, Vice President of the Child Protection Society of Sri Lanka, a Board member of the International Ecotourism Society (TIES), a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society (FRGS, UK), a member of the National Geographic Society Panel of Experts on sustainable Tourism and Destination Stewardship, a keynote speaker at several International conferences dealing with Ecotourism and a visiting lecturer at the University of Sri Jayawardenapura. This is a great loss for the Ecotourism movement and for Sri Lanka. Let us also hope that peace will soon prevail in his beautiful island and that his able colleagues and the new generation of Sri Lanka's Tourism will follow in his footsteps and continue his hard work for a better tourism and a better world. The Ecotourism Society of Sri Lanka has created a memorial fund for the benefit of the Child Protection Society of Ceylon - Antonis B. Petropoulos Director, ECOCLUB

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Angus BeggThe ECOCLUB Interview with Angus Begg
Photojournalist & Broadcaster, South Africa


"Travel journalism: it's very much about sunsets and cocktails, with the 'freebie mentality' still ruling, especially in newspapers and magazines. The notion that travel touches every part of daily life, from politics to religion and the condition of our roads, is unpopular (and caused me to lose my drive-time travel slot on national 'public service' radio)"
 

Having grown up between Canada, the UK and South Africa, Angus Begg has been travelling for fair chunks of his adult life too. Working as a photojournalist and a broadcaster, his travels have taken him through the fields of current affairs and travel, from the genocide in Rwanda to the Serengeti migration, tea with Buddhist monks in Darjeeling, hiking New Zealand and reflecting on Poland’s Auschwitz. As news editor he helped set up SABC Africa (DStv) and today works as a producer/director for MNet’s Carte Blanche and columnist for South Africa’s Business Day weekly newspaper, The Weekender. He also contributes to various magazines; Getaway, Travel Africa and CNN Traveller.

(The Interview follows:)

ECOCLUB.com: You have travelled and worked in many African countries. Which of these have in your view developed a tourism model that approaches ecotourism ideals such as minimising its own environmental impact, funding environmental conservation, reducing poverty, respecting human rights, promoting knowledge & understanding, and why?

Angus Begg: The first project I saw of significance was outside Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, involving tourists staying in a village, amongst the villagers. The only concession was that option of a 'real' bed, (as developed-world westerners understand them) as opposed to the local, harder options. This was in 1992, and tourists then paid US$40 for the experience. Encouraging was the fact that the lodges at which they were staying encouraged this interaction – they knew how important it was for conservation and wildlife tourism to be seen to be working for the villagers. Since then I have come across two of the most fantastic ecotourism models: 

One is a place called Bulungula Lodge, on South Africa’s Wild Coast (Eastern Cape province). It’s officially in the poorest district in the country, Elliotdale, where service delivery hasn't improved one iota since the election of SA's first democratic government – children still die of diarrhoea because of filthy water, clinics too far away and roads so bad they're impossible to make use of in an emergency. Against this background financial services graduate Dave Martin and his wife, Rejane – chief economist for a major insurance group – have established a backpacker lodge that has been voted by Lonely Planet as one of the top ten places to see in SA. What distinguishes this from other ecotourism ventures (a loosely used term) is the extent to which local people are involved; they work at the lodge, they have a share in it (virtually part of the village, there is no theft, and the guests and visiting villagers share space in the main building) they run tourist-related businesses that supply services to guests such as fishing and cultural tours. It also runs on solar and wind-power, uses compost toilets, and has a remarkable water-saving shower device driven by paraffin – bit like a rocket! 

The second is Grootbos Private Nature Reserve. At the other end of the luxury scale, with five stars, its impact has been huge. It all starts with caring for the smallest and most diverse floral kingdom in the world – the Cape Floral Kingdom (it has 1,300 plant species per 10,000 km2 - the nearest rival, the South American rain forest, has a concentration of only 400 per 10,000 km2). It boasts an on-site college that enables kids from surrounding impoverished areas, who haven't even finished school, to qualify for further studies at a Cape Town technikon (technical university). They sell plants from the college nursery, raising considerable funds, and the best students every year go to Cornwall’s Eden College for practical work. From that has grown a soccer project, looking forward to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, which has attracted serious international sponsorship and developed into a community centre serving all sports and with (apparently) the only soccer astroturf pitch in Africa.

ECOCLUB.com: What share of tourism accommodation facilities in Africa is actually in the hands of locals and communities as opposed to foreign-controlled companies? Does it matter? 

Angus Begg: I believe the vast majority are locally owned. Provided the ethics and business practice are sound and that money is ploughed back into the country, I see no problem with it. 

ECOCLUB.com: And does domestic tourism also play a significant part in South Africa? In what way is it different than international tourism? 

Angus Begg: Domestic tourism is the bread and butter of any country. Look at how America had to look inwards post 9/11. With South Africa susceptible to an often misinformed international population - people who actually think a disturbance or conflict in Kenya or a plane crash in Cameroon has something to do with SA, and book their travels accordingly – South Africa has to be locally aware. 

ECOCLUB.com: As a winner of the 2006 CNN Africa Journalist Awards, how satisfied are you with the quality of Journalism and Travel Journalism in particular in Africa - investigative or picture perfect? and in which countries? How easy is it really for a travel journalist to write a negative review and not suffer the consequences? 

Angus Begg: The South African government has since a few years into independence been taking shots at the independent media, which continued holding government to account – as it did with the previous government. But as with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua (post the Somoza dynastic autocracy), the African National Congress (ANC) government doesn’t like to be held to account. The standard of journalism has dropped, I believe, especially in the electronic media, where disinformation and government propaganda has once again become the order of the day. Travel journalism: it’s very much about sunsets and cocktails, with the ‘freebie mentality’ still ruling, especially in newspapers and magazines. The notion that travel touches every part of daily life, from politics to religion and the condition of our roads, is unpopular (and caused me to lose my drive-time travel slot on national 'public service' radio). 

If I am hosted by a company etc, I put it to them that I have to write it as I see it – my take is that they have the opportunity for pure editorial, if they screw it up it’s their fault. Some people find that fair, others just want advertorial. The major problem is that publishers and broadcasters, despite generally making huge profits, aren’t interested in paying for decent content (I’m paid the same rate today as I was 7 years ago by the biggest publishing group in the country, which is still chaired by a former trade unionist / senior ANC office-bearer). They'd rather be offered a trip and give it to someone in the office who deserves a trip; there is no cost to the company, the journo feels happy as he gets wined and dined and he will produce what often turns out to be inane product. I could give many examples! 

ECOCLUB.com: What is your take on the blogging phenomenon, and anonymous journalism? Is it a fad or here to stay? Does it liberate/emancipate or degrade/erode the journalism profession? 

Angus Begg: I’m embarassed to say that I’m not that familiar with it. I have yet to enter the world of blog (which sounds like a dirty, dark planet)! It can both liberate and erode the profession, but I suppose it does offer choice, and if people don’t like it, they won’t search it out. I reckon it must be here to stay – what do you think ? Should I have one ??!! 

