BRI Boosts Ecotourism Development in Asean Region
OVER the past two decades, the number of travelers visiting Southeast Asia has increased by 10% per year on average.
This number has increased from 40 million in 2001 to 143.6 million in 2019. The rapid growth of the tourism sector has made a substantial contribution to the economies of the region.
In 2019, tourism revenue for ASEAN countries amounted to $392 billion, up about $180 billion from 2011.
However, as every coin has two sides, the development of tourism also has its drawbacks. With the influx of funds come threats such as increased pollution, environmental degradation and cultural change.
The impressions of investors, tourism companies and tourists can be found everywhere on the beautiful beaches, unexplored forests and windy mountain passes of Southeast Asian countries. From the beaches to the foothills and on the mountains, resorts and inns are springing up, causing problems such as deforestation and littering.
With the favorable increase in visitor arrivals, regional officials underscored their commitment to inject revenue into promoting ecotourism – one of the key aspects of the ASEAN Tourism Marketing Strategy 2017-2020.
Ecotourism is described by the International Ecotourism Society as “responsible travel to natural areas that protects the environment, supports native well-being, and encompasses education and interpretation.”
This type of travel is possible thanks to a worldwide network of individuals, organizations and the tourism sector, where travelers and tourism professionals are made aware of environmental concerns.
After renowned tourist spots like Phuket (Thailand), Langkawi (Malaysia), Bali (Indonesia) and Boracay (Philippines) were hit by pollution and overcrowding, causing damage to their once pristine environment, tourism authorities in Ministers met at the 22nd Asean Tourism Ministers met at the Asean Tourism Forum (AFT) and decided to come up with measures to tackle issues such as over-tourism.
China’s “Vision and Action” on the Joint Construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road was announced in 2015. It is a strategy document program that sets the roadmap for the development of the Belt and Road Initiative and recommends ways to boost tourism. collaborations.
For the ecotourism sector, it improves internal regional coordination and encourages the growth of local ecotourism. In addition, it is accelerating the pace of overseas tourism cooperation, accelerating the opening up of tourism, and attracting international travelers to ASEAN destinations. Therefore, it can contribute to the growth of the ecotourism sector along the route.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has the potential to have a multi-faceted impact on the Asean ecotourism economy along the canal.
First and foremost are the political incentives. Asean countries on the road will opt for BRI to increase ecotourism investment in the region and encourage tourism supply, which is expected to have a substantial effect on enriching ecotourism products and optimizing the facility. industrial.
The second objective is to improve transport. Aspects such as transport infrastructure have an impact on the agglomeration and spread of the local ecotourism economy, and it is also one of the most important issues in the transformation and advancement of the tourism sector. ecotourism, as well as improving quality and pace.
The deployment of BRI has improved transport infrastructure in ASEAN countries along the route, which has resulted in a greater geographical impact of ecotourism specialization.
The third step is to encourage the flow of components of ecotourism production. The BRI can strengthen ecotourism collaboration in the region where the policy is implemented, encourage the use and flow of economic aspects, improve the efficiency of the ecotourism sector, improve the efficiency of use of means of ecotourism and synchronize the development of provincial tourism.
At the same time, the BRI strategy will encourage foreign travelers to visit Asean in various ways, potentially stimulating the development of ecotourism in areas along the route.
The first aspect is policy interoperability. BRI participating countries will develop more practical collaboration, harmonization and an effective policy support structure. Synchronizing policies focused on ecotourism can help connect travelers and tourist destinations to encourage travel and mutual appreciation.
This includes visa-friendly rules that facilitate the arrival of tourists and mutual recognition of industry standards. This will contribute to the growth of high level ecotourism.
The second point is unrestricted trading. Customs support for information exchange, mutual recognition of supervision, and law enforcement support in en route countries expands trade opportunities and improves trade setups.
These factors increase the demand for technologies, materials and resources in the local regions as well as the Belt and Road, thus approving the improvement of the local industrial structure, an industrial atmosphere conducive to the growth of ecotourism and an increase significant from corporate ecotourism and other sources.
Then there is monetary support. The removal of barriers to trade and investment, diversification of financing and investment channels of national areas on the road, greater convenience of inbound tourism, efficient flow of capital items between sectors, a Appropriate capital regulation of participating nations and supporting factors for best tourism growth are a few examples.
The fourth point is cultural communication. The creation of cultural initiatives and events in the nations along the route provides a communication platform for the growth of tourism, thus reducing the psychological distance of travelers.
Local exhibition tourism, festival tourism and other new sectors are aided by ecotourism collaboration, sports activities and other enterprises. A well-rounded and accessible cultural ecology and public opinion culture is essential for the growth of Belt and Road ecotourism.
In summary, one of the goals of the BRI is to publicize the openness of the region and to conduct deeper collaboration and exchange with global communities.
Executing the strategy has facilitated ecotourism collaboration among nations on the route, enabling Asean’s distinctive cultural, historical and natural landscapes to attract travelers from around the world.
The BRI aims to make the cities where the policy is implemented more welcoming to tourists while ensuring the sustainable growth of ecotourism in ASEAN areas, maximizing local potential.
Dr Lin Woon Leong is a senior lecturer at Taylor’s University, Malaysia. The opinions expressed here are entirely those of the author.
The SEARCH Scholar Series is a social accountability program jointly organized by the South-East Asia Research Center for Humanities (SEARCH) and the Center of Business and Policy Research, Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC), and co-hosted by the Association of Belt and Road Malaysia.