Sustainable Tourism

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Take a leap of faith!

Welcome back to another blog post! Let’s start off with a question, what do you consider when going on a holiday? Having a good time? The cost of the holiday? Recently, I made a short survey asking respondents what they considered when travelling.

Respondents could two choices. Out of the four options, three-quarters of the respondents had picked creating memories. This meant that majority regarded making memories as their number one priority or second when travelling. When we travel to amazing locations, usually we are bound to dearly miss them once we have left. How would it feel if we were to plan a trip back in a few years to find out that it has been severely eroded and polluted due to overcrowding? How can we ensure that this does not occur to the place that has given us so many memories? Well, we must develop a mindset that when going to a destination, we should not only aim to bring back memories with us but also create happy memories for hosts and preserve the environment in the area.

How do we not compromise on our experiences but also ensure that we are being sustainable in our actions? The solution is not difficult. Sometimes, we just need to take a leap of faith. From my last blog post, two of my interviewees told me that one of the reason why they did not choose to go sustainable when travelling was because they did not want to take the risk that the destination would not be as stunning as the famous tourist traps recommended by friends. In 2019, my friends and I planned a trip to Thailand. Instead of opting for Bali which suffers from over tourism, we opted for a wholesome trip to the small Koh Mak islands that’s only 16 square kilometres in size.  Instead of rows of boats and jet-skis lining up against the coast as well as pubs scattered across the beach, Koh Mak offered cycling paths along the beautiful sunset and transparent kayaks for tourists to observe marine organisms without disrupting them. The activities carried out in Koh Mak were splendid. In my opinion, these activities created more memorable experiences for my friends and I compared to if we ended up in a pub in Bali drinking the days away. Koh Mak also gave us a sense of privacy, letting us feel like we were the only ones in the world. The best feeling in the world is having 5km of white sandy beaches filled with palm trees all to yourselves.

Photo by Kik Kunthika

For your next holiday, challenge yourself and step out of your comfort zone. You’ll never know how it may end up as the best holiday you will ever experience. Not to mention, you will be reducing over tourism in a certain area and supporting the sustainable movement in another area.

Why people may not choose to travel green

Hello! Welcome back to another blog post. Throughout the past week I have been interviewing my peers in hall and asking them about their opinions on sustainable tourism. They have given me very different perspectives and great insight. I will be sharing their thoughts on sustainable tourism and my reflection.

 

I asked three of my peers if they would prefer an eco-friendly centric holiday or a normal holiday. Two of my friends stated that they felt guilty but the truth is that they would rather pick a normal holiday. I asked them what were their reasons for not choosing an eco-friendly holiday and their answers were intriguing. Both of their main reasons was that they were simply too lazy to find eco-friendly sites and hotels. They usually picked sites and hotels that were well known or recommended by friends. They felt that looking for eco-friendly tourist sites and hotels were too much of a hassle compared to using the easily navigated sites such as Klook or signing up for planned tour packages by tour groups such as Chan Brothers. Other reasons included that they felt that such sites may not be as beautiful as other famous sites and they did not want to take the risk. They felt that the entry fee or ecotour costs would be a lot more costly compared to normal sites’ entry fees and tour costs. 

 

The other interviewee stated that he would not mind opting for eco-friendly sites and accommodations but he would only pick the eco-friendly site or accommodation if the place was about the same price and quality of the normal choice. He told me that during his Bali trip he specifically picked eco-friendly and sustainable tourist sites to visit and an eco-resort to stay in. It was not his first time in Bali and he claimed that the sites and accommodation were just as amazing than the previous places that he visited and stayed in and cost approximately the same. 

Photo by Ivan Sng (2019)

Most eco-friendly trips indeed may spike the cost of travelling. However, these costs can be offset if travellers choose to ride a bike or walk instead of taking a taxi or driving. There are numerous sustainable sites and accommodations that are cost-efficient and beautiful but may require a lot of research which was the main problem my friends brought up. There are some websites that compare the prices of these green hotels and green sites. An example of this is Greenloons. Greenloons allows visitors to find green alternatives to activities and lodgings in thirty-one different countries easily on a single page. If more people were to know of such pages, I believe that more people would go on sustainable trips.

 

I believe that we can promote sustainable tourism if green tour packages were promoted by travel agencies in Singapore. I have yet to have seen any tour agency that offers such a package. If publicised well, I believe that we can start a green movement in Singapore.

