Shandong Province, China [REUTERS/China Daily]
The tourism industry is so predominant in certain areas of the world, like the Bahamas, Barbados and the Maldives that it accounts for over 50% of their export earnings. In places like these, it’s in the industry’s best interest to conserve the beauty of the environment that draws a majority of their profitability.
- TOURISM ACCOUNTS FOR 10% OF THE WORLD’S ECONOMIC ACTIVITY.
- GLOBALLY, CORAL REEFS BRING IN $36 BILLION IN TOURISM ANNUALLY.
- THE NUMBER OF INTERNATIONAL TOURIST ARRIVALS GLOBALLY TOTALED 1.2 BILLION IN 2015 AND IS PREDICTED TO REACH 8 BILLION AS SOON AS 2030.
- BEACH VACATIONS ARE THE PREFERENCE FOR 52% OF ADULTS IN THE US.
Clearly the tourism market is huge and ever-growing, with beach destinations as some of the most popular. Unfortunately this rapid development caused by mass tourism is outstripping infrastructure and destroying many of our favorite places and coastlines!
REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
For example, the most iconic beach in Thailand, Maya Bay featured in “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio was recently shut down (in October 2018) to tourists for the indefinite future to allow for ecological restoration.
Due to its popularity from the film, Maya Bay was hosting 5,000 tourists every day!
Thailand’s Department of National Parks (DNP) decided that the damaged marine environment needs time to heal from the plastic pollution, toxic sunscreen, and coral damage that comes with this huge influx. An estimated 80% of the coral surrounding Maya Bay has been destroyed since tourists started flocking to its shores in 2000.
The DNP has declared that Maya Bay will remain closed until the environment “fully recovers to a normal situation”, which could take years because coral only grows half a centimeter per year! The bay used to bring in 400 million baht ($12 million) every year, so the region’s economy will suffer a huge hit for this mass tourism disaster.
This news in Thailand comes after government closure of world-famous party island paradise, Boracay in the Philippines. Within a 10 month period, 1.7 million tourists visited the island in 2017. Beginning on April 26, 2018, Boracay shutdown for six months to launch massive cleanup and infrastructure upgrade efforts, allowing the environment to heal from the plastic pollution, fuel, and untreated sewage previously drained directly into the ocean.
Based on a survey of sewage facilities, 85% of properties on the island, or 716 properties, were presumed to be dumping untreated sewage directly into the ocean!
Almost 200 illegal structures were demolished, proper drainage and treatment systems for 68 accommodations constructed, and road surfaces replaced in a makeover that cost 1 billion pesos ($18.5 million).
NOEL CELIS/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
As the Filipino government gears up for Boracay’s official re-opening next week (October 26, 2018), a select number of residents and tourists have been invited back to the island for a “trial-run”. However, gone are the days of fire dancers and reckless beachfront partying... the island’s re-opening is accompanied by a strict set of new laws.
Most notably, the government has issued an island-wide ban on single-use plastics! Other new laws include banning vendors, service providers and businesses from setting anything up directly on the beach and outlawing the kerosene-soaked torches previously used by fire-dancers.
Boracay has been given the blessing of a “reset” and now has the opportunity to become a model of sustainable tourism! I hope they can live up to that expectation and role model responsible practices for the rest of the world.
NOEL CELIS/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
TAKE ACTION: Don’t destroy what you came to enjoy.
- Take the survey HERE to help inform future educational campaigns and put your ocean hero skills to the test on Questions 3&4!
- Be a conscious traveller.
- Choose destinations and accommodations that you can trust.
- Check if your chosen resort or hotel has been certified under a GSTC-recognized standard including EarthCheck, Green Key, and Rainforest Alliance.
- Minimize your impact as a tourist.
- Reduce or eliminate your personal single-use plastic consumption while traveling.
- Use reef-safe sunscreen (non-nano mineral-based alternatives are the best).
- Use non-toxic personal care products and avoid those with plastic microbeads.
- Spread awareness. As always, spreading awareness of an issue helps increase public attention and policy-makers will be more likely to respond. Share this article via your channels and teach your network how to be more harmonious humans!! <3
 (Commonwealth Secretariat, 1997)