ECOCLUB.com: You were there, when the Rwanda genocide took place. Can it happen again? Has Tourism recovered? Has it played a meaningful role in reconciliation, equal to the one Paul Rusesabagina - immortalised by the Hotel Rwanda film - played during the events?  Briefly surveying official and private Rwandan tourism websites, we did not find any reference to the massacre. Is it best kept a taboo, or should tourists (and locals) never forget through museums and monuments, as is the case with massacres in other countries and parts of the world? 

Angus Begg: It can, and has happened again - in Kenya. Africa is an essentially feudal environment, and many of its rulers have no real interests in changing things, because unfortunately many of them seem to enjoy the notion of eternal power. Look at speeches by such leaders – and I think it’s relevant for the whole developing world – and you will notice unusually common reference to the term ‘power’. Tourism is in the process of recovering in Rwanda, and the big investment by East African hotel giant Serena (owned by the Aga Khan) speaks volumes, especially with general instability continuing in DRC and Burundi. A number of international NGOs are helping to resurrect the industry in Rwanda, in some cases – like Nyungwe Forest – creating tourist infrastructure for the first time. It’s pioneering stuff, and an amazing place to visit. Taboo subject? ‘m not sure if I met many Hutu’s, as everyone refers to themselves as “Rwandan, not Tutsi or Hutu” - I was looking because all the new restaurants and coffee shops and tour operators I spoke to were children of the Tutsi exiles of 1959, who had returned to their country with money after 1994. I would like to know how Hutus feel about the reconciliation process, and the ‘oneness’, but nevertheless didn’t encounter any hostility from the people I met. There is a strong sense of discipline around, and government is simplifying legal requirements for foreigners wishing to come in and do business and help get the country on its feet again. With the highest population per capita in Africa Pres Paul Kagame knows he has to make tourism work. 

ECOCLUB.com: Mandela, still going strong at 90, is considered by many as the world's greatest statesman alive. Has South Africa, with reference to its Tourism sector, and in the light of the recent anti-immigrant events, made an equally great progress over the past 15 years, in tackling racism, poverty & disenfranchisement? Could the Tourism sector generate more jobs for locals in the cities? 

Angus Begg: For good reason Mandela was just too late for us, with government now beset by corruption and a general lack of leadership. The tourism industry in SA has made strides, with some – like Dave at Bulungula – doing their best to help the less privileged. Some top-end lodges and hotels blow the horn of 'ecotourism' and providing employment louder than others, often facilitating access to capital through international connections. This can be a good thing, such as the example of Dr X from Boston or Zurich building an eye-clinic in a rural province. But the negative is that such establishments inevitably charge more per night than the cleaner will earn in six months, which I feel does nothing to do away with the generally black and white - 'us and them'- divide (as opposed to the Bulungula example). Increasingly you find 'black diamonds' - the newly-monied black class, who often (but not always) arrive at their news status courtesy of government patronage – also frequenting such establishments, as a way of announcing their 'arrival'. This further entrenches the feudal notion still prevalent in Africa, that he with the money and economic power (no matter how it was gained) - more importantly he who is seen to have it - is king.

Government has failed the industry dismally in many instances, especially the Wild Coast, where long-term sustainable tourism operations willing to pump in tons of cash have been put on hold for years, eventually chasing away the potential, well-intentioned investor. This has cost countless jobs in a woefully poverty-stricken, beautiful province. It turns out in this particular instance that various interested government officials have been holding up the process, hoping to pave the way for an Australian mining firm to step in and plunder the resource-rich coastline. How do I know? A colleague produced the investigative TV programme on it recently, and I've followed the story for years; four years ago (that's how long the story's been happening) I walked that coastline while seeing what had become of the EU's R84 million (abut US$10 million at the time) that had been pumped into the area. It just vanished. Today it's more about greed - one black brother stealing from another - than racism.

The wave of xenophobia sweeping the country needs to be put in some form of context: it has been a long-time coming. In a nutshell: South Africa's borders are porous, and with much of Africa still ruled by despots ('democracy' is a very qualified concept in this part of the developing world) the continent's beleagured citizens and refugees head south in search of both security and opportunity. Zimbabweans and Malawians especially are hired easily in South Africa, as they are known for pleasant and willing dispositions; Zimbabweans are often well-qualified (roughly three million having fled their own country), meaning – whether illegal or not - they get jobs quickly. The local workforce remains highly politicised. Many can't differentiate between being 'of service' to servitude (historical legacy), and thus would sometimes rather work only begrudgingly. So when economic times are tight, as they are now, and jobs are scarce, ignorance and intolerance reign – and black Africans turn on their brothers. 

Just yesterday, I was at a top guest-house in Cape Town, that has long had Congolese French waiters (the owner is originally French). They tell me that locals will target them because they have a different (darker) look, don't speak English well and dress in a particular fashion, thus they prefer to live in largely white areas – for safety's sake. Government has sat idly and watched (only lately sending in troops to help police in troubled areas), with our President overseas and even our president-in-waiting preferring not to get involved. They dare not be seen to be even vaguely sympathetic towards foreigners as it will cost them votes among the masses. That people have died, the same people who came to our country fleeing violence, poverty and persecution – seeking safety - is tragic beyond words. Luckily for the industry – although international TV news has flashed coverage of the events around the world - these incidents have been taking place light years from the tourist beds. Tourism still has great potential in South Africa, and billions are being spent on infrastructure for the World Cup in 2010, so more jobs will be created. My worry is that we lack both visionaries in government, and competence in key areas; to ensure that our electricity networks will always work, that such xenophobia is dealt with.

My hope is that once the 'magical' date of 2010 has passed, with the smoke and mirrors and the image of the feel-good parade having moved on, we will have a sustainable tourism industry to work with. Government and private tourism departments are almost entirely politically appointed and inefficient (generally speaking), with employees joining the industry to go shopping at international trade shows and backhanders being the order of the day. But at the proverbial end of the day we have three things going for us: a phenomenal natural environment, strong private sector, packed with experience and knowledge, that drives the industry and draws the tourists, and - despite the pockets of intolerance in the urban, underprivileged areas – a largely warm and welcoming people out in the country. That's what people come to see.

ECOCLUB.com: In what was a milestone for African environmentalism, Wangari Maathai won the Nobel in 2004. However many think that the environment is still a luxury in Africa, that rapid progress is paramount in the light of abject living conditions. If that is so, is high-end eco-friendly tourism, even though it may be elitist and a form of tourist apartheid, an honourable & useful compromise, or is it a drop in the ocean? 

Angus Begg: It's one form of making it work, as in Botswana's Okavango Delta, but is it right if it deprives locals from the experience altogether? I believe how people are treated is key to such operations, whichever end of the scale they may be on. My jury is still out on this one, although the experiences of Bulungula and Grootbos again refer... 

ECOCLUB.com: In the light of frequent air disasters and arduous flight connections, it has been argued that Africa needs a dense network of subsidised, safe air routes. Do you agree? 

