THERE was a ripple of disgust that swept through social media when news broke out that Miss Universe candidates were made to swim with whale sharks in Oslob, Cebu.
Swimming with whale sharks has become a tourism draw in the Philippines, starting with Donsol in Sorsogon. The outrage, if you can call it that, is actually because it was in Oslob where the locals tending to the whale sharks to ensure that they are there all year round have domesticated these animals and made them dependent on their human caretakers.
There is so little understanding about how real eco-tourism works and much less understanding on how people should respect wildlife and the environment while underscoring the natural beauty of the Philippines.
Hopefully, with 2017 coming in, agencies and non-government organizations working for the environment will make it part of their advocacies to drum up interest and better understanding on sustainable tourism, especially because the Philippines’ advantage in the tourism market is the uniqueness of its islands and resources.
The United Nations 70th General Assembly has designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, thus, there should be greater venue for such concerns to be drummed up.
“With more than one billion international tourists now traveling the world each year, tourism has become a powerful and transformative force that is making a genuine difference in the lives of millions of people.
The potential of tourism for sustainable development is considerable.
As one of the world’s leading employment sectors, tourism provides important livelihood opportunities, helping to alleviate poverty and drive inclusive development,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said during the 2015 World Tourism Day.
The #IY2017 will promote tourism’s role in the following five key areas: (1) Inclusive and sustainable economic growth (2) Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction (3) Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change (4) Cultural values, diversity and heritage (5) Mutual understanding, peace and security.
There is indeed a lot of potentials in bringing tourists to explore our islands. But when this is done to the disadvantage of the locals and the environment, then what draws in the tourist receipts will easily be lost, and with the resources destroyed, the people will be in more dire straits than when they started.
It’s the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg in real life, where in the frenzy to bring out all the waterfalls and whale sharks and dive destinations and mountain sanctuaries, we all end up with barren mountains, shattered corals, and distressed creatures.
Celebrating 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development does indeed provides “a unique opportunity to raise awareness on the contribution of sustainable tourism to development among public and private sector decision-makers and the public, while mobilizing all stakeholders to work together in making tourism a catalyst for positive change.”