Establish ground rules with tourists, says specialist

KUCHING: With regard to sustainable tourism, hosts have to be firm in establishing and adhering to ground rules when it comes to how tourists should behave in order to minimise negative effects towards the local environment or resources.

“After all it is similar to when you go to someone’s home as a visitor. You expect to be told what is going on in that household,” said Dr Linda J Cox (pic), a community economic development specialist at the University of Hawaii in Manoa.

During her talk entitled ‘What is Sustainable Tourism and Case Study in Hawaii’ held at the Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA) Kuching Creative Heritage Hub here, yesterday, she said that informing tourists on expected behaviour and rules could prove challenging.

She presented an example that was observed in Hawaii whereby some visitors were not following certain rules, upsetting the locals.

“Visitors were actually unable to fully understand or interpret written signs that had been prepared.

“Sometimes the signs are just not clear enough, or sometimes you need a native speaker of each language to deliver this message in a way that the visitor understands,” Dr Cox explained, adding that the seriousness of adhering to this set of rules must be emphasised.

“We must be firm and tell them that certain practices are just not acceptable,” she stressed.

Reminding the community and visitors continuously is also important as people forget the rules from time to time.

She added that the hosts have to educate the local population on the ground rules as well so they in turn can inform tourists of the guidelines in place.

“Involving the local population is another challenge, especially in the rural areas,” Dr Cox cautioned.

She encouraged training programmes for local guides which would also educate them on how to interpret their place authentically to visitors.

The talk was organised by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (Azam) Sarawak and the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.