Angus Begg: What about cheap, reliable, ecological public transport (trains, buses) for the masses? Viva! The masses wish for reliable public transport, but it aint comin' anytime soon. We decided to spend R21 billion (at the time about US$3 billion) on an arms deal - which has both our future and existing presidents implicated in corruption – instead of exactly the proposal you raise. 

ECOCLUB.com: What is your evaluation on the new scrummage / cold war for Africa and its resources between the worlds superpowers? Should Africa be given a fair chance through the removal of subsidies in the west, and then left alone to heal its wounds and stand on its own feet, or does it forever need the peace & war corps of investment, aid, ngos, bureaucrats, arms-traders, missionaries, preferential arrangements, cheap imports...? 

Angus Begg: Take a peek at China's scramble for Africa's resources. It is providing infrastructure all over Africa in return for much of its energy resources. Some call it looting, and their attitude to labour rights is indeed questionable to westerners, but they are nevertheless providing Africa with what Western aid has for decades failed to deliver effectively (money goes into corrupt political pockets or its tied to sometimes unsustainable World Bank targets). Yes, subsidies should be removed in the west – traditional western powers made fortunes by looting Africa, now they have to let Africa play too, by playing fair. Although internal political power plays in the likes of the US and EU make such a prospect unlikely. As for that list of parties you mentioned, they are often an industry in themselves – sometimes more important than the 'cause' they claim to be interested in. 

ECOCLUB.com: From 80's South Africa to Palestine and Rwanda, you have covered politics & strife but also tourism and the environment and been through places & situations most of us only see in the movies. 'Wise as you will have become, so full of experience', as the poem goes, have you ever considered crossing the street and participating in politics, or are you gradually finding your way back to your 'Ithaca'?

Angus Begg: I'm not sure about 'wise', although 'experience' I will concede I have gained. I'm a touch of a malcontent right now, frustrated by worsening corruption and displays of power in a country that had the chance to choose the high road after the '94 elections, but didn't, instead choosing to support the morally reprehensible Zimbabwean despot, Robert Mugabe, and turn a blind eye to corruption locally. Just this past weekend it has been announced that – despite overwhelming public sentiment to the contrary – that the highly effective National Prosecuting Authority will be disbanded. This is largely because it has been successful in investigating senior ANC (government) figures. I am fast realising through my TV work that we live here in a qualified democracy, and that inefficiency, greed and corruption won't see the ANC government removed from power. That's our legacy – the masses will vote according to colour because they were largely deprived of education and stick with what they know – even if it's a perspective no greater than over the hill in the neighbouring village - which perpetuates the feudalistic existence. So politics is not on the horizon (as is working as a political journalist in such an environment)! Being just post 40 and a white male doesn't help finding work in South Africa, no matter personal history and experience, so let's say I'm looking around for opportunities, whether in travel, photography, commentary or some related business. Somewhere therein perhaps lies my Ithaca. I've just moved to Cape Town, so at least I'm looking at this amazing mountain (Table) as I write, ocean and vineyards just a little further away ... pondering an uncertain future!

ECOCLUB.com: Thank you very much!

Find the complete list of ECOCLUB Interviews here

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Dr Vic Nair

The ECOCLUB Interview with Dr Vikneswaran Nair
President, Asia-Pacific Council on Hotel, Restaurant & Institutional Education (APacCHRIE)

"Golf course development
is now emerging as a major environmental issue in Asia"

A graduate of University Putra Malaysia (UPM), Dr. Vikneswaran (Vic) Nair completed his Ph.D. in Systems Engineering with his research on developing an expert system for ecotourism accreditation and rating for Peninsular Malaysia. At present, he heads the Centre for Research and Development at Taylor’s University College Malaysia and a Senior Lecturer at the Taylor’s School of Hospitality and Tourism. Dr. Vic Nair has more than 12 years experience in the field of application of Information & Communication Technology in Hospitality & Tourism, Sustainable Tourism, Ecotourism Management and Environmental Management. He is also an adjunct lecturer for many public universities in Malaysia, and also has conducted guest lectures on responsible tourism and ecotourism management for the graduate programme at the University of Toulouse, France, Rikkyo University, Japan and Institute for Tourism Studies (IFT), Macau.
 
A seasoned researcher and consultant with more than 100 publications to his credit, he was accorded the Merit Award for Academic Leadership and Accomplishment as the Outstanding Young Malaysian of the Year organised by Junior Chambers International, for his contribution to the ecotourism industry of Malaysia in 2006 and other awards including Taylor’s Chairman’s Staff Excellence Award for Academic Excellence (2002) & Research Excellence (2007) and Best Paper Award for Tourism Research in the Malaysia's Third National Tourism Educators Conference (2004).

ABOUT TAYLOR'S UNIVERSITY COLLEGE MALAYSIA
 
Since its establishment in 1969, Taylor's University College Malaysia (Web:
http://www.taylors.edu.my) has expanded from its main location in Subang Jaya, to include four additional campuses extending throughout the area surrounding its main campus including Taylor's College School of Hospitality and Tourism (TCHT). With over twenty years of experience, TCHT today is one of South East Asia’s largest and most established hospitality and tourism management colleges providing quality education and training to thousands of students. In 2007, TCHT clinched the prestigious Hospitality Asia Platinum Awards (HAPA) for Hospitality School of the Year 2007-2008 (Malaysia Series). The school offers industry-acclaimed diplomas, higher diplomas, degrees and professional Master Degree from the Academie de Toulouse and University of Toulouse in France.

(The Interview follows:)

ECOCLUB.com: How did you end up discovering and specialising in Ecotourism as an Academic, and how has your understanding evolved over the recent years?
 
Vic Nair: It is by accident that I ventured into the world of ecotourism. I have always had the passion for ecology and environment even when I was young. I have always enjoyed roughing out in the nature, doing jungle trekking, camping at the beachfront and other nature based tourism activities. Upon completing my Bachelor Degree in Horticulture, I spend 2 years in the plantations in Batang Berjuntai. In 1996, I was offered by University Putra Malaysia to carry out a research to design an expert system to manage the terrestrial vegetation impact in carrying out the Environmental Impact Assessment.
 
Upon graduation in 1998, I was offered a job in Taylor’s School of Hospitality and Tourism. Thus, Taylor’s College was indeed my eye opener to the magnificent world of Tourism. Thus, I continued my PhD thereafter in developing another expert system for rating the ecotourism industry of Malaysia. With my strong ecological background, I had little trouble to complete my PhD in 2003. Hence, I was involved in many researches and consultancy work in the field of tourism and have published many articles and papers in many forums nationally and internationally. Subsequently my interest and understanding evolved from nature tourism to sustainable tourism to responsible tourism.
 
ECOCLUB.com: You have also extensively studied Ecotourism Certification & Rating. What is your overall evaluation of its usefulness and implementability in Malaysia, compared to other countries in the Asia-Pacific region?
 