Fighting against Greenwashing

Hi! Welcome back to another blog! Today I’ll be talking about hotels.

Many people define sustainable tourism as tourism that takes the economic, social and environmental situation of the current generation and future generation into account and caters to the needs of both hosts and tourists. But, does sustainable tourism actually exist in the case of hotels?

Firms usually have profit making motives and these tourist companies and hotels are no exception. In an eco-resort in Southeast Asia, despite their efforts in conservation of coral reefs, the hotel still used single use plastic bottled soap and cleaning chemicals that were harmful to wildlife.  This makes me wonder, what is considered as sustainable tourism? These hotels are being sustainable in their practices to a certain extent. What criteria must be hit for a hotel to be considered as an eco-resort?

To me I trust that it is difficult for hotels to fully go sustainable as they need to profit so that they can ensure that they do not shut down. At the same time, not all guests may appreciate sustainable alternatives such as water fountains and reusable soap containers compared to the more convenient plastic water bottles and single use plastic soap bottles. Hotels are customer-oriented businesses that cater to customers and hence they may choose to keep convenience over sustainability.

Some hotels may also be greenwashing tourists. Tourists may feel better when they stay in environmentally friendly accommodation. If I were to pick between an eco-friendly five-star hotel versus a normal five-star hotel, I would pick the eco-friendly five-star hotel. Instead of using the hotel’s spendings to switch to more green initiatives, some hotels may instead invest in promoting themselves as “sustainable” to gain a comparative edge over other hotels. I do not blame the hotels for doing so as there is no specific criteria for a hotel to be considered as eco-friendly. If a hotel does the towel and linen policy but at the same time uses single use plastic soap bottles, they are still being eco-friendly to a certain extent.

I am certain that we as travelers can put a stop to this. If we do our research and find out the hotels that are playing an active role in being sustainable constantly throughout their hotel and support these hotels, I believe that other hotels will step up and follow in these hotels’ footsteps to becoming greener. This is because hotels will cater to the taste and preferences of customers.

Another possible way is that a measurement model to measure ecotourism can be created for not only hotels but also tourist spots. This ensures that the risk of greenwashing is lower and tourists can easily find out if the hotel they are considering is actually playing an active role in being sustainable.

Let’s do our part in creating a more eco-friendly world!

WWOOF – Are they WWOOrth? part 2

Hello! Today will be a continuation of my previous blog post where we will be discussing about WWOOF and whether their practices are truly sustainable.

WWOOF practices organic farming and claims that it’s more sustainable than regular farming but – Is organic farming really sustainable? Organic farming is the cultivation of crops and livestock without the use of pesticides, fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics and growth hormones.

In theory, organic farming is supposed to have lesser repercussions on the environment by releasing less greenhouse gas emissions and reducing soil erosion and chemical pollution by pesticides. However, is this really the case?

In 2018, it was found that organic peas grown in Sweden emitted fifty percent higher greenhouse gases as compared to peas that were grown with regular farming practices.  This is due to the lower yield of organic crops. To make up for the lower yield, more land is used for organic farming. As a result, more forests are chopped down to make space for these crops. Forests are commonly known as carbon sinks that convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. By 2050, demand for food is expected to rocket up to 98%  due to increasing population all around the world. With increased demand for food, more land is required to sustain the supply. Especially with changing tastes and preferences towards organic food, more land is cleared to allow organic farming that will instead contribute to climate change.

 

On the other hand, it can be argued that in many countries, organic farmers practice using animal waste as fertilizers. This can substitute synthetic fertilizers and decrease the amount of greenhouse gas being emitted.  Instead of using pesticides, there are other methods used to deter pests away that reduces the risk of water being polluted and animals suffering from health risks. Some examples are crop rotation and some plant derivatives. Pests only come around when there is continuous planting of a certain crop. This is because the small number of pests will survive and reproduce. As a result, there will be a large number of pests. With crop rotation, pests are less likely to survive as they cannot survive on certain crops. As a result, there is less chance of pests as they will die when another crop is being planted.

