Tourism and Ecology

Ideally, these two should be partners regardless of where in the world the observation is made.  But experts and those concerned with the environment are quick to say that these two, because of present-day practices, are farthest from being partners.  

Whereas Ecology is mindful of keeping any place in its pristine form, free from destruction by humans, Tourism brings to a place the multitudes of curious visitors who are, most of the time, careless with what they do while in that place, leading to its destruction.  

On one hand, experts concerned with the environment complain about tourism decision-makers who give more importance to income-generating activities, even if it leads to the eventual destruction of the tourist site.  On the other hand, Tourism officials also complain that the environmentalists’ concerns limit, and sometimes, prevent economic progress. 

Since both sides agree that there has to be some balance between the two seemingly opposing goals, Ecotourism was born, designed to give rise to a sustainable Tourism Industry that would meet the standards of both factions.

 The placid Lake Sebu in South Cotabato is an example of an Ecotourism site 
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Ecotourism is a nature-based form of tourism in which the main motivation of the tourists is the observation, appreciation and preservation of nature, and of the indigenous culture of that area.  In fact, its popular mantra, which applies anywhere in the world, is: Take nothing but pictures, Leave nothing but footprints, Kill nothing but time.

Ecotourism is meant to be a low-impact and small-scale activity, as a safeguard for the conservation of the environment going hand-in-hand with the improvement of the wellbeing of the locals.  This is in contrast with the usual mass tourism, which brings in big groups to a place, without any care for the preservation of the locale and the welfare of its inhabitants.

Among the many Ecotourism destinations in our country, the most popular that come to mind is the beautiful, idyllic province up North…Batanes. The smallest province in the country offers awesome, breathtaking views that have been featured in so many local movie and television productions, and magazines.  

Among the many must-see destinations in the province are: the towering Basco Lighthouse, the Marlboro Hills scenery, and the boulder beach of Valugan Bay.  Sure to attract tourist also are the stone houses of the Ivatans and the unique and petite Mt. Carmel church, which is also made of stone and limestone.

Simply because Batanes is an island, it can easily be damaged by the negative effect of unsupervised tourism, thus, it has become a protected area.  Ecotourism sees to it that the province’s bountiful natural resources are preserved and that the Ivatans (villagers) share in the resulting economic activities, giving them enough funds to maintain their desired standard of living.  

Another Ecotourism site in the country that is now increasingly gaining popularity is Lake Sebu in South Cotabato, home to the Manobo, T’Boli, and the Tiruray tribes.  Many tourists call it a “jewel-of-a-destination” because it has seven marvelous waterfalls, which one can get a breathtaking bird’s-eye-view of on the long zipline over it. The place also has three amazing lakes, which are perfect for kayaking, and a dense rainforest rich in flora and fauna.

Recent developments are very encouraging because it’s not only the people in our Tourism Industry that are now giving importance to Ecology, even designers and architects have joined the bandwagon.  One such architect is Philippine Institute of Interior Designers President James Jao, who earned his post-graduate degree in City Design and Social Science from the London School of Economics.  After returning to the country from his academic pursuits, he ventured into construction of “Eco Houses” which were not yet popular then.

An Ivatan stone house, the oldest in the province of Batanes
What gave him the break and has made him a pioneer of sorts in urban ecology was his iconic design of a unique Eco-friendly house, which became a main feature of the 2008 Manila Construction Show at the SMX Mall of Asia.  His Eco Houses are carbon-neutral, using materials that are sustainable, and can be built anywhere in the country, whether by the sea, or on a mountain, or right in the middle of the metropolis.  What is even more significant is that his Eco Houses can withstand a Magnitude 9 earthquake or a Signal no. 5 typhoon.   An Eco House he built survived the Bohol earthquake with nary a scratch, and another one he built in Tacloban was untarnished by super-typhoon Yolanda.

With pioneering architects like Jao, and similar-minded individuals, it looks like the gap between Ecology and our Tourism Industry is beginning to narrow, as more and more people are now conscious of the importance of an area’s sustainability, and its preservation.  If you want to help out, just sing out Ecotourism’s popular mantra.

For feedback, I’m at [email protected]

Topics: Tourism , Ecology , United Nations World Tourism Organization , James Jao
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