Editorial: Sustainable tourism

THE inclusion of three places in the Philippines in the Top 100 Sustainable Destinations for 2017 should awaken us to the possibilities of considering how the rest of the country can adopt the insights from these success cases.

More than local pride is at stake.

Last Sept. 29, Katlene O. Cacho reported in SunStar Cebu that Bojo, Aloguinsan; Lake Holon, T’boli; and Lake Sebu, South Cotobato were recognized in the global search initiated by Green Destinations  and 20 other international organizations.
This was the second time Bojo received the award.

For many communities across the nation, tourism is a business trend that promises quick and lucrative returns. However, it would be catastrophic if a community only focused on the payoffs to be reaped. We should learn from the struggle of Boracay to recover the equilibrium between economics and ecology.

Bojo, Lake Holon, Lake Sebu and the 97 other destinations in the Top 100 Sustainable Destinations List are sources of best practices to guide communities in adopting sustainable tourism.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) defines sustainable tourism as one “that respects both local people and the traveler, cultural heritage and the environment”.
Other stakeholders stress maintaining the balance between meeting current demands for income generation and managing the resources for future generations to benefit from.

Sustainable tourism builds on the valuable lessons from past decades that tourism may be one of the most dependable industries for revitalizing economies but people’s attitudes and practices have to be changed in order not to repeat what the Unesco regards as the undesirable fruits of tourism: “social dislocation, loss of cultural heritage, economic dependence and ecological degradation”.

Five values lie at the core of Green tourism, according to greendestinations.org.
G stands for the importance of valuing the “genuine and authentic” in indigenous culture and tradition.
R is equated with “responsible” approaches that promote tourism that do not exploit people and resources; avoids violating human rights; and creates access for persons with disabilities.

E refers to the “economic sustainability” that is attained when the local business community participates in sustainable tourism ventures. Local livelihood must be generated not only during but also beyond peak seasons, such as holidays.

E also stands for “environmentally sustainable” strategies that ensure public health, safety and environmental management.

N reiterates that sustainable tourism protects “nature,” which includes the wildlife, habitats, and landscapes. Animal rights and welfare must always be upheld.

Now on its third year, the Top 100 Sustainable Destinations List underscores this important insight: the key to sustainable tourism is community stakeholdership.

Local communities are the stewards of their environments. Their participation is the key to ensuring that the other criteria are in place: the coordination of sustainability initiatives, tourism policy, nature protection, animal ethics, landscape and scenery, waste water treatment, solid waste reduction, reduction of fossil fuel dependency, cultural heritage conservation, intangible heritage, protection of people, involvement of inhabitants in tourism, promotion of local products, health and safety, and accessibility.

The year 2017 is the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The awarding of the Top 100 Sustainable Destinations 2017 was held on Sept. 27, World Tourism Day.

This was a timely reminder that the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) involves the stakeholdership of government, businesses and consumers in whatever niche of tourism, according to the Unesco: holidays, business travel, conferences, adventure travel, and ecotourism. 
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