Balancing tourism and heritage protection

At this year’s ITB Berlin Convention, Peter DeBrine, Senior Project Officer, Sustainable Tourism at UNESCO, will present joint solutions for sustainable tourism development in Southeast Asia. We asked him about the key challenges in the region.

One of the biggest challenges will be balancing tourism development with protecting heritage and the environment while ensuring bene ts to the local communities. Tourism infrastructure; how people move through sites; providing tourism products that reflect the heritage values without over commercialising the destinations; and ensuring broad stakeholder engagement in decision-making will be key.

NO VISITOR WANTS TO SEE TRASH OR WORRY ABOUT THEIR HEALTH WHEN ON HOLIDAY

Bangkok is a significant city trip destination, the beaches of Bali are stunning, the temples of Angkor Wat are unique and the jewel Luang Prabang is the insider tip par excellence. Some destinations are world-famous and receive millions of tourists every year; smaller towns are just about to nd their role as “global tourist destinations”.

What they all have in common is that they are part of a diverse region full of cultural and natural treasures. It is therefore no wonder that tourism plays an important role for the economic development and integration of large and small countries in the ASEAN. Tourism contributes to growth and the creation of jobs, but it also generates piles of waste and social conflict, which need to be tackled.

In many places, there is no infrastructure for waste disposal. Should it be up to state, regional or local authorities to x the problem? As waste management is a complex system that typically touches all government levels, this should be an absolute priority for authorities at all levels. The tourism industry, which requires significant infrastructure development has a role in terms of investment. Government authorities can develop policies and incentives to minimise waste and maximise efficiency of collection and safe disposal.

Pollution is a major turn-off for tourists. Can this fact help pressure local authorities to do more?

Without question pollution is a huge negative. No visitor wants to see trash or worry about their health when on holiday. Once a bad reputation is established at a destination it is dif cult to change. It is in fact everyone’s responsibility to ensure a clean and safe destination – the local authorities, the hospitality business, visitors and the local communities.

IT IS IN FACT EVERYONE’S RESPONSIBILITY TO ENSURE A CLEAN AND SAFE DESTINATION

Do you have any best-practice examples?

Led by GIZ [the German society for international co-operation], with the support of the EU, a project in Luang Prabang called “Handle with Care” aims to address the challenges from the increasing growth of tourism by working with the local tourism industry to develop and promote sustainability. A flagship campaign focuses on reducing single-use plastic water bottles by working with local hotels, museums, cafes and restaurants to offer safe drinking water refill stations for tourists.

A local NGO in India, “I Love Jaisalmer”, an alliance of local people taking responsibility for protecting their heritage, came together with hoteliers and the local tourism industry to clean up the Jaisalmer Fort, a World Heritage site in Rajasthan. By honouring the land and its people they transformed the site and signi cantly improved conservation and the visitor experience.

Meanwhile, the Galapagos Governing Council announced a single-use plastic ban in April 2018 to protect wildlife and conserve the beauty of the islands. The ban was introduced in a phased approach, with the total ban of single-use plastics in effect by August 2018.

How important is ITB Berlin in spotlighting this issue and finding solutions?

ITB is an extremely important venue to discuss the critical issues. You have the entire sector engaged in some form of peer-to-peer and business-to-business networking, learning and reflecting.


SAME, SAME BUT DIFFERENT? – JOINT SOLUTIONS FOR SUSTAINABLE TOURISM DEVELOPMENT IN SOUTH-EAST ASIA
Category: ITB Tourism for Sustainable Development Day
Date: March 7, 2019
Time: 5pm – 5:45pm
Location: City Cube, Auditorium A3


Photo: Peter DeBrine Senior Project Officer, Sustainable Tourism at UNESCO