Better Policies, Best Practices Promote Sustainable Travel
International tourism has helped transform Indonesia’s economy, but the booming industry is leaving a heavy footprint across the archipelago, especially on the islands of Bali and Java.
Thanks to tourism, Bali has seen growing environmental problems such as pollution and freshwater scarcity. Popular tourist destination Kuta beach is regularly covered in waste.
The island’s garbage dumps are reportedly overflowing, which makes waste management a pressing issue. Bali’s freshwater resources are drying up amidst soaring demand and a changing climate. Traffic congestion fouls the air in this tropical getaway.
Unfortunately, the environmental footprint caused by the tourism industry will get worse without leadership. Indonesia hopes to attract more than 20 million visitors per year—twice the number of international tourists in 2015. These visitors will double the consumption and waste production, which will stress the islands of Bali and Java even more. The island and the nation are already buried in plastic waste and mismanaged sewage. In fact, Indonesia is the world’s second-biggest marine polluter after China, discarding 3.22 million metric tons of waste in to the ocean every year.
In addition to the eyesore, plastic kills ocean mammals, turtles and other species. It poisons food and water resources, as harmful chemicals leach out of the plastic. After being consumed by marine species, plastics enter the human food chain.
Marine plastic pollution is a global problem and Indonesia’s beaches present opportunities to study the socio-economic effects on coastal communities.
Efforts by activists, community groups and NGOs to clean beaches play a key role in protecting Indonesia’s environment. But they are only a temporary fix and don’t tackle the causes of this global problem. Such groups are leading the fight against over-development and pollution through protests, cleanup events and educational programs. Legislation, regulation and industry guidelines are needed to save Indonesia’s waterways from waste. In 2017, The Economist held the fourth Oceans Summit in Bali. During the summit, the Indonesian government pledged US$1 billion to curb ocean waste by 70 percent by 2025.
Today, many historical places and local tourism destinations are being recovered, restored and maintained through tourism that is focused on nature and culture. Natural landscapes and biodiversity are becoming increasingly appreciated. The tourism industry must be stewards of the environment to sustain the industry.
According to the World Travel Tourism Council (WTTC), sustainability in the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) takes a holistic view of people, planet, and profits, with the presiding goal to end poverty everywhere. Today Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism (MoT) shares that same vision and is stepping up its efforts to challenge tourism destinations around the archipelago to recognize the benefits and opportunities of sustainable tourism.
“The MoT is only providing guidelines for tourism destinations. In the future, we will strengthen this sector through regulations that include sustainable standards for industries, such as hotels and travel agencies,” said Valerina Daniel, who leads Indonesia’s Acceleration of Sustainable Tourism Development. “Indonesia’s target is to become a world-class sustainable tourism destination.”
The Minister explained that tourism destinations are being nurtured through the concept of sustainable tourism after tourism was directed to become one of the top sectors that contribute to the national budget.
Many ancient local cultures have practically lost their identity, with their societies increasingly orientated to this industry. Both the natural and cultural – rural or urban – landscapes have also paid a high price for certain forms of tourism, especially those involving large numbers of visitors. Today, travelers demand cultural, environmental and social considerations.
“The Indonesia Sustainable Tourism Awards (ISTA) is the first step towards obtaining a certification for sustainable tourism,” the minister added. “Indonesia established the Indonesia Sustainable Tourism Council (ISTC) to certify destinations.”
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) announced that the Sustainable Tourism Destination (STD) Standard for Indonesia has been recognized, which will build confidence and credibility with tourists and travel agents.
“The Sustainable Tourism Destination Standard will promote Indonesia as a hub for sustainable tourism certification in ASEAN and Asia Pacific,” says Indonesian Minister of Tourism Arief Yahya. “The Ministry Of Tourism has already endorsed 20 regions to be designated as pilot projects for the STD Standard and has also endorsed STD Standard implementation in 10 priorities destinations.”
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council is a global initiative dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism efforts around the world. The GSTC works to expand understanding of and access to sustainable tourism practices; helps identify and generate markets for sustainable tourism; and educates about and advocates for a set of universal principles, as defined by the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria.
“The economic health of tourism destinations requires the long-term planning that is inherent in the concepts of sustainable tourism,” said GSTC CEO Randy Durband. “This step in developing actionable standards for sustainable destination development and management, and doing so in a manner that includes global principles plus national interests, reflects that vision.”