Focus on sustainable, responsible tourism

Izah Azahari

Following the ASEAN Tourism Ministers Press Conference at the Indera Samudra Grand Hall, The Empire Brunei yesterday, a number of questions were raised on issues related to the ASEAN Tourism sector.

One of the questions was on the promotion of eco-tourism within ASEAN, to which the Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong responded that following a meeting held in Vietnam last year, there is increased focus on sustainable, responsible and inclusive tourism as a new concept of eco-tourism, meaning that it encourages tourists to participate in the preservation of the environment, culture, customs and traditions of each country they are staying in either in ASEAN or Plus Three countries.

“Brunei, in particular, has made eco-tourism as our main product, where tourists are encouraged to visit the rainforest, not to destroy, but to preserve it,” said the minister. “In fact we no longer use the term ‘eco-tourism’, we now use ‘sustainable, responsible, and

inclusive tourism’.” The minister’s response was further reiterated by the Secretary of Tourism of the Philippines Bernadette Romulo-Puyat who explained the recent closure of their top tourist destination, Boracay, for six months to promote sustainable tourism, and plans to close other top tourist destinations for renovation. “We’ve also launched our ‘Save Our Spots’ which actually promotes and asks the tourists to be responsible tourists as I agree with Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong that it’s not only up to the national government to make sure we promote sustainable tourism, but it’s also up to the stakeholders to promote and save our tourist destinations,” added the secretary.

With regards to the challenges that lie ahead for ASEAN Tourism due to the global economic slowdown, the Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Economic Community Dr Aladdin D Rillo explained that countries around the world are affected by the current economic slowdown, but in terms of the region’s current growth, it is expected to still be at 4.4 per cent. Dr Aladdin believes that the biggest challenge within the region is the implications of digitalisation and the challenges it presents. “That is the reason why it is under one of the priorities of the ASEAN Tourism Cooperation is to take advantage of how these digital technologies can promote digital tourism services,” he added.

The ASEAN Tourism Ministers responding to questions. PHOTO: BAHYIAH BAKIR