The third and final panel discussion at this year’s conference brought together a professor in sustainable tourism, a founder of a rural community development foundation and an eco-hotel’s strategic marketing professional.
Given this year’s theme, the topic of the environment had been discussed directly and tangentially throughout the entire conference, but this was a chance for delegates to engage in a fertile exchange of ideas on the topic.
The panel, moderated by CAUSINDY’s own Amadeo Ardisa, featured three panellists:
- Strategic marketing professional Adi Septiawan
- Balinese impact entrepreneur I Putu Wiraguna
- Academic and scientific journal editor-in-chief Professor Joseph Cheer
The speakers discussed several points relating to sustainable tourism from a strictly environmental perspective, such as its fundamentals, barriers, trends and impacts.
Making an impact
Firstly, Mas Adi shared how Mana Earthly Paradise, a sustainable tourism company in Bali, remains conscious of its environmental impacts when navigating tourists’ demand.
“We’re a certified B Corp,” he told the assembled delegates. “We are really taking responsibility for how we operate our business. We only have six rooms, which is also helping us to be more sustainable, reducing the amount of consumption.”
He explained what he thought it takes to make a real, rather than surface-level impact.
“In reality, a lot of businesses, social enterprises and NGO break up or lose all their money because they’re focusing too much on their impact,” he said. “The [necessary] foundation for sustainability… is to be financially sustainable.
“Calculating all the things that we consume, [seeing] how much rainwater we can collect, and the off-grid system that we have at Mana – that’s helped us become more sustainable and regenerative.”
Policy and planning
Joseph presented a narrative of the efforts taken by the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council and shared the ongoing consideration as to whether tourism can indeed be sustainable by definition.
“We’ve made an effort to focus on trying to publish work that has practical and policy implications,” he said.
Some of the key points to remember when it comes to the conference topic, he outlined, were: limits to acceptable change, carrying capacity, sense of place, placemaking (“Who should decide whether a place becomes a tourism destination?”), tourism impacts and regenerative tourism.
“Certification [of sustainable tourism locations] in itself is also problematic,” noted Joseph. “It rewards those who do very well, but ignores those who do nothing.
“Overtourism is more than just too many tourists. It’s a psychological thing. It’s related to policy and planning – or the lack of policy and planning.”
Bli Wira, founder of the Five Pillar Foundation, a rural development organisation based in Bali, elucidated the foundation’s approach of direct engagement with local communities.
Bli Wira described the foundation as a social enterprise that creates impact travel experiences applying an interconnected five-pillar approach, those pillars being community, environment, education, economy and community.
Wishing to implement a project in the field of tourism that would directly benefit his home island, pay more than lip service to Bali’s environment and reflect the aforementioned pillars, he has cultivated a cohort of local heroes working in the sustainable tourism space who themselves inspire others across rural Bali.
His final advice for delegates perhaps summed up a sustainable approach to tourism best: “Be mindful.”
Click here for a summary of highlights from all sessions on day three of the conference.