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World Interrupted

Opportunities amid Crisis. A re-post from the Global Tourism Network.

Bojo River, Aloguinsan, Cebu, a Sustainable community based tourism model in the Philippines

We are in a crisis. For most of us, this is an unprecedented moment: We have never experienced anything like it. Over the last several weeks, we have watched our day-to-day grow saturated with news of global pandemic – of the very real human, health and economic costs that COVID-19 has wrought on the world. It’s all we see, all we hear.

The travel industry – an industry dependent on people actually desiring (and being permitted to) travel – has a complex supply chain. Now, one with many broken links. It seems from major airlines to local guides that everyone is in limbo. The tourism and hospitality sector directly contributes on average to the economy 4.4% of GDP, 21.5% of service exports, and 6.9% of employment in member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). From major airlines to local guides, there is uncertainty everywhere. People have lost their jobs. Businesses are closing. We know this will pass, but how long will it take, who
will be left standing, and where will we go from there?

We, at the Global Ecotourism Network, are looking at the environmental, economic, and human impact that COVID-19 is having on the world: On the micro-businesses and entrepreneurs, boutique hotels, small. Tour operators, naturalist guides, and other locally-sourced (and life source-to-locals) travel businesses that have already have to reduce their staff, to close their doors, and even shutter their businesses. We’re also looking to COVID-19’s impact on travelers. On the trips-of-a-lifetime put on hold. On the destination weddings and honeymoons, forever changed. On the experiences missed and the vacations in limbo, on the stress and angst this crisis has caused for travelers, too. We are all aware of the risks, so let us talk about the opportunities that this reset offers us.

Asian Ecotourism Network is an affiliate organization of Global Ecotourism Network

First, where do we find these opportunities? Here are some general guidelines:

Take Back Control
Not everything depends on others and external factors.
Identify what you can do, even if it’s just washing your hands and cleaning the closets. Or, maybe you could reach out to help the places and people you love make it through.

Buy Time
Suddenly, everything is on hold. You need the revenue to pay the bills. What can you do to improve cash flow? Can you ask suppliers to wait? Are there people willing to help
you with time and/or money to keep essential things going?

Plan for a Sustainable Future
You might have time on your hands. So, invest it in planning for when things start up again. How can you use the things you have learned to put sustainability in your life, your business, and your

Learn New Skills
Think about things you always wanted to be able to do or you have now realized you should be able to do. Complete an online course, read books, practice at home. Who knows? You might find a new passion that you can apply to your travels or your business.

Ask for Help
Everyone understands that others might need help. Ask for it. And ask together.

Show Solidarity
We are all in this together. People need people, businesses need people, and people need businesses. What collaborations are

Keep People Connected
Ecotourism depends on people connecting to places: places they have visited or places they dream about visiting.
How can you use digital technology to revive memories or inspire a future visit? Remember that one of the key ingredients of ecotourism is interpretation and storytelling. Even coronavirus can be a compelling story. Are you keeping a diary?

Applying this:

Make your place better, sustainable ~ Green Destinations

So, what has changed now there are no tourists? What has improved? Are people now ready to plan for a better, more sustainable destination? How is the environment doing? How are you helping small businesses and tourism workers survive? Is there more collaboration? What information would you like to have, to move forward? And, how are you keeping in touch with your past and future visitors?

Entrance to Lake Holon, T’boli, South Cotabato,Philippines

What do you want travel to look like when all this is over? Are you ready to make responsible choices?
Go Local: The economic fallout from COVID-19 has already begun. Help stem the damage by choosing local businesses that employ locals and stimulate the economy. This will make an
enormous difference in real, individual lives.
Support Small Businesses: From boutique hotels to tiny travel agencies, small businesses have come together to support their communities during this crisis. Now, you can support them.
Celebrate Nature: Now, more than ever, we understand and appreciate nature’s delicate balance.
Make travel decisions that respect and even protect the environment.
Book Direct: When you can, book your hotel, tours, and other activities directly. This puts more money into communities and economies that need it most.
Travel Purposefully: We know that there is an environmental impact to travel. Instead of traveling more frequently, travel with greater purpose: Fly less but experience more. Vacation once but stay longer. Consume less but see more. Focus on cultural exchange, beautiful places, and lifelong memories. Make every choice with purpose.
Reward Good Decisions: Spend your tourism dollars – your economic capital – in destinations that act responsibly: Countries that reacted swiftly and responsibly to the pandemic, and that
prioritized public health. Nations that protect their natural resources. Places whose priorities, values and practices mimic your own.

After the reboot, it is time to regenerate and contribute to a livable world that we want to live and travel in.

Why Biodiversity Matters

Danjugan island marine biodiversity2

Danjugan Island Marine Biodiversity – a genuine ecotourism experience in Negros Occidental, Philippines

A guest post from Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Cielito M. Habito. 

Consider the following: Southeast Asia occupies a mere 3 percent of the earth’s total surface, yet is home to 20 percent of all known species of plants and animals on the planet. The region possesses 284,000 square kilometers, or one-third, of all of the earth’s coral reefs, and as divers will attest, what we have are among the most diverse, and the most beautiful, in the world. The mountains, jungles, lakes, rivers and seas of our region make up one of the biggest pools of biological diversity in the world.

Isla Bulungan_Al

Isla Bulungan, Coron, Palawan, Philippines, one of the attractions being conserved and protected by The Coron Initiative.

