Eco-tourism on the rise in Southeast Asia

Sustainable Tourism in Southeast Asia is becoming more and more important and prevalent. Enjoying an amazing trip to Southeast Asia and impacting the region in a positive way is now possible through environmentally friendly tours, transportation and accommodation.

Though still a nice market, ecotourism is providing a myriad of revenue-generating options for locals of ecotourism destinations. Micro-businesses throughout Southeast Asia are therefore beginning to offer local communities financial incentives to protect their environments as they take advantage of the region’s growing ecotourism industry.

For instance, members of the ethnic Qiang minority in the mountainous southwest region of China are selling meals to visitors made from organic produce. In Indonesia, locals are taking tourists staying in rainforest eco-lodges out to meet endangered orang-utans.

At a higher scale the travel industry and, in some cases, governments are also responding to the rising demand for Sustainable Tourism and “green” travel. Cambodia, for example, recently became the first Southeast Asian country to commit to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s principles.

One of the most enthusiastic adopters of eco-tourism in Southeast Asia is the Philippines. Government leaders, local communities and non-governmental organizations have been especially active on the beautiful and biologically diverse Filipino island of Palawan.

As part of an ecotourism programme called Bayanijuan, which is run by the Puerto Princesa government and Philippine media company ABS-CBN, the small fishing community on Palawan has been running dolphin and whale watching tours for about two years. Many of the locals act as spotters for the tourist vessel while out fishing themselves in their small outrigger boats. If they are the spotter that finds the dolphins or whales for the tourist boat, they get paid 25 pesos (about 60 cents) for each passenger on the boat.

While most locals still need to fish to guarantee enough money to survive, other former fishermen elsewhere on Palawan have given up their old jobs altogether to cater for the growing number of tourists. Many have even turned their fishing vessels into island hopping boats.

Tourist numbers to Palawan’s capital city, Puerto Princesa, has rocketed just from 12,000 in 1992 to 425,000 in 2010, and many more are expected as the area gains global fame – National Geographic named Palawan as one of its top-20 destinations this year!

Once you’ve seen the natural beauty of Southeast Asia, you’ll know why it’s so important to preserve it. The region is ready and waiting for “green” travelers, so what are you waiting for?