Vic Nair: There are approximately about 500 potential or existing ecotourism sites in Malaysia as reported by WWF in their report for the National Ecotourism Plan in 1996. In addition, there are many agencies managing ecotourism in Malaysia which make the coordination and standardisation of all the code of practices a challenge.
 
At national level, the main government bodies relevant to ecotourism are the Ministry of Tourism, Tourism Malaysia (Malaysia’s tourism promotion arm), Ministry of Agriculture, including the Department of Fisheries (for Marine Parks), Department of Agriculture (for agro tourism which is related to ecotourism) and Department of Irrigation and Drainage (for river management). Within Peninsular Malaysia, other very important government bodies over seeing ecotourism resources and service provisions are the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (for national parks, wildlife reserves and sanctuaries and protection of wildlife), the Forestry Department with the constituent state forestry departments (for recreational forest), the State Governments (eco-sites within the boundaries of a state), the Economic Planning Unit and State Economic Planning Units, other departments and agencies such as the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Veterinary Services Department, Forest Research Institute of Malaysia, the Malaysian Fisheries Development Board and universities.
 
Thus, with some many National Tourism Organisations (NTO) involved in managing ecotourism, a standardised certification and rating become more and more important in Malaysia compared to other Asia Pacific region where the NTO structure is not so complicated.
 
Therefore, it can be said that the main problems in the current practice of ensuring sustainable development of the ecotourism industry in Malaysia are: lack of effective and proper approaches for efficient sustainable management practice of the ecotourism site, lack of enforcement in ensuring the ecosystem is sustained; insufficient environmental cum ecological expertise that incorporates the fundamental of safety, health and environment; lack of consistent approaches in implementing a mitigation measures and in satisfying the requirement of national environmental regulatory authorities; the large number of small organisations involved in tourism and their related fields make the effort to collect data from them both costly and time-consuming, resulting in unreliable and incomplete ecotourism databases.
 
Hence, a reliable and consistent rating system and database system is required to ensure the sustainability of these ecotourism sites, which can be used for intelligent decision-making. A systematic rating system is developed to maintain a certain level of standards.
 
IIn order to make ecotourism development sustainable with minimum impact on the nature, it is important that all ecotourism sites are evaluated and rated in terms of importance and attractiveness. Nonetheless, with the complex bureaucracy and the organization of the NTO in Malaysia, the implementability of this certification and rating is dictated by the political party in power and the Minister who manages his/her Ministry for a period of 4-5 years before being replaced with another Minister who has his or her own vision during the period of his/her term as a Minister. 
 
Thus, the industry suffers. Since completion of my study in developing an ecotourism rating system for Peninsular Malaysia in 2003, five years later today, there is still no concerted effort done to check and balance the fragile ecotourism industry in Malaysia. A comprehensive National Ecotourism Plan that was prepared by WWF in consultation with the ecotourism guru, Architect Hector Ceballos-Lascurain for the Ministry of Tourism, Malaysia in 1996 was not utilized to the maximum to effectively manage the ecotourism industry in Malaysia. Today, the Ministry of Tourism is inviting potential consultants and academicians to re-work on the National Ecotourism Plan. What will happen after this report is completed is everybody’s guess.
  
ECOCLUB.com: What are the main challenges for Tourism and the Ecotourism movement in Malaysia today, and how suitable and 'eco' are related current state and federal government policies?

Vic Nair: The current Government policies, both the State and the Federal, need to further holistically focus on the impact of over-development on ecotourism destinations. 50 years ago Malaysia was a destination of eco-paradise with beautiful and coral rich beaches and one of the world's oldest tropical rain forests. The diversity of its flora and fauna is a result of undisturbed evolution over 130 million years.
 
Malaysia has plenty of natural attractions to satisfy even the most discerning of adventure seekers. With the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean lapping its shores, there is an enormous variety of flora, fauna and marine life to be enjoyed. Ecotourism has become a major enterprise in Malaysia in the last decade. Several pristine rain forest areas have now, been turned into national parks and recreational parks. Total Protected Areas in the Peninsular Malaysia has dwindled with the major areas still in the Borneo Island of the Eastern Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak). Sadly, now even this part of Malaysia is projected for development under the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) and Sabah Development Corridor (SDC) which was announce by the Prime Minister of Malaysia early this year. It is everybody’s hope that the development in this eco-paradise destinations will be done carefully and not solely for commercial purpose.
 
In a market driven environment, what the ecotourism industry in Malaysia needs and the public must demand is a ruler for measuring the impact of tourism on natural resources. Ensuring that nature-based tourism and ecotourism establishes and maintains high standards will be a challenge for all parties. The management of sensitive ecosystem in the ecotourism context can one way protect a country’s heritage and make it available for local education and tourism. The investment in such facilities is usually repaid through tourists who come in larger numbers and stay longer because there are more things to see and do and at the same time be contended that the sustainability of the site has been looked into. The environment is the resource base for tourism; without protection, the natural attraction that brought the tourist in the first place will be lost.
 
ECOCLUB.com: Observing Malaysia today, it is hard to see any signs that over a generation ago, there was major intercultural / intercommunal friction. Has Tourism played any part in terms of better understanding & integration between Malaysian communities, and what about indigenous people?
 
Vic Nair: Tourism may have played their part in bridging the understanding of the multiculture, which is the selling point of Malaysia. The “Malaysia Truly Asia”, tagline that was adopted by the country for the last so many years, indeed portray the unique culture and the harmonious living among the three distinct people of Asia, the Malays (Muslims), the Chinese and the Indians. These three populations put together, the Malays (comprising Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei), the Indians (Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan) and Chinese (Malaysia. China and almost all of North and East Asia), will make up almost 75 percent of the world population. Thus, Malaysia is indeed a melting port or sample of what Asia has to offer. Thus, tourism in Malaysia has certainly capitalized on this unique advantage in terms of better understanding and integration.  In a multiracial country like Malaysia, certainly there are bound to be some intercultural and inter communal friction but it is within the control and tolerance of the country.
 
Similarly, tourism has certainly opened the doors for the indigenous people especially in Sabah and Sarawak. Nonetheless, the benefits that tourism brings in alleviating poverty among these indigenous communities are still questionable. Many of them continue to live in their natural environment which is getting scarce day by day with deforestation for development, plantation expansion, etc.  The Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) and Sabah Development Corridor (SDC) will further displace these communities if the development is not done with these communities in mind.

ECOCLUB.com: Among other things, you have working experience of oil palm & rubber estates, which have been blamed for deforestation in many other parts of the world.  So, do you see Ecotourism as a realistic alternative to plantations and forestry in Malaysia, or merely as an add-on?
 
Vic Nair: I do not see Ecotourism as a realistic alternative to plantations and forestry in Malaysia. Malaysia is one of the largest producers of natural rubber and palm oil in the world. Despite having been industry for so many years, Malaysia still face the problem of poor management practice in land clearing. Although, incidence of slash burning is under control in Malaysia in comparison to Indonesia, problem of haze still persist.
 
