Palau – a Chinese Eco-tourist paradise

When one type of tourist people usually think of when it comes to environmental impacts is the Chinese Tourist. The Chinese Tourist is a unique “Species” – as their recent mobility to many places around the world changing the environment of our globe, even when the tourism related is supposed to be eco-friendly. So WHAT resulted in the sudden efflux of Chinese Tourists?

Mobility Paradigm of Chinese tourists. (Shepherd, 2008)

  • “without the ability to travel, tourism cannot exist”
  • Increased personal autonomy and an emphasis on consumption have created an urban middle class with means and desire to travel.
  • Economic reforms (1978) – control over the movement and actions of the urban residents broke down. A more mobile and flexible populace.
  • Increasing affluence = people travel as tourists and become less entwined to the environment.

As noted for the last point – it actually applies to almost all forms of tourism as with money = less responsibility on the environment (i.e usage of money to cover up any environmental irresponsibilities).

Palau welcomed almost 141,000 visitors last year, up 34% comparing to 2013, largely on the back of the Chinese visitors. But in February 2014, mainland Chinese visitors leaped more than 500 per cent year-on-year to 10,955 – more than half of Palau’s total population. (Statistics from Straits Times,  15 March 2015)

The environmental pollution brought by these tourist were immense:

  • improper disposal of rubbish
  • smoking in natural habitats
  • the usage of sunblocks, washing solutions – a microplastic source of pollution

Albeit pollution being influenced by global flows, a sudden influx of eco-tourism in these parts can drive the localised pollution greatly. In a survey by Numbeo (2015), the pollution levels in Palau remain relatively good, but there was a decline in water quality in the country, from Very Good to a rating of Moderate.

Image result for palau plastic pollution

This drop in quality is largely associated with plastic pollution (Pictured above). Based on Barrow’s (2015) research with the ASC Environmental, 445 pieces of filamental microplastic, microplastic frequently associated with nylon clothing, was found in each liter of coastal seawater in Palau. Large possible attribution of these plastics could be from the gear and swimwear that tourists use during their stay in Palau.

However, with increasing mobility of people and that innate lust of humans to explore relatively untouched places, even clean types of tourism like eco-tourism will prove detrimental to our environment.

REFERENCES:

Shepherd, R., (2008) Cultural preservation, tourism and ‘donkey travel’ on China’s frontier

Straits Times (2015) http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/china-tourists-descend-on-remote-palau-islands-overwhelming-the-locals

Numbeo (2015); Pollution in Palau; https://www.numbeo.com/pollution/country_result.jsp?country=Palau

Barrow, A., (2015) Microplastic Project Highlights, ASC’s microplastics, the Field Notes  http://www.adventurescience.org/field-notes/microplastic-project-highlights-january-2015

 

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