Think Big, Think Different! Working with the tourism sector to improve communities’ lives and coastal and marine ecosystems

Posted on 10 December 2013    
Sipadan Island topside and underwater split-level with diver. Sipadan Island, Sabah, Malysia.
© Jürgen Freund / WWF
By Marie de Long Camp, WWF-US Conservation Finance Director

With an expected GDP growth of 7% per year over the next decade and an increase per year in job creation, the tourism sector in the Coral Triangle is considered by the governments as a major driver of the economy.

However, poor sanitation, improper management of tourism activities, and a lack of infrastructure development and effective management are causing major negative impacts on coastal and marine resources and the local communities that depend on them.

In the long run, these impacts may harm the future of tourism if the beauty of natural assets isn’t preserved.

The role of Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Areas or MPAs, serve a very important role of securing the welfare of our valuable marine resources while securing the food and livelihoods of people. However, MPAs in the Coral Triangle region are struggling to play their conservation role as a result of a lack of funding and capacity.

The WWF Coral Triangle Program, in support of the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, assessed the price tag for sustainably managing the MPAs of the Sulu Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion, a priority seascape of the Coral Triangle. The conclusion clearly shows, with no room for doubt that the funding gaps for sustainably-managing these areas range from 20% to 48% depending on the country and type of MPAs.

Making tourism work for nature

Tourism-related mechanisms have been identified as part of the solution. WWF is working to increase tourism revenues that go back to conservation activities and develop financial incentives for tourism operators to lower their ecological footprint.

Tourism operators can reduce their carbon emissions and waste impacts on marine resources if they: i) invest in appropriate waste management and energy efficiency technologies; and ii) implement low/no cost changes to operational practices. A lack of investment funds and technical expertise are among the roadblocks that prevent tourism operators and commercial banks from taking action.

Investing in environment-friendly technologies to increase benefits to nature and people

Focusing on Malaysia and potentially in Indonesia, WWF is assessing the environmental impacts of tourism and the willingness of tourism operators to invest in more efficient technologies. Appropriate financing mechanisms can unlock this potential and act as a catalyst for improved behaviors. The financing mechanism design is based on investment barriers and the willingness of operators to invest in environment-friendly technologies and best practices.

Through these pilot projects, WWF hopes to enlist the support of the entire tourism industry to give back to the environment and contribute to better-managed marine resources for the benefit of the millions of people.

Sipadan Island topside and underwater split-level with diver. Sipadan Island, Sabah, Malysia.
© Jürgen Freund / WWF Enlarge

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