QUEBEC CITY, Mar 24 (Tierramérica) – More than ever before, global tourism must play its part in sustainable development and poverty alleviation, stated experts at an international symposium in this Canadian city.
But others wonder if tourism can be truly sustainable when it involves flying thousands of kilometres to reach some “carbon-neutral” eco-lodge in the jungle.
Climate change is a major concern and air transport makes a significant contribution, sustainable tourism expert Costas Christ told more than 500 attendees of the International Symposium on Sustainable Tourism Development, Mar. 16-19.
However, Christ said, it is also important to tell the public that international tourism has played a major role in preserving biodiversity and in conservation in general.
“Without tourism, the Pantanal (in South America), the world’s largest wetland, would have just turned into a major cattle feed-lot for McDonald’s,” said Christ, a former board chair of The International Ecotourism Society.
If it weren’t for tourism, Africa would not have its game parks and nature preserves, and the Coral Triangle (which encompasses the waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste) would have been devastated by overfishing, he continued.
“Tourism is not the problem; the challenge is how to do tourism right,” Christ told Tierramérica in an interview.
As an industry, tourism has made many mistakes over the years, but has come to realise that with climate change and other environmental concerns there is no future for tourism without becoming more sustainable, he believes.
Indeed, the very essence of tourism is selling culture and nature, and those must be protected or there will be no industry: “Business and political leaders have to understand this,” he said.