Although the total size of rubber plantations in Malaysia has dwindled over the last decade, oil palm, which is the backbone of the plantation industry today in Malaysia, has expanded its cultivation from 54,000 hectares in 1960 to 4.17 million hectares as at May 2007. Hence, this represents nearly a 70-fold increase in size in the last four and a half decades. Palm oil cultivation occupies 66% out of the 6.3 million hectares of total agricultural land.
 
Deforestation for oil palms and rubber estates is a problem in Eastern Malaysia (Sabah & Sarawak). With oil palm and rubber still fetching good price at the market, ecotourism will never be a good alternative to plantations and forestry in Malaysia. Instead, the plantation industry in Malaysia must ensure the practice of sound environmental measures by ensuring zero burning, good agricultural practices and the use of biological agents to reduce pests and effluents.
 
On the other hand, in Peninsular Malaysia the damage done to ecosystem in irrevocable. One just needs to look at the birds eye view as your plane glide down to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). Massive land clearing, erosion and destruction of the flora and fauna, is evident. Nevertheless, there seem to be some commitment off late from Malaysia’s palm oil industry. Approximately US$7 million wildlife conservation fund was recently launched. The revolving fund would for start help fund a survey on Sabah’s orang utan population that is disappearing fast due to deforestation. Indeed the fund is one the many examples of corporate social responsibility and environmental care by the palm oil industry.
 
Today, palm oil cultivation in Malaysia is strictly regulated and only land designated for agricultural purposes are utilized. In addition, research has also indicated that in a number of oil palm plantations in Sabah, greater biodiversity in plantations attracts animals and birds. Thus, there are some form of add-on that ecotourism can bring to these plantations.

ECOCLUB.com: You were also once involved with sales and marketing of fertilisers and agrochemicals for golf courses. Are the growing golf & luxury tourism developments in Malaysia compatible with Ecotourism in your view? Are golf developers really sincere about greening their act, or is it a ruse to expand in sensitive ecosystems?
 
Vic Nair: As a Horticulturist (my first degree), I was introduced to the world of landscaping and golf course design in the early 1990s. Quite often we hear about the Environmentally Friendly Golf Course, Environmentally Sensitive Gold Course Design, etc. There are also many golf courses that claim the following:
 
“This 36-hole golf course was formed on 750 acres of land of which 147 acres were wetlands that formed a part of the fragile ecosystem… incorporated these areas into the course architecture in order to protect the wetlands and the unique wildlife habitat.”
 
Golf course development is now emerging as a major environmental issue in Asia. The problem may not seem so acute in Malaysia. Nonetheless, because of the maintenance of large, closely trimmed grassy areas is more difficult and environmentally hazardous in tropical areas which are home to greater numbers of pests, diseases and weeds, the problem of environmental damage is there.
 
In a small drought prone destination like Langkawi, one of the major tourist destination in Malaysia, there are water demand for about 2 million tourists and 4 golf courses. With a population of about 820,000 people, the fishing villagers and farmers of Langkawi are in the mercy of golf developers who are not sincere in greening their act or even creating employment to the local communities. They are more interested to expand in sensitive ecosystems.
 
As a result, after losing their farms, many of these villagers end up as cheap labourers on their very own lands. Working on these golf courses represents a drastic change from their once independent and self-reliant way of life. All too often, this kind of change leads to the collapse of whole rural communities. Those who are not employed by golf courses move to big cities, contributing to the urban problems of slums, traffic congestion and pollution.
 
Thus, golf course should not venture into eco-sensitive sites and do more damage then the short term commercial benefit to a few.
 
ECOCLUB.com: In your College, from your students, as well as from your contacts with Tourism Academics around the world as Head of CHRIE in Asia-Pacific, do you observe a falling, steady, or increased interest in Ecotourism and environmental issues? And how satisfied are you with the level of research in Ecotourism?
 
Vic Nair: Across Asia-Pacific, there is certainly an increase interest in Ecotourism and Environmental issues. With the Global Warming phenomena that seem to be the main agenda in many forums across the world including Malaysia, environmental interest has steadily increased in the region. Nonetheless, there seem to be spin off to ecotourism in the region at present with many countries moving into the concept of “Responsible Tourism”.
 
According to Wild Asia, a non-government organization based in Kuala Lumpur who have been advocating this concept, there is a new wave of tourists who are saying “no” to mass tourism, irresponsible operators and resorts that are destroying the local environment.  These tourists want real quality experience. They want to know that the shower they are taking is not depriving a village of water. That the hotel they are staying at is not robbing the locals of their livelihood. Or that their very presence is not offending the local communities. Travel is about relaxation, rejuvenation, adventure, fulfilment, playfulness and sharing experiences rather than just 'places and things'   It certainly is not about being cooped up in a tourist compound! This is what “Responsible Tourism” or “RT” is all about.
 
RT in essence provides quality travel experience that promotes conservation of natural environment and offer opportunities and benefits for local communities. RT in ideal is tourism operations that are managed in such a way that they preserve the local environment and culture so that it can continue to deliver the benefits for years to come.
 
Thus, more applied and fundamental research is required to study the implementability of good practices of ecotourism or responsible tourism. Currently, most research in this region seems to stay as a research with no practical use or benefit. Institutions like Taylor’s College and even CHRIE, can play a distinctive role in molding the future graduates that are going to dictate the industry, with qualities that are essential to the survival of mankind in this globalised age.
 
ECOCLUB.com: You are attending all sorts of Tourism-related conferences all over the world, ranging from purely academic to business ones. How useful are they really, beyond networking, in advancing theory, policy & practice? And are Academics adequately listened to?
 
Vic Nair: Attending conferences and seminars all over the world is an important aspect of all academicians. Besides networking, it is really a one-stop point for researchers to exchange notes and argue on their findings which eventually will be picked up by policy makers, entrepreneurs, funding bodies, etc. Thus, academicians have to be conscious to the happenings in the industry in order to develop both the basic and applied research. Armed with this knowledge, academicians are able to educate the youths of the world to take their productive place as leaders in the global community.
 
Thus, a tenured academician must be able to speak his/her thoughts without being oppressed or judgmental of his/her critical thoughts. Sadly, this is still lacking in many countries around the globe including Malaysia, where academicians are bounded by the political power house that dictates what should be said and not question their constructive criticism.
 
ECOCLUB.com: Are Malaysian Tourism graduates easily absorbed into the 'job market' compared to other disciplines or has there been saturation? What are the hot topics within Tourism?
 
Vic Nair: The Malaysian tourism graduates are easily absorbed into the ‘job market’ especially those trained from reputable hospitality and tourism universities like Taylor’s College, where practical exposure, management and entrepreneurial skills are blended to fit to the industry requirement.
 
Nonetheless, as more and more highly qualified and skilled hospitality and tourism staff force are pinched by the industry in Singapore, Macau and Hong Kong, there is a serious turnover across the industry in Malaysia. As a result, many front liners in the industry in Malaysia are being managed by immigrants from Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, China, etc.
 