Three Southeast Asian countries—Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines—are among the world’s 17 megadiverse countries, a term applied to those that harbor the majority of the earth’s species, and large numbers of endemic (native) species. But there are also “biodiversity hot spots”—geographic areas with significant levels of biodiversity under threat from humans. Such “hot spots” are distinguished by having at least 1,500 endemic plant species, and have lost at least 70 percent of primary vegetation. And it is alarming that among the three Southeast Asian megadiverse countries, only the Philippines is in the biodiversity hot spot list. We are, unlike our neighbors, causing the destruction and disappearance of plant and animal life at a rate so fast as to imperil our environment’s ability to sustain human life.

Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica

Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica Canopy, Madre de Dios, Peru. Learn about the Amazon biodiversity and its inter-relationships at various levels of the rainforest ecosystems. Travel green to Peru!

Human life is only one form of an estimated nine million life forms that inhabit our planet. Most of us understand that the myriad life forms all around us interconnect in simple and complex ways to one another, in an intricate “web of life.” The interconnections can be visible and obvious, as with predators and prey in the food chain. They can also be subtle, indirect or invisible, as when chemical reactions in certain organisms affect other organisms positively or negatively. For example, the class of plants called legumes develops nodules in their roots that host bacteria capable of converting nitrogen from the air into ammonia. As such, otherwise unusable nitrogen in the air is turned into useful compounds like amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, which are in turn vital to animal and human life.

Don Salvador Benedicto Waterfalls

Don Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental, Philippines has a rich rainforest soon to be claimed by urban development.

In this intricate web of life, a change in one link of the food chain can lead to far-reaching disruptions elsewhere in the ecosystem. A 2011 study conducted by 24 scientists from six countries documented how the decline of large predators at the top of the food chain has disrupted ecosystems all over the planet. As observed by the study, large animals were once ubiquitous across the globe, and shaped the structure and dynamics of ecosystems. Their decline, largely caused by humans through hunting and habitat fragmentation, has had far-reaching and often surprising consequences, including changes in vegetation, wildfire frequency, infectious diseases, invasive species, water quality, and nutrient cycles.

Bulabog Beach Boracay

Bulabog Beach, Boracay Island in the early 80s. The island has but a few remaining forest and The Boracay Initiative is aimed to save Boracay Island and its remaining biodiversity.  Photo via Rene Thalmann.

A well-studied example of how human intervention can severely disrupt the natural equilibrium was the deliberate elimination of wolves in Yellowstone National Park in the United States between 1872 and 1926. When the wolves were gone, the elk population rose, and led to overgrazing of deciduous woody species such as aspen and cottonwood. Over the years, conditions in the park drastically deteriorated, leading park authorities to trap and move the elk, and eventually, kill them. Elimination of wolves also led to a dramatic increase in the population of coyotes, which in turn adversely impacted the population of the pronghorn antelope. Studies on the park’s ecosystem spanning decades led to the decision to reintroduce wolves into Yellowstone in 1995. This has since led to a decline in the elk and coyote populations, which in turn had further effects on the population of foxes, and on various forms of plant and insect life in the park. The new and often unexpected impacts of the reintroduction of wolves continue to unfold to this day.

There are many other similar documented examples elsewhere in the world of ecological disruption arising from human intervention into the biological system on land and in the seas. The lesson is clear: Compromising biological diversity and the complex interrelations therein will have unforeseen and far-reaching undesirable impacts that are bound to hit back on us humans in ways hard to anticipate. The World Wide Fund for Nature asserts: “Biodiversity underpins the health of the planet and has a direct impact on all our lives. Put simply, reduced biodiversity means millions of people face a future where food supplies are more vulnerable to pests and disease, and where fresh water is in irregular or short supply.”

twin lagoons2

Twin Lagoons, Coron, Palawan, one of the target conservation sites of The Coron Initiative. Palawan is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.  Photo by Al Linsangan III.

The Philippines has the distinction of hosting the Asean region’s knowledge and advocacy center for biodiversity conservation, at the University of the Philippines Los Baños campus in Laguna. Established in 2005 with initial funding support from the European Commission, the Asean Center for Biodiversity is now supported by the 10 member-states. In the second Asean Conference on Biodiversity that it organized in Bangkok last week, hundreds of scholars, government officials, stakeholders and advocates explored the links between biodiversity and human health, business and biodiversity, and how biodiversity permeates the global Agenda for Sustainable Development and its accompanying Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

“A treasure trove of plant and animal life”—that’s how our part of the world is often described. Protecting that treasure is critical not just for the sake of the treasure per se, but also for the sake of our very welfare as human beings, now and far into the future.

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Our Society for Sustainable Tourism & Development Inc.-SST offers LearningCapacity Building, Educational programs, Green Solutions and Services for public stakeholders: Destinations – LGUs and host communities;  Private stakeholders – Hotels, Resorts, Hospitality, Tour Operators and Businesses with Green Destinations, Global Leaders Program and Green Travel Guide platform to include Environmental Conservation and ComplianceGood Governance, Climate Resilience, to address global challenges of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): food security, poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability and climate resilience for the local host community. Water waste -STP (P.T. Amanaid Philippines) and Waste to Energy (W2E) solutions as well as other green destinations innovations are now offered to LGUs and tourism industry for law compliance.

For more information and assistance, contact us.


Photo Credits: Al Linsangan, Rene Thalmann, Inkaterra, Danjugan Island

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