Asean Centre for Biodiversity gears for world’s 1st green travel festival

Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim (left), ACB executive director; Dr. Mina Gabor, ISST president; and Dr. Glenn Gregorio, Searca director, sign agreements for the joint conduct of the International Ecotourism Travel Mart to be hosted by the Philippines in 2023. —ACB WEBSITE PHOTO

The Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), co-organizer of the International Ecotourism Travel Mart (IETM), is in the thick of preparations for the world’s first green travel festival to be held next year in Silang, Cavite, Philippines.

Scheduled on March 29-April 2, 2023, IETM is a historic assembly that puts ecotourism in its rightful place in protecting the environment and improving the welfare of local communities. The Asian Ecotourism Network (AEN) and the International School for Sustainable Tourism (ISST) based in Silang are co-presenters.

IETM is gathering from at least 21 countries the world’s buyers and sellers of ecotourism packages; exhibitors of ecotourism-related and sustainability-advancing products, services and destinations; participants, speakers and panelists for the two-day forum and certificate course; and visitors for the public activities.

ISST chair and president Mina T. Gabor and ACB executive director Mundita S. Lim recently signed the memorandum of agreement covering the event.

Promoting crucial balance

Gabor, a former head of the Philippines’ Department of Tourism, champions global sustainable tourism and is confident that ACB’s vital contribution to the green travel mart will fast-track the event’s goals. 

Lim says IETM “elevates tourism as a leader in promoting the balance between economic development and harnessing nature as a means to overcome current challenges.”

Citing the challenges that Asean Heritage Parks faced during the Covid-19 pandemic, Lim says that with people worldwide eager to be outdoors again, there is also a growing awareness that nature is part of the solution to problems concerning public health and climate change.

“With IETM 2023, we hope to help jumpstart sustainable economic recovery in the region with the promotion of a greener and biodiversity-conscious tourism industry,” she says. 

The active linkage with ACB will provide travel mart participants crucial information through experts speaking on best practices involving Asean Heritage Parks and protected sites and on their experiences on recovering from the difficulties posed by the pandemic.

51 heritage sites

There are 51 heritage sites in Asean member-countries that are all deemed important to preserving the ecosystems in the region, according to Lim. Of these, she notes, 80 percent are engaged in ecotourism. 

The local folk in many of these sites were severely affected by the drastic decline in visitors during the pandemic, Lim says, citing the communities around the Gunung Leusur National Park in North Sumatra, and the Way Kambas National Park in Lampung province, where elephants and orangutans are present. 

“But these days, as the region is slowly recovering from the impact of the global health crisis, mass tourism is slowly getting into more eco-friendly tourism ventures,” Lim says. “We see opportunities for greater participation of local communities, empowerment of local cultures, and enhancing windows for sustainability and continuity.” 

ACB facilitates cooperation among Asean countries and the bloc’s coordination with regional and international organizations to protect and conserve biological diversity. Set up in 2005, it is also concerned with the equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of natural treasures. 

Experts, ecotourism practitioners, advocates, participants and exhibitors are expected at the green travel mart for the opportunity to learn from and network across cultures, according to Masaru Takayama, IETM co-chair and AEN president.

AEN, based in Costa Rica and the Asian initiative of the Global Ecotourism Network, provides and seeks channels for growth opportunities with both small and large organizations within Asia, and shares with its members, including the Philippines, significant information and educational materials. 

It envisions IETM as “a celebration to make sure that beautiful nature is passed on for the next generations to enjoy.”

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To contact the IETM Media Desk, call Kelly Austria at 0917 5071211 or Ruby V. Paurom at 0917 589 1113.

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