Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ecotourism - the next big thing

By Zowy Costa

Ecological tourism or Ecotourism - for short, is a type of tourism, which appeals to the ecologically and socially conscious. Ecotourism focuses on local culture, jungle adventures, volunteering, personal growth, and learning new ways to live on the planet; typically involving travelling to destinations where flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions. It is considered to be 'green' tourism and environmental-friendly.

Responsible ecotourism includes programmes that minimise the negative aspects of conventional tourism on the environment, and enhance the cultural integrity of local people. Therefore, in addition to evaluating environmental and cultural factors, an integral part of ecotourism is in the promotion of recycling, energy efficiency, water conservation, and creation of economic opportunities for the local communities.

Ecotourism aims to give people a first-hand experience of natural environment and to show them the importance of conservation.

Ecotourism is regarded as a sustainable tourism, which can continue without damaging the environment, as well as integrating the local community and involving them in the planning and implementation of tourism development.

Ecotourism is a low density and low impact tourism. Therefore it is considered to be sustainable. On the other hand, mass tourism is the destroyer of environment and considered to be unsustainable. Mass tourism lures in massive numbers of tourists, regardless of age, status, nationality and culture. However, some argued that ecotourism is sometimes regarded as 'egotourism'. With wealthy and snobbish people trying to get closer to the environment and therefore will cause much more damage than mass tourism. Jungle trekkers destroy the natural environment by trampling on the plants and species of the forest.

About 70% of Brunei is still covered with virgin rainforest, especially the areas of Temburong District.

Ecotourism plays an important role in Brunei's tourism industry. Temburong, rich with Brunei's flora & fauna, attracts ecotourists from all over the world. The main attraction is the Ulu Temburong National Park. Not only tourists, but scientists and biologists are also attracted to the flora and fauna of Temburong for their research. The Ulu Temburong National Park, being a forest reserve means that logging is prohibited. It is strictly controlled and managed to maintain the state of virgin forest.

Tourists can spend a few nights at the Ulu Temburong National Park, enjoying the beautiful scenery, witnessing various wildlife species and in addition to that, they can enjoy and experience the indigenous lifestyle of Temburong. Jungle trekking & hiking is one of the activities offered. The main attraction is the canopy walkway, in which tourists can enjoy the picturesque view from hundreds of metres above ground level. Adventure enthusiasts can also enjoy rafting and kayaking along the Belalong River.

Brunei still has room for improvements. Even though Brunei is a small country, it has the potential to develop its tourism industry, particularly in ecotourism. With the success of "Visit Brunei Year 2001", we can do the same thing and improve better for the forthcoming "Visit Brunei Year 2008". We can't deny the fact that tourism is the world's fastest growing industry.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

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