 

So, what is the truth? Is organic farming actually sustainable? In my opinion, it depends on the crop yield in that area. If the crop yield of organic crops is lower by only a small amount compared to the non-organic crops, the organic crops will be a more sustainable source of food compared to non-organic crops as the carbon dioxide produced from the extra amount of land converted from forests is negligible compared to the nitrous oxide and methane produced from fertilizers. Nitrous oxides are three hundred times more potent than carbon dioxide  while methane gas is thirty times more potent than carbon dioxide. WWOOF farmers must consider the trade-offs and determine which crops’ yield will ensure that there is efficient output of greenhouse gas.

WWOOF – Are they WWOOrth? part 1

Hello! Welcome back to another blog post.

Today, I’ll be talking about Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). WWOOF is an activity found worldwide that teaches tourists about agriculture, organic food and how to live in a sustainable manner. Tourists that sign up for WWOOF are given a chance to farm organic crops, live with organic farmers and get to know more like-minded people. Through WWOOF, hosts are given extra help while visitors experience a true sustainable lifestyle. 

Organic farming is a sustainable practice as it does not use pesticides. As a result, soil is kept healthy and chemicals do not pollute water bodies.  In addition, organic agriculture releases less greenhouse gas emissions compared to normal agriculture. Through educating these tourists, the practice of being sustainable is being spread and may be carried on by more people. At the same time, these hosts have more help and can have more productive harvests. This seems like a win-win situation for both parties and it even aids in saving the environment.

However, the truth is that things are not as perfect as it seems. For most sustainable tourism activities, if one party was to be exploited or harmed it would be the hosts. This was mentioned in two of my previous blog posts. In this case, the ones exploited were the tourists. Many visitors claimed to have been mistreated by the hosts and used as free labour. Visitors stated that they were given poor living conditions infested with pests that led to them falling sick. Instead of being educated on sustainable organic farming, they were forced to do chores such as pluck weeds and were scolded frequently. Visitors were forced to do chores for long hours up to eight hours a day, six days weekly.

Reading about this made me upset, these tourists went to those farms with the intention of learning and helping the farmers but left feeling worn out with no knowledge learnt. Not to mention that these participants paid up to $72 USD a year but were instead exploited for their kindness and good intentions.

I believe that the WWOOF organisation was created out of good intentions but perhaps due to their overwhelming growth and expansion to 60 countries, they are unable to manage and watch over the treatment of visitors from all farmers. As a result, some farmers take advantage of the trust from the organisation and mistreat the visitors. I hope that WWOOF will be able to restore their goals back into action as if their goals are achieved, I believe that it will benefit our environment greatly.

Thank you for reading up to here! See you in part two where I will be discussing more about if WWOOF is running a truly sustainable business.

Revive the Reefs!

Welcome back to my blog! Today we’ll be diving into the beautiful ocean along the coasts of Maldives. What pops up in your mind when Maldives is mentioned? The clear blue sea? The white sandy beaches? For me, I think about the dazzling coral reefs located at the bottom of the sea. Coral reefs are not only aesthetically pleasing, but are also necessary as habitats for fishes as well as to protect the coastlines from erosion and storms.

Coral reefs have become a popular tourist attraction all around the world. Seventy million people travel across the world annually to enjoy the sight of sparkling coral reefs in their natural habitat.  Chains of hotel resorts have lined up along the coasts of Maldives in an attempt to leach off the popularity of coral reefs. Because of the booming popularity, there are increasingly severe unintended negative impacts on coral reefs. Tourists may damage parts of the coral reefs by accident which stress the reefs out. At the same time, an increase in number of tourists may lead to an increase in pollution in the water. When the water is polluted, sunlight is obstructed from reaching the algae in coral reefs. Due to the lack of sunlight, the coral reefs are bleached and killed.

However, even without the interference from tourists, coral reefs were already on a fast track to extinction. This is due to climate change. Impacts of climate change such as sea level rise and temperature rise can cause stress to coral reefs. Sea level rise may cause an increase in debris that blocks coral reefs from sunlight. Coral reefs are highly sensitive to temperature and grow optimally between twenty-three to twenty-nine degrees celsius. Due to the stresses from climate change, numerous coral reefs die. As of 2016, half of the coral reefs found in the Great Barrier Reef have been found dead due to climate change. 

On the other hand, numerous businesses are pouring in investments into the wellbeing of coral reefs. Fury Watersports is one of them. A section of the money collected from snorkeling is directed into recovering endangered species of coral reefs.  These businesses understand that coral reefs are important and must be conserved if these companies want to continue thriving. Thus, they will go out of their way to protect and restore coral reefs.

Although businesses restoring coral reefs sound like a noble idea, to me it sounds sad. The fact that they are encouraging other coral reefs to be  destroyed to plant new coral reefs sounds ironic to me. However, it seems worse to let coral reefs go completely extinct. It may be wiser to encourage snorkeling over scuba diving to tourists to reduce the damage on coral reefs done by tourists. Although the practice is sustainable in saving the coral reefs, I feel like it is a cruel practice. The next time you visit an area, ask yourself – is this really a cruelty free process or is it just a better alternative?

Goodbye traditions, hello prosperity?

Hello! Welcome back to my blog. Today we will be talking about one of the tribes I had the chance to learn about from my Secondary Four Geography textbook, the Maasai Tribe. They are well known to give tours in Tanzania and Kenya to curious tourists. Tourists are given a chance to explore the tribe’s village and participate in their traditions such as singing and dancing at the campfire. [1]

 

When I was learning about Ecotourism in Secondary School, I always thought that it was a splendid activity. The tribe could benefit from the revenue earned from tourists and the tourists could learn and discover new customs and traditions from the tribe. What’s there not to like about this arrangement?

 

After reading up and educating myself, now I realise that the world is not always fair. How much of these activities shown are authentic? Are these tribes given sufficient economic revenue from the tourism company that is aiding them? I will be attempting to answer some of these questions in this blog today.

 

Many traditional customs carried out by the Maasai tribe are only done for festive occasions to celebrate. However, to entertain the visitors, the villagers carry out these customs such as dancing. Thus, these customs lose their true meaning and significance. The dancers become part of a performance troupe and are paid by employers. Even the village is an artificial experience as it is discovered that the Maasai do not actually live in the Maasai village. [2]

 

At the same time, the amount of money distributed to the Maasai is unfair compared to the work they do. In a study done, it is stated that the community receives as little as 10% of total revenue generated while as other stakeholders keep the 90%. [3] This shows that the Maasai villagers are exploited due to their weak bargaining power.

 

This makes me think, would it have been better to leave the Maasai tribe alone so that their rich heritage and culture could have continued to thrive and would not have become a money-making tool? However, the Maasai tribe was in trouble as their land was taken away by the Kenya government and they were restricted from accessing basic necessities such as water. [4] Tourism had helped them to secure land rights and give them a place to stay.

 

In the end, I believe that introduction to tourism was necessary for the Maasai tribe to prevent deaths but tourists may want to research on truly sustainable companies that support the tribe wholeheartedly instead of treating them as money generators. I believe that either way the traditions and heritage of the Maasai tribe would have never have been sustained.

 

[1]Betty G., August 2019. Retrieved from https://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/Attraction_Review-g297913-d12903361-Reviews-Maasai_Tribe_Adventure-Arusha_Arusha_Region.html

 

[2]Edward M. Bruner, 27 December 2000. Retrieved from https://anthrosource-onlinelibrary-wiley-com.libproxy1.nus.edu.sg/doi/pdfdirect/10.1525/ae.2001.28.4.881

 

[3]Jessica Coria, Enrique Calfucura, 22 November 2011. Retrieved from http://www.iheal.univ-paris3.fr/sites/www.iheal.univ-paris3.fr/files/!%20ecotourism%20&indigenous%20peples.pdf

 

[4]Prerna K. Sethi, 17 December 2013. Retrieved from https://gulfnews.com/going-out/society/maasai-a-dying-world-tribe-1.1268191

Supertrees are Superheros!

Hello! Today I will be discussing about an iconic landmark that is well known by most Singaporeans. Not only glamorous but also eco-friendly to our nation, it is the Gardens by the Bay.

The infamous Supertrees have attracted over 50 million visitors in a timeframe of 6 years. [1] The beautiful gardens has even been featured in the romantic comedy film, Crazy Rich Asians due to its bewitching  nature.  [1] Not only are the gardens mesmerising and Instagram worthy, they also play an active role in reducing fossil fuel consumption and saving water.

In 2018, I visited the annual Christmas Wonderland event held by Gardens by the Bay. There were beautiful displays of lights all around the festive location. The main attraction was a light display as tall as a building. There were spectacular light shows that flashed different coloured lights to the beats of popular Christmas songs. The lovely event was blindingly bright and magnificent but I had an itching question in the back of my mind amidst the whole event. I wonder how much energy is used to light up this beautiful area? Aside from Christmas Wonderland, the Flower Dome and Cloud Dome were cooled conservatories equipped with high tech gadgets such as LED boards and irrigation systems. It must be a jaw dropping amount. Or so I thought.

Photo I took when I visited Christmas Wonderland in 2018

On the top of the looming Supertrees that range from 25-50 metres [2], there are solar panels installed that are used to balance out the energy used to light up the events. [3]This reduces the amount of fossil fuels burnt and greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, horticulture waste from all parts of Singapore are combusted to generate electricity [3] to run the widely visited Flower Dome and Cloud Dome. Heat is also generated for the dehumidifier [3] found in the two conservatories. Thus these schemes lead to a more sustainable energy consumption in the gardens. The lakes in the Gardens are not only used for aesthetically pleasing purposes, but also practical uses such as to supply the irrigation system in the Garden. [3]

Singapore is a small island with no natural water resource. Our water security is largely dependent on imports from  Malaysia. [4] I believe that water and energy are scarce resources that should be conserved so ensure supply for future generations. The Gardens practicing sustainable measures that should be highly praised. Numerous people take the clean flowing water that runs through our taps for granted as they believe it’s a given – but how long will that continue? I believe that even the smallest details matter, switching off the lights and fans when not in use or using a cup to brush our teeth will come a long way in becoming a more sustainable country.

References –

[1]Raudhah Hirschmann, 2 March 2020, Visitor numbers to Gardens by the Bay Singapore 2012-2018. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/1025475/singapore-gardens-by-the-bay-visitor-numbers/

[2]Gardens by the bay, 2020, Supertree Grove. Retrieved from https://www.gardensbythebay.com.sg/en/attractions/supertree-grove-observatory-ocbc-skyway/facts-and-figures.html

[3]Gardens by the bay, 2020, Sustainability Efforts. Retrieved from https://www.gardensbythebay.com.sg/en/the-gardens/sustainability-efforts.html#:~:text=Sustainability%20in%20the%20Gardens,water%20throughout%20Bay%20South%20Garden.

[4]Cecilia Tortajada, 22 January 2007, Water Management in Singapore. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07900620600691944

Travelling the world through our screens

Hello! Welcome to my blog. I am Chloe Quek Zi Ru, a Year One student studying Environmental Studies at National University of Singapore. I love how fascinating Mother Nature is. The world has so much to offer, some sights that come to mind are the Northern Lights, black beaches in Iceland and the roaring waterfalls found in Bali. In my teenage days back in secondary school, my Geography teacher would always share her experiences from her travels all over the world. I was always intrigued by her stories and dreamed of travelling to those beautiful geographic locations. I longed to see with my two eyes and experience these locations with my 5 senses. When I grew older, I realised this chance could be mine during the 8 month break between Junior College and University. This became my main source of motivation during Junior College, no matter how tired I was I would persevere on and study. In the end, the pandemic struck and foiled my long-term plans of seeing the world. Instead of seeing flora and fauna before my eyes, I saw it through my small 13 inch MacBook screen. No words can express how devastated and disappointed I was during the circuit breaker period.

I managed to visit the glorious Gaomei Wetlands in Taiwan during my last trip, before circuit breaker was implemented.

When I was given instructions to make a blog and find a theme, I was dumbfounded. Unlike most of my course mates, I didn’t have noble ambitions or a strong passion to save Mother Earth that led me to taking this course. I honestly took Environmental Studies due to my love for how lovely the world is.  What could I write about? Then I realised, Why not on sustainable tourism? I dearly miss travelling. Despite the lack of opportunity to travel and explore the world with my friends and family, this blog gives me a chance to travel virtually to places I had on my bucket list by learning more about them. There are so many beautiful locations in the world that I have yet to explore and learn about. Many of these locations are not only beautiful but can also reduce the impacts of climate change. In my blog, I will be attempting to discuss various beautiful landmarks and how their efforts help in the fight against global warming and environmental degradation.

 

If you have read until here, thank you and I hope you will be back for my next blog post. Until then, let’s keep travelling the world safely through our laptop screens!

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