In line with our pillars of Conservation and Sustainability, The Habitat Foundation teamed up with Society of Conservation Biology Malaysia Chapter to provide a platform for discussion as well as an opportunity to inform and educate the public on the difference we can all make by engaging in nature-based tourism at a time where the lack of tourism threatens the local economy and presents potential threats to conservation gains made over the years.
Strengthening the Links between Ecotourism and Conservation in Malaysia is presented in a time of uncertainty and adversity. The Covid-19 pandemic has severely challenged the tourism sector and conservation efforts alike. With Prof Dr Amran Hamzah, a specialist in tourism planning and the interface between conservation and tourism, along with invited panelists Alex Lee of Terrapuri Heritage Village in Setiu Wetlands and Dr Chen Pelf Nyok from the Turtle Conservation Society in Kemaman, our dialogue explored the current status of ecotourism development in Malaysia, the approaches a tourism business and a conservation NGO have drawn on to weather the storm, and a way forward in rebuilding a more resilient and sustainable nature-based tourism sector.
The web forum was live-streamed on Facebook Live and SCB Malaysia Chapter’s YouTube channel. You can view the recorded session here.
Guided by Prof Amran Hamzah, we kicked off the web forum by setting the context of the current state of ecotourism in Malaysia and how we compare as a destination in comparison with other notable sites in the world. An overview was provieded of some of the approaches and strategies in Malaysia’s National Ecotourism Plan 2016-2025 which were designed to raise the standard of what we have to offer, and also invigorate local businesses and enterprises that would benefit from well run and effectively marketed nature tourism attractions.
Along with the varied challenges stakeholders face in further developing this sector, Prof. Amran explained the role of ‘tourism clusters’ which can be an effective tool for ecotourism planning in Malaysia.
Dr Chen Pelf Nyok, co-founder of Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia (TCS) explained some of the challenges and uncertainties of running a nonprofit conservation organisation amidst a global pandemic. TCS, has for the last 10 years, made important breakthroughs in the research and conservation of endangered river terrapins. In addition, the nonprofit organization has also won accolades for the way in which they have combined this work with an emphasis on public awareness and education, community participation, and supporting local livelihoods. Dr Chen highlighted the importance of ensuring that conservation efforts look to sustainability by working closely with community partners and also ensuring a quality learning experience for their guests.
Alex Lee, the founder of Terrapuri Heritage Village in Setiu, Terengganu is a staunch advocate of community-based tourism and for the protection of the wetland environment which is as important to biodiversity as it is in supporting fisheries resources for local livelihoods.
Alex shared with us the story of the heritage village which has garnered recognition for for its preservation of the rich built and cultural heritage of the region and the thoughtful ways in which he works with local community partners to showcase the diverse mangrove and peat swamps of Setiu Wetlands which is not a State Park. Alex detailed how Terrapuri aims to be a world-class destination for biodiversity research and to contribute to the local economy.
Each of our panelists gave us valuable perspectives on the links between ecotourism and conservation and how public support through domestic tourism would be important to ensure that their efforts can be sustained despite our borders being closed to international visitors. The webforum stimulated keen interest among the viewers to the extent that it was not possible to respond to all the questions posed in the livechat. Click here to watch the recorded session of the web forum.