Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Campaigns will make more Bruneians warm up to eco-tours

By Azaraimy HH

Building a strong domestic market in eco-tourism is vital because the tourism industry is sensitive to volatility of global events as was experienced during the recent financial crisis.

However, it will be a challenging task to make locals interested in eco-tours because Bruneian tourists are, by nature, shoppers who love "mega sales" in the bustling city of Kuala Lumpur and reasonably priced perfumes that can be found in colourful shops in Dubai.

The general conception is they are not people who would jump at the chance to trek across jungles looking for birds or even canoeing along the river.

If domestic tourists are vital to ensuring a sustainable eco-tourism industry, how can Brunei Darussalam address these challenges?

When the Bulletin posed this question to one of the world's most renowned eco-tourism gurus, Hitesh Mehta, yesterday, admitted that this would be a "difficult, if not close-to-impossible" challenge, as it will be hard to change the mindset of the people.

But he remains optimistic that strong awareness programmes and educating people to love nature would do the trick.

The success lies in bringing the awareness programme to the youth, as they will be domestic tourists of the future. It is thus important to educate them about the importance of preserving their natural heritage from a young age.

However, he admitted that this would take some time to materialise.

According to him, people must "come into one with nature" in order to make sustainable eco-tourism work. In other words, they must understand the importance of preserving nature.

It's interesting to note that Mehta left a six-figure salary job to work on a book entitled "Authentic Ecologists" that features 26 of the world's most authentic ecologists. Since then he has travelled to as many as 46 countries around the world.

According to observers, one viable tourism product that Brunei could look at is safari holidays. The important thing is to make the travel products attractive to the local people. At the end of the day, it is all about packaging.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

No comments: