Politics panel highlights: CAUSINDY 2023

24 May, 2323 | CAUSINDY 2023

The Political and Governance panel examined sustainable tourism through the lenses of governance, social economy and media.

Panellists discussed how both governments place sustainable tourism in their long-term tourism policies and planning, how to ensure the multiplier effect of tourism development, and the media’s role in promoting tenets of sustainable tourism.

The Political and Governance panel, a regular feature at CAUSINDY conferences, was moderated by Wahyu Kusumaningtias, Deputy Director at Australia Awards in Indonesia, and featured three industry experts who brought their respective expertise to drive an enlightening discussion:

  • Tourism, agriculture and public policy expert Ferry Sabam Samosir
  • Tourism studies program director Hendrie Adji Kusworo
  • Award-winning journalist Jewel Topsfield

Panellists prefaced the session with their own interpretations of sustainable tourism.

“There are many definitions,” said Pak Ferry. “In short, how to keep tourism for the future… Tourism itself can have positive and negative impacts.”

Pak Adji framed sustainable tourism as a dynamic process rather than a static concept.

“Sustainable tourism is a journey to reach a condition where tourism gives a net benefit to the social, cultural, religious, psychological, economic and environmental dimensions of people’s lives,” he said.

And Jewel pitched the following definition: “Tourism that doesn’t degrade the environment, takes into account climate change, is accessible and inclusive, and also focuses on local experts.”

Government players

So what do approaches to sustainable tourism look like in Indonesia and Australia – and how do we ensure compliance across governmental jurisdictions to ensure all stakeholders participate fully and equally?

In an Australian context, Jewel spoke to the impact of overtourism on Flinders Island near Tasmania, where residents experienced the negative impacts of an overabundance of visitors following the introduction of subsidised domestic flights to the island.

“Tourism was something that [they experienced] rather than something they were a part of,” she said. As a result, discussion began on the island as to how to make those tourism practices more sustainable – which Jewel said is a work in progress.

“It’s really interesting to hear [them] brainstorm how to make tourism on the island sustainable.”

In Indonesia, sustainable tourism policies exist and are ready for implementation, explained Pak Ferry. The problem is how to do so systematically.

“Indonesia has a decentralised system, and the central government cannot automatically drive the local governments [to implement the policy],” said Pak Ferry. “And the local governments [have their own priorities].

“Standards of sustainable tourism have to be integrated into the system. If not, [the policy] gets stuck at the central government level and won’t be implemented in the regions.”

Pak Adji agreed that real outcomes start with proper implementation at a governance level.

“Sustainable is a very complex concept in terms of factors and actors,” he said. “The Indonesian government has already adopted this concept… and renewed the regulations in 2021.

“The next challenge is how to implement those regulations at a practical level.”

The role of media

The discussion then moved to the role of media in creating awareness about sustainable tourism practices and positively framing the concept for consumers and stakeholders.

“When we use the [phrase] sustainable tourism people’s eyes glaze over,” observed Jewel. “It’s almost become a jargon-type term.

“What we’ve actually done at the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald – because we know that sustainable tourism is important and also want to capture people’s imagination – is talk about the ways people can travel sustainably… and that may not be hugely expensive.

Young people in particular, said Jewel, are looking for authentic local experiences – incorporating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders into cultural experiences that prioritise First Nations tour operators, for example.

Overall, the panel session brought a wide-ranging lens to the conference topic and introduced delegates to the thought-provoking nature of the conference.

Click here for a summary of highlights from all sessions on day one of the conference.