Across Asia, micro-businesses are offering local communities financial incentives to protect their environments as they take advantage of the region’s small but growing “ecotourism” industry. Members of the ethnic Qiang minority in mountainous southwest China are selling meals made from organic produce to visitors, while in Indonesia locals are taking tourists from rainforest eco-lodges to meet endangered orangutans. The travel industry and governments are also responding to the rising demand for “green” travel, with Cambodia recently becoming the first Southeast Asian nation to commit to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s principles.
On the Internet, travellers have a myriad of choices from tour operators promoting “sustainable” holidays, including offers to buy carbon credits to offset air travel and to stay at high-end resorts that embrace green practices.
“Ecotourism is a still a niche market but interest is rising,” John Koldowski, deputy chief executive officer of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, told AFP. “This is driven by an awareness generally in the environment and being green and sustainable, but also in something that’s becoming in short supply in the world — peace, quiet and solitude.” Government leaders, local communities and non-government organisations on Palawan, one of the Philippines’ most beautiful and biologically diverse islands, have been among the most enthusiastic adopters of eco-tourism in Asia.
Eco-tourism in the Philippines