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Asia ‘catching up’ to global sustainable tourism levels

SINGAPORE — Sustainable tourism in Asia is improving but will need better government policies and infrastructure to see it match the levels of other areas.

Among the panel discussions at the 2023 TravMedia Summit Asia yesterday in Singapore were tourist spots practicing sustainable efforts given that environmentalism is a key factor for travelers.

Phuket Hotels Association Executive Director Jayne MacDougall said that Asia is lacking when it comes to sustainability, pointing to the COVID-19 pandemic affecting development at its height and aftermath.

MacDougall points out that some countries don't have the infrastructure for sustainability, and there is lack of government policies toward sustainable practices or in the event that there are, how such practices are enforced.

Filipina travel journalist Rhea Vitto Tabora, founding Editor-in-Chief of "Travel Asia Now" and "Asia Sustainable Travel Briefing," acknowledges that Europe is advanced when it comes to sustainable tourism but Asia should not be counted out just yet.

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"We're catching up," said Tabora, explaining that there is a rise in sustainable activity in Southeast Asia.

One example she gave were Singaporean hotels having water filtration systems or machines, eliminating the presence of water bottles — a practice that hotels in the Philippines have yet to attempt, she admitted.

A broader example were hotels and brands observing sustainable or environmental efforts by embracing local culture and protecting surrounding wildlife.

"Environmental awareness across the board is top of the list," said MacDougall of what important factors can make a difference, also mentioning proper government leadership and partnership with private companies.

In regards to that, Valerie Loy of Club Med added that travelers are indeed being more informed about sustainable tourism because of partnerships between hotels, airlines, private companies, and the media.

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