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Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development Forum

Tourism as a tool to conserve humanity's cultural and natural heritage / Pacific islands

Posted By: Mali Voi
Date: Thursday, 20 July 2000, at 11:31 a.m.

In Response To: Uncontrolled tourism development in the Gulf of Mexico. (Peter Wiese)


I read the contribution by Peter Wiese on the 'self destruct theory of tourism' (Uncontrolled tourism development in the Gulf of Mexico) and initially I was not going to comment. However, after some thought, and the contribution by Dennis Pantin (Clarification sought on the 'self destruct theory of tourism'), I decided to make some comments.

I would like to say that the tourism industry is an inevitable economic phenomenon that is bound to expand globally whether we like it or not. There are indeed some adverse effects on the environmental, social and cultural conditions at tourism sites. If we were just to shut our eyes and do nothing about appropriate tourism policies, we would be kidding ourselves... helping the 'self destruct theory of tourism' become an accelerated force. Social and economic research programmes aimed at framing environmentally and culturally sensitive tourism policies should be encouraged. It is from this point of view that the work of the University of the West Indies and other institutions should be assisted financially so that small islands and small island developing states (SIDS) are gainfully engaged in some kind of economic activity to sustain themselves.

Tourism should be seen as a tool in the following dimensions:

a) for promoting understanding and respect between and amongst the different peoples of the world. I think it was Lord Byron of Britain who said 'travel broadens the mind';
b) for teaching and learning, either directly or indirectly, about the importance of conserving humanity's cultural and natural heritage;
c) for economic and social development.

The bottom line is that tourism is a tool, and as a tool, it should be used in the service of, and for the benefit of humanity.

In the Pacific, the Tourism Council of the South Pacific (TCSP) has proposed that an ecotourism policy be developed in its member states. This involves respecting the cultural and natural heritage and retaining it in its original state, and as much as possible avoiding large undertakings and their imposed values, such as large resorts with gambling facilities and the like. Through these means, the promotion and retention of the unique values of each destination, will be achieved.

The Natural World Heritage Site in Rennell Island in the Solomon Islands is being carefully worked on so that it will give us an opportunity to accumulate experience to handle other potential natural and cultural World Heritage sites in the Pacific, hopefully, to come in the years ahead.

Indeed I would like to exchange notes and information in this respect with other island communities of the world.

Mr. Mali Voi,
UNESCO Cultural Adviser for the Pacific

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