Ecotourism in Southeast Asia
With the exception of Singapore, Southeast Asia consists mostly of developing countries. As mentioned under the management tab, ecotourism is a complicated practice which requires the joint effort of and mutual understanding between many stakeholders especially the government and local communities. Unfortunately, this requirement is seldom met in developing countries and hence, lacking in many Southeast Asian (SEA) countries. A study by Ly and Bauer (2014), looked into the practices in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to understand the significant differences observed between theory and practice of ecotourism management. It found that the core and common factor that hinders these countries from successfully implementing ecotourism practices is the lack of clear communication and cooperation between policymakers i.e. governments and other tourism stakeholders.
The government lays the foundation for successful management of ecotourism operations by provide clear guidelines and enforcing rules and regulations pertaining to engagement of sustainable practices both for the natural sites and for local communities (click here for more information). With poor governmental intervention, many key aspects of ecotourism are likely to fail or be unmaintainable in the long run. For example, lack of government funding to improve the country’s infrastructure to accommodate ecotourism practices, may result in less efficient practices or discouraging the use of eco-friendly alternatives. As a popular destination for mass tourism, many SEA countries are aware or have first-hand experience with the detrimental effects of it. There has been an increasing effort to create alternative tourism choices on the part of tourism operators but, the lack of proper governmental support has resulted in either and increase in non-authentic ecotourism packages that do not employ sustainable practices or legitimate ecotourism facilities that are unable to sustain it in the long run.
In general, ecotourism efforts in SEA need a lot of work to become viable alternative form of tourism. Having said this, there are some cases, although not perfect, of ecotourism in SEA that has managed to accomplish the main goals of ecotourism. One of them is the Rinjani Trekking expeditions at Gurung Rinjani National Park on the Indonesian island of Lombok. There are various tour operators that organise guided trekking expeditions to the summit of Mount Rinjani and the surrounding natural areas but most of them employ the same successful ecotourism model that has brought about benefits to the environment, local communities and the trekker who visit it.