Thus, there is an imbalance of growth of the academia in relation to what the industry can offer in Malaysia. The Ministry of Tourism in Malaysia is aware of this gap and is current trying to tackle this issue.
 
ECOCLUB.com: Finally, which is your favourite ecological / responsible tourism spot or operation in Malaysia, and why?
 
Vic Nair: Personally, I enjoyed Mulu National Park in Sarawak. Mulu National Park is the largest park in Sarawak, with an area of 544 square kilometres. The Mulu National Park has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in November 2000 for its natural beauty and the world's largest cave system with its amazingly rich bio-diversity.
 
Out of the 27 caves discovered in Mulu, so far, only four caves are open to the general public, with some others being accessible to groups of experienced adventure cavers. Fortunately, the four "show caves" are a representative sample of the whole cave system, each cave being completely different from the others. The caves – Lang Cave, Clearwater Cave, Deer Cave and Wind Cave – which are easily accessible, are surrounded by natural settings that contain different and beautiful scenic spots that make a visit fulfilling to any tourist.
 
Mulu has successfully balanced the social inherence (respect host culture, conserve built and living cultural heritage & promote inter-cultural understanding and tolerance), environment optimisation (optimal use of resources, maintain ecological processes & help conserve natural heritage) and also the economical benefits and opportunities (profits, long-term business viability, provide socio-econ benefits to all stakeholders, support stable employment opportunities and social services & contribution to poverty alleviation), which is critical for a successful ecotourism destination.

ECOCLUB.com: Any other thoughts?
 
Vic Nair: As ecotourism becomes increasingly popular, a need has emerged for both industry standards and procedures, and for monitoring compliance with such requirements. Such standards and monitoring procedures can distinguish valid ecotourism projects from other enterprises that have appropriated the ecotourism label without commitment to its principles. Such measurements are also necessary to help honest ecotourism projects critique their performance and move closer to the ideal of sustainability.
 
Today, a need has emerged for both standards and procedures to monitor compliance with these standards. Client evaluation is a simple procedure available to all ecotourism operations that can serve to both enhance tourist education and provide a simple system of monitoring. As an educational tool it can be used to focus the tourists' attention upon ecotourism criteria. As a monitoring system it has an advantage over either surveys or on-site investigation because it provides information by observers supplied over an extended period of time.
 
The management of sensitive ecosystem in the ecotourism context can one way protect a country’s heritage and make it available for local education and tourism. The investment in such facilities is usually repaid through tourists who come in larger numbers and stay longer because there are more things to see and do and at the same time be contended that the sustainability of the site has been looked into.
 
Further, the ecotourist needs to understand the value of participating in this evaluation programme.  This requires them being told how the findings will be used and how they will benefit, as well as the environment and local culture, from nature tour operators adhering to management standards and guidelines.  One way to accomplish this goal is through an incentive program that encourages nature tour operators, guides, and lodging establishments to participate in the evaluation process.

In conclusion, as the ecotourism industry continues to grow, greater pressure will be placed on nature tour operators, lodging establishments, trade associations and governmental bodies to ensure a high quality tourism experience for its customers, to protect the natural and cultural resources that are utilized, and remain economically sustainable.  To accomplish this goal, the ecotourism industry in countries, regions and destination areas are going to have to make tough decisions regarding how they hope to ensure the future of the industry.  An underlying tension will always exists among the different ecotourism providers on how to best achieve this goal.  The tension is between self-regulation by a business, the collective development and enforcement of objectives and guidelines by an ecotourism association, or through regulation by a governmental entity. 

ECOCLUB.com: Thank you very much!

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ECO FOCUS

A Southern Perspective on Climate Change, Tourism & Ecotourism*
by Antonis B. Petropoulos

Addressing a European Greens / EFA Conference on Tourism & Climate Change in Brussels on 3 July, I was asked to present a southern perspective on tourism, ecotourism & climate change. I analysed the environmental & social problems faced and created by Greek Tourism, including mega-fires, water shortage, desertification and poor waste management and criticised the administration's neglect of the environment and focus on mega-resorts, golf and villa real estate developments on some of Europe's last unbuilt coastal areas. I also pointed out the over-dependence of Greek (and Mediterranean) Tourism on low-cost and charter airlines, and proposed EU taxes on airports so that the additional funds could be directed to more eco forms of transport including high-speed, electric trains, competitively connecting Europe's major tourism resorts to all the major European cities. An abstract follows:

Greek TourismGreece possesses one of the oldest and more resilient tourism brands, combining a dramatic, diverse & biodiverse landscape, with over 3,000 islands, some 35,000 historic and cultural monuments, 17 world heritage sites and 8 tentative ones, many well-preserved traditional settlements, most of which are in mountains and islands, over 15,000 km of coastline, and many pristine natural coastal and mountain areas. However, this fame and natural blessing has made us complacent and careless. We have a High Human Development Index (rank 24 worldwide), and a relatively high GDP per capita (rank 30), however a low Environmental Sustainability Index (rank 67). Nemesis came last Summer, when 84 people died from 3,000 fires that destroyed around 2,700 square kilometers, about half of which was forest) amounting to 2% of the total land area of Greece. The total cost of the fires is estimated at nearly half the cost of the Athens 2004 Olympics, or at around 3.5 bn. Euros.

Greek TourismBut there are also some less well-known disasters, such as the near-dried up Lake Koronia near Thessaloniki (bottom right picture), a Protected Ramsar site, where thousands of migratory birds including the iconic flamingo die each year, poisoned by cyanotoxic bacteria, fertilizers and industrial waste. 

Greek Tourism is of international significance, ranking 15th by arrivals and attracting some 15 m. Tourists annually, almost half of which are from the UK, Germany and Italy. The tourists amount to 1 and a half times the permanent population (in comparison neighbouring Turkey's tourists are just a quarter of its population). 40% of tourists (6.2 million) visit just 5, relatively small, islands: Crete, Corfu, Rhodes, Kos and Zakynthos, nearly all by charter flights.

Greece received around 14.2 bn dollars directly from Tourism in 2006, or 3.8% of world tourism receipts (rank 13). Tourism contributes directly around 7% and indirectly another 11% to the Gross National Product, thus 18% in total compared to 8% for Agriculture. It is also important in terms of employment with 255,000 employed directly and another 600,000 indirectly, or 18% in total compared to 10% for Agriculture. Out of the 20 million Europeans employed in Tourism, 800,000 of these are in Greece. Over the past 20 years, the number of tourist arrivals has doubled, the price of land has soared and there have been generous subsidies, both from the state and the European Union.

On the other hand, tourism generates many leakages due to the proliferation of low-cost charter packages  - 8 million out of the 15 million arrive this way, due to considerable tax evasion (some 150,000 undeclared beds or 20% of the total) and uninsured labour, estimated at around 60% by the head of the tourism employees union. Tourists also consume more natural resources than locals, especially in the summer, significantly contributing to shortages in energy and water, which in turn lead to higher costs to create and maintain adequate infrastructure.

