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Event Recap: Ecofriendly-tourism

By Joel Lindsay

Eco-tourism has been promoted as an environmentally friendly alternative to our otherwise destructive tendencies as travellers, but is this really the case? UNYP Brisbane hosted several key thinkers in the field to find out.

The second event of the newly reformed United Nations Young Professionals of Brisbane brought together students, teachers, and industry professionals to discuss the plights and plaudits of ‘Eco-tourism’. This idea encompasses the notions of the sustainability of human travels, the maintenance of natural spaces as valuable in their own right, and creating positive outcomes for the areas and people being visited by tourists. As the discussion developed however, it became apparent that Eco-tourism’s faliures were more apparent than its successes . Ms. Donelle Davis, Professor Patrick Nunn and Mr. Steve McDonald volunteered their time to give the UNYP and guests their take on Eco –friendly tourism. Ms. Donelle Davis, President of the United Nations Association of Australia, started off the discussion with a regulatory overview of the many international agencies attempting to coordinate Eco-tourism efforts. Their goal is generally limiting the negative effects of tourism on the environment, although there exists limited consensus and shared focus amongt them. Currently many organisations in the Asia-Pacific regulate tourism, although it is not completely clear whether they are focused on limiting environmental damage or increasing the flows of capital that result from tourism.

Professor Nunn , a Geology Professor a the University of the Sunshine Coast, described the work he has been doing in mapping islands off the coast of Fiji, taking keen notice of the effects of climate change and tourism on the natural environment. Professor Nunn highlighted the effects of tourism on Pacific Island Nations, namely the construction of high end resorts that not only create unsustainable financial models, serve to channel funds from tourism offshore to the hotel’s parent companies. This point is very important for eco-tourism, as one of its core tenants is ensuring the sustainability of the tourism experience. As Professor Nunn explained, staying at international hotels not only removes the tourist form the culture of the destination but also ensures the existence of lresource intensive, wasteful, luxury tourism industries that provide little benefit to the local economy and little concern for the local environment.

Mr. Steve McDonald brought his years of public policy experience to the discussion, analysing government efforts in allocating and maintaing public outdoor spaces. In his address, Mr. McDonald identified the need for restricting acccess to some spaces to preserve their integrity, an issue currently at odds with profit driven notions of eco-tourism. In order to ensure the continuation of our natural spaces, it was argued that current ideals of government regulation are not always in keeping with long term sustainability, a common feature of current ecological planning.

As the UNYP discovered, Eco-tourism is a highly contested topic that requires further discussion. The mainstream attitudes to sustainable tourism held by the tourism industry appears to be outdated and inneffective. The second event of the newly reformed UNYP was incredibly informative for all those that attended, and the UNYP looks forward to seeing everyon at the next one !

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