Ecotourism: Private tour operators in best position to educate public
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
ECOTOURISM education is not the sole responsibility of the government but should also be the duty of private tour operators as they have more contacts with tourists, a Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) study showed.
The study, “Conservation of Island Biodiversity in Brunei Darussalam: The Role of Ecotourism in Environmental Education” was published last year in the International Journal of Ecology & Development.
Its author, Azman Ahmad, stated that ecotourism operators are in “an excellent position” to provide environmental and cultural interpretation given the contact they have with tourists.
“As they are normally in direct contact with travellers and tourists, they are at the best position to furnish them with the necessary and relevant information that will encourage them to behave appropriately and accordingly,” he said.
The Selirong Island by the Temburong district that was turned into a park by the Forestry Department was chosen as the study site.
He said that ecotourism education and interpretation provided in parks would help equip both tourists and locals with environmental awareness while also assisting in modifying people’s attitude and behavior in the long-run.
“Ecotourism activities involve active participation, as can be seen in birdwatching, nature observation or nature photography, which in turn enable the visitors to appreciate the importance of natural and cultural conservation,” he said.
“Providing education and interpretation as part of an ecotourism experience has the potential to make people attentive of and actively involved in environmental issues following their experience,” he added.
This includes leaflets, display boards, barriers, pathways, and knowledgeable guides.
While private operators and tourist resorts have recognised the importance of education and interpretation, they are to realise that it is not only meant to fulfil the needs of tourists both foreign and domestic, but to also protect the present biodiversity.
“Education and interpretation should no longer be seen as an extravagance, but rather an essential management function for every park to undertake, and an essential element of an ecotourism experience,” said the author.
In doing so, they should provide and monitor the effectiveness of programmes suited for their primary objectives.
“It is essential that park authority monitors the effectiveness of its various management programmes in order to determine whether it is achieving its primary objective of conserving, developing and managing forest resources for the preservation and upliftment of the quality of life,” he said.
The Brunei Times