The typical hotel is small and family-owned, the whole family works hard for 4 months when they also employ low-paid assistants, usually uninsured immigrants from the Balkans or further afield. The same is true in bars, rent a car/moped businesses and restaurants. Over 50% of hotels & rent-room businesses have a capacity of less than 15 rooms, while 65% of hotels and 38% of rooms are classified as one star or two star. In total there were around 700,000 beds in 2007, a 25% increase over 10 years. The mean size for hotels is still small, with 31 beds compared to 200 for Turkey, 90 for Spain and 47 for Italy. This is in my view a strength, rather than a weakness, however the government and some in the business lobby think otherwise. However there is currently a tendency for big real-estate investments, villa developments and golf courts, with a total of 47,000 new luxury hotel beds, subsidised with state funding, coming to the market soon. Rather than providing strong incentives so that current capacity becomes more eco-friendly, the government is subsidising luxury.

Due, primarily, to cold winters, there is a very high seasonality, with just one third of hotels staying open all year, with 65% of tourists arriving from mid June to mid September. The main reason is the climate, we have cold winters, unlike Cyprus or Southern Spain. Seasonality does have some advantages - it gives a chance to the social and natural environment to rest and recover. However it also gives rise to the unofficial character of the sector the most characteristic aspect of which is part-time employment – almost all hotel and travel agency staff in resorts is laid off at the end of the September or October, and only receive an unemployment benefit until the next May or even June…Seasonality also affects public infrastructure, including public transport and together with an ever-changing administrative structure – the tourism ministry was first founded in the 80s, abolished in the 90s and resuscitated 4 years ago – and a lack of a separate Ministry of Environment, we are left with a haphazard tourism development model. Tensions are exacerbated by government policies determined to privatize all public transport infrastructure (ports, airports and the national carrier Olympic).

Bureaucracy, lack of continuity when the minister or the government changes, and erratic tourism promotion campaigns, all add to the chaos and thus the environment takes the backseat to what are seen as more ‘pressing problems’ that necessitate ‘development’.  A strong domestic tourism sector, which involves visiting mountain & rural villages of mainland & insular Greece where most Athenians descend from acts as a buffer in times of crisis, for example when there were wars in neighbouring countries or travel directives back in the 80s.  On the positive side, a strong social tourism scheme is also in place, offering low-cost holidays to those Greeks with lower incomes. The big game is now played in Real Estate, especially after the 2004 Olympics and the coming to power of the pro-big-business conservative party. Controversial, neo-feudalist schemes take the form of sprawling golf & villa luxury tourism developments in eastern Crete (Cavo Sidero), southern Peloponnese (POTA Messinias), Sterea Ellada (Atalanti Hills) with many more in the pipeline. These anti-environment policies are glossed over by a thin green veneer and environmental technology coming to the rescue (continued)

Read the whole paper here

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ECOCLUB Activities

ECOCLUB celebrates World Environment Day by funding five projects in the context of the ECOCLUB.com Ecotourism Awards 2008

To celebrate World Environment Day, ECOCLUB®, the International Ecotourism Club™ announced the results of its fifth annual eco-project competition, the "ECOCLUB.com Ecotourism Awards 2008" which fund or co-fund community and environment-supporting projects, organised and implemented by tourism SMEs and NGOs around the world.

Our 2008 Winners

Ethnic Rescue Centre Greening Canada's Events Native-Tree Nursery Plastic-free Ecolodge Raising Environmental Awareness
Ecuador: Sustainable Ethnic Rescue Centre for Mindo Canada: Toolkit for Greening Canada's Events Ecuador: Native-Tree Nursery Using Plastic Garbage Ecuador: Banishing Disposable Plastic from an Ecolodge Pakistan: Raising Environmental Awareness in Kalash areas

The awards are different in that they are not based on morally rewarding past performance, but on financially supporting future action through micro-grants of a total value of Euros 3,000 (USD 4,700).

The winning projects for 2008 are as follows:

Septimo Paraiso Cloud Forest Reserve, Ecuador - Web: www.septimoparaiso.com
Winning Project: Sustainable Ethnic Rescue Centre for Mindo
In an area where traditions are being absorbed by the culture and beliefs of immigrants from other provinces of Ecuador raises the need for an "Ethnic Rescue Centre" to save and record traditions, folklore and culture.
Project Proposal Details

Rachel Dodds / The Icarus Foundation, Canada - Web: www.theicarusfoundation.com
Winning Project: Greening Canada's Events
Reducing the environmental footprint of major events through a practical toolkit that consists of a guide, checklist and case studies that focus on the benefits of greening.
Project Proposal Details

Black Sheep Inn, Ecuador - Web: www.blacksheepinn.com
Winning Project: Native-Tree Nursery Using Plastic Garbage
Spearheading the creation of a native tree nursery in the high Andes using discarded plastic bottles and abundant organic fertilizer.
Project Proposal Details

La Selva Jungle Lodge, Ecuador - Web: www.laselvajunglelodge.com
Winning Project: The End of Disposable Plastic
For many years La Selva Jungle Lodge has worked towards becoming a disposable plastic free zone but still we fall short. In this project we would eliminate plastic in its disposable form altogether.
Project Proposal Details

Chitral Association for Mountain Area Tourism (CAMAT), Pakistan - Web: www.ecoclub.com/c/blog/suddin
Winning Project: Kalash Environmental Protection Project
Protecting the environment of the Kalash people by introducing environmental awareness initiatives and a community-driven waste disposal campaign in Bomburate, Rumbor with an aim to make the activity sustainable in future.
Project Proposal Details

As every year, the winning projects implementation and completion will be transparently presented and monitored online at www.ecoclub.com, the world's most popular ecotourism business portal. The full and timely implementation of the projects is a pre-condition for the payment of the Award funds.

For details on the ECOCLUB.com Ecotourism Awards
http://www.ecoclub.com/awards.html


First two lodges, in Belize & Dominica, receive ECOCLUB Rating  

The first two lodges have successfully undergone the new ECOCLUB Rating process and have been rated as 'Ecolodges' by Members of ECOCLUB.com - International Ecotourism Club. Following a transparent & democratic evaluation process, at no extra cost to the Lodges, both Rosalie Forest Eco Lodge in Dominica (rated 4.4 out of 5), and The Lodge at Big Falls in Belize (rated 3.9 out of 5) were found to fulfil the majority of ecotourism criteria and are therefore officially accepted as ECOCLUB Ecolodge Members.

Going further than other rating systems which focus on environmental impact issues, the ECOCLUB Rating system tries to include broader social & political ecology criteria. It aims to be as democratic as possible, without employing a panel of experts, but relying on collective wisdom. The Lodges were rated against the following five criteria: 1. environmental impact minimisation, 2. environmental conservation funding, 3. poverty reduction,  4. respect of human rights and 5. promotion of knowledge & understanding. The novel rating process tries to be CO2 neutral by being conducted exclusively online, not involving travel, brochures or paperwork. It is available at no extra cost to Accommodation facilities that are Business Members of ECOCLUB.com.

