Protection of state’s biodiversity through responsible tourism

Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah

KUCHING: Responsible tourism will help ensure that Sarawak’s biodiversity remains protected, says Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

He pointed out that the state was well known for its ecotourism initiatives and national parks, adding that Sarawak housed majestic natural ecosystems and a diverse selection of flora and fauna.

“Responsible tourism can help safeguard these natural resources and ensure their protection and survival for many generations to come.”

He said visitors and tourists would also be rewarded as responsible tourism initiatives can give visitors a greater understanding of the local cultural, social, and environmental issues and how they are contributing to their protection and longevity.

“This gives them a better travel experience,” he said when officially launching the Responsible Tourism Webinar organised by Sarawak Tourism Board in partnership with Sarawak Centre of Performance Excellence here on Thursday (May 6).

“We have been working with the different players in the industry to come up with ways of preserving the momentum and progress of Sarawak’s tourism sector, which was built over the past few years.”

At the same time, he stressed that responsible tourism – which focuses on 3E’s, namely Environment, Empowerment, and Economic Viability – would require everybody’s cooperation in taking action to make tourism more sustainable, as well as to benefit from its economic, social, and environmental impacts in the long-term.

Abdul Karim said this cooperation included operators, hoteliers, the government, local communities, and the tourists themselves.

Noting that since 2019 when Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg announced that Sarawak would focus on responsible tourism, the state had taken the necessary steps to build an eco-friendly and sustainable tourism industry.

He said these efforts included the tourism aspirations of the Sarawak Economic Action Council, introduction of electric buses, and more.

“The ministry is committed to promoting responsible tourism in the state, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products.”

“My Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Sarawak will collaborate with UCSI University, Emerald East Asia, and Sarawak Research Society to organise an international conference on Responsible Tourism and Hospitality on May 27 and 28 with the theme ‘Rebuilding Tourism for the Future through Sustainable Development’.”

During a subsequent press conference, he touched on the differences between sustainable tourism and responsible tourism in response to a question from a reporter.

Abdul Karim explained that sustainable tourism’s approach is through the influence of stakeholders and political leadership, whereas responsible tourism takes place on an individual and small business level.

“Sustainable tourism refers to the action of stakeholders and political leaders who work to improve the industry by fairly redistributing profits, alleviating poverty, introducing stable employment, and implementing social protection measures.”

On the other hand, he said responsible tourism refers to the way in which individuals – be they visitors or residents – and small businesses, interact with a destination or tourism product.

“It describes the ethical and positive approach which individuals like travellers and businesses take to travel responsibly and conduct business with their host destination.”