‘Engage with community on eco-tourism’
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
ENGAGEMENT with the local community is vital for the success of eco-tourism, said an international forestry expert.
Dr Tint Lwin Thaung, executive director of The Center for People and Forests, called on eco-tourism stakeholders to involve the local community as partners in their decision-making and planning process.
“They can provide a lot of traditional knowledge, which tour guides or operators may not know,” he said in an interview.
He said the benefits of eco-tourism can be maximised when the local community plays a significant role in maintaining healthy forests and strengthening local livelihoods.
However, Dr Thaung said stakeholders must first gain the trust of the local community. “It may take some time, but it’s crucial. If you have a trusting relationship, you can discuss and come up with solutions together unlike a top-down approach... You get to hear ideas from all sides, so building trust is important to ensure their participation.”
Dr Thaung, who was in Brunei to participate in the Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit recently, also urged stakeholders to ensure the benefits of eco-tourism are shared with the local community.
“Make sure they are made to feel important, because most of the time we assume they are disadvantaged or poor. They are not hopeless. They have their own strengths. Everyone can make a change if you provide them with the proper mechanism and opportunities,” he said.
The Brunei Times