Rating-Big Falls

Rating - Rosalie Forest

The Lodge at Big Falls Staff, Belize

Rosalie Forest Eco Lodge Staff, Dominica

The next rating period will commence on July 10, with two more Lodges, both from Ecuador,
La Selva Jungle Lodge and Septimo Paraiso Cloud Forest Reserve.


2008 Travelers' Philanthropy Conference Program Announced

Traveler's Philanthropy ConferenceECOCLUB.com is a Media Sponsor of the 2008 Traveler's Philanthropy Conference which takes place in Arusha, Tanzania December 3-5, 2008, organised by the Center on Ecotourism and Sustainable Development. The conference will feature an exclusive half-day Short Course on how to establish and manage a travelers’ philanthropy program and the premier of a new documentary film. The newly released conference program includes 27 workshops on a wide range of current topics as well as plenary sessions. The workshops feature three main streams including: Travelers’ Philanthropy: Contribution to Conservation; Travelers’ Philanthropy: Investing in Communities and Development; and Travelers’ Philanthropy: Tre nds and Cross Cutting Issues. Eight optional, pre- and post- conference safaris that combine game viewing and other tourism activities with visits to community projects supported by tour operators will also be available at a discount for participants, friends, and family.

“This conference marks the most comprehensive examination to-date of travelers’ philanthropy – the growing global initiative by which tourism businesses and travelers are helping to support local schools, clinics, micro-enterprises, job training, conservation, and other types of projects in tourism destinations around the world,” says Dr. Martha Honey, Co-Director of the Center on Ecotourism and Sustainable Development (CESD) which is organizing the conference. “We have chosen to hold the conference in East Africa both because there are many fine examples of responsible tourism businesses that are practicing travelers’ philanthropy and because there are many pressing local and regional social and environmental needs which tourism, done well, can help to address.”

The keynote address will be given by Nobel Laureate Professor Wangari Maathai, founder and leader of Kenya ’s Green Belt Movement. Other plenary sessions include a panel discussion on “HIV/AIDS: Responses from the Travel Industry”, “Creating a Strong Corporate Commitment & Model: Vision for the Future”, and an address on “Benefiting Host Communities: Lessons from East Africa,” by Dr. David Western, former head of Kenya Wildlife Service and founder of the African Conservation Centre.

The specially designed Short Course on the ‘nuts and bolts’ of travelers’ philanthropy, will be held on Wednesday afternoon, December 3, just before the official opening of the conference. “We have created this course because many people are unfamiliar with the concept of travelers’ philanthropy, its different models, and its growth as a new form of development assistance,“ explains Fred Nelson, CESD’s conference coordinator in East Africa. In the course, we will give step-by-step instruction on how to create a travelers’ philanthropy program,” adds Nelson. The instructors include representatives from leading international and African tour companies and other experts in the field of travelers’ philanthropy including the following (a few of which are still being confirmed): Les Carlisle (CC Afr! i ca), Dennis Pint o (Micato Safaris), Jane Crouch (Intrepid), Priscilla Macy (Global Sojourns), Len Cordiner (World Hotel Link), Lars Lindqvist (Basecamp Masai Mara), Judy Kepher-Gona (Ecotourism Kenya), Martha Honey (CESD), Bill Durham (CESD), and Laura Driscoll (CESD).

In addition, the conference will showcase a 25 minute documentary on travelers’ philanthropy which has been specially commissioned for this event. Two talented young documentary makers from Stanford University , Peter Jordan and Charlene Music, are currently spending several months shooting footage in Costa Rica and East Africa and editing this educational video.The three-day conference, the first since the 2004 Travelers’ Philanthropy Conference held at Stanford University, is supported by a growing list of co-sponsors including tourism businesses, conservation NGOs, and UN and other development agencies. Details on registration, scholarships, and how to apply to be a workshop speaker are provided on the conference website: www.travelersphilanthropyconference.org. Those wishing to speak must submit short abstracts by July 31, 2008. Early Bird registration ($395) closes August 31, 2008.


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ECOTOURISM HEADLINES
News from our Members and other important ecotourism developments

Africa:

Ethiopia: Ethiopia-USAID Ecotourism Program announced
Kenya: Ecotourism Kenya rating scheme expands


South Africa:

Alternative Animal Tracks & Tracking Course
New birding courses from Afreco Tours

Tanzania: 2008 Travelers' Philanthropy Conference Program Announced

Americas:

Canada: Alberta Sustainable Tourism Workshop
Cuba: Golf returns to Cuba
Grenada: Hawks vs Doves
Guyana: Guyana's Stunning Climate Change Proposal
Mexico: Video Conversation with Hector Ceballos-Lascurain

United States:
'Official' U.S. Travel Website launched

New eco certification programs in New England states

Asia:

India:
Karnataka state mulls Ecotourism Policy
Ecotourism Society of India launched
Goan B&B owners preparing eco proposals for government

Malaysia: National Ecotourism Plan will be given 'new direction'
Oman: Oman seeks 'responsible tourism'
Pakistan: Preying on birds of prey
Russia: Booming Baikal seeks most eco-friendly accommodation
Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka seeks donor support for its Tourism

Europe:

Greece:
Greek Minister calls for new Tourism model, plays up Ecotourism
Crete's Culinary Sanctuaries a finalist in the Geotourism Challenge
Local municipal tax on tourism businesses may be abolished
Ecotourism & Agrotourism Centre for the Cyclades
Athens International Airport wins EU "GreenBuilding" Award for saving energy

Italy: Venice says: reuse plastic bottles, drink from the fountains

UK - Scotland:
Donald Trump's Golf plans - trumped?
Community "buy-out" - Isle of Rum

Oceania & Pacific:

Australia: Ecotourism Australia wins WTTC Conservation Award
New Zealand: Ron Mader addresses the 2008 Queenstown World Env. Day Seminar


Travelers PhilanthropyCESD Travelers' Philanthropy Conference
Join Center on Ecotourism and Sustainable Development (CESD) at the 2008 international Travelers’ Philanthropy conference, December 3–5, in Arusha, Tanzania.
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ECOCLUB.com - International Ecotourism Club is Media Partner of the Ecotourism & Sustainable Tourism Conference, Vancouver 27-29 October, 2008Ecotourism & Sustainable Tourism Conference
Vancouver - Oct. 27-29
  Highlighting innovating solutions for greening the tourism industry in the US and Canada, the ESTC 2008 (Vancouver, BC, Canada, October 27-29) will bring together 500+ industry leaders and community stakeholders from across the region, and offer unique opportunities to gain practical skills and participate in invaluable networking and knowledge sharing.
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Media Partner: ECOCLUB.com - International Ecotourism Club



ECOCLUB®, International Ecotourism Magazine™
Year 9, Issue 98 - Published: July 2008

Free bi-monthly e-Magazine of ECOCLUB®, the International Ecotourism Club™, published at http://www.ecoclub.com/news 

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