October 23, 2016

Sarawak can be an ‘ideal Ecotourism Destination’

Sarawak can be an ‘ideal Ecotourism Destination’

The peaks of Batu Lawi in Miri invite intrepid mountaineers from near and far. Photo Credit: sarawaktourism.com

Wildlife reserves? Tick. National parks? Tick. World-famous flora and fauna? Tick and tick. You’ll find all these and other attractions in Sarawak, which make the Bornean state an ideal destination for ecotourism.

“The nature itself added with the culture of the people here are crowd pullers. Besides, ecotourism is a product which commands a premium price,” explains Hamzah Rahmat, president of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents. “Therefore, Sarawak should continue targeting ecotourism and make it a real product for the development of the tourism industry.”

It’s hard to quibble with that. Ecotourism, if managed responsibly, can be a win-win: local forests and marine areas can be better protected so that they can bring in much-needed revenues from tourism. As long as protected areas at large are shielded from the adverse effects of mass tourism, certain areas within them can serve as sites for responsibly conducted tours.

Needless to say, Sarawak has plenty of world-class natural attractions: Kuching, the Gunung Mulu National Park, the Batang Ai National Park, the peaks of Batu Lawi in the Kelabit Highlands, the caves of Bau, coral reefs, marine parks, beaches and more.

The trick is how to strike “a balance between economic growth and the social responsibility of taking care of nature and the environment,” as the association’s deputy president Rohizam Yusoff puts it. It’s hard to quibble with that, too. The problem often lies not only in the lack of properly and responsibly managed tourism but also in the behavior of certain tourists. Both, however, can be improved with relative ease.

For starters, what locals and visitors alike will need to do is to treat the state’s world-renowned natural wonders not as weekend playgrounds or as resources that can be tapped endlessly for financial gain but rather as what they truly are: the unique natural heritage of both locals and the people of Malaysia which will need to be protected and preserved intact for posterity.

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