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ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity gears up for major role with the International Ecotourism Travel Mart




The Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) topbills as co-organizer of the world’s first green travelmart — the International Ecotourism Travel Mart (IETM), which will be held next year in Silang, Cavite, Philippines.


Slated from March 29 to April 2, 2023, IETM is a historic assembly and world festival that

pushes ecotourism in its rightful place in protecting the environment and improving the welfare of the local people. IETM is co-presented by the Asian Ecotourism Network (AEN) and the International School for Sustainable Tourism (ISST).


IETM gathers from at least 21 countries, in a well-conceived and unique Philippine setting,

the world’s buyers and sellers of ecotourism packages; exhibitors of ecotourism-related and

sustainability-advancing products, services and destinations; registered participants, speakers and panelists in IETM’s two-day forum and certificate course; and visitors for the public activities.


Dr. Mina T. Gabor, chair and president of the Silang-based ISST, and Dr. Mundita S. Lim, ACB

executive director, recently signed the memorandum of agreement covering ACB’s substantial involvement in the green travel mart and festival.


Dr. Gabor, who champions global sustainable tourism after her service as head of the Philippine tourism department, states that ACB’s vital contribution to IETM fast-tracks the event’s goal of protecting the natural environment while uplifting local community welfare.

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


Citing challenges that ASEAN Heritage Parks faced in the pandemic, the ACB official shares

that, as people are excited to be back outdoors again, there is also a growing awareness that

nature is part of the solution to public health and climate change-related problems.


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


Active linkage with ACB provides IETM participants with crucial information through sterling

resource speakers on best practices involving ASEAN Heritage Parks and protected sites,

including their experiences on the pathway to recovery after two years in pandemic.


Dr. Lim states there are 51 heritage sites in ASEAN member countries which are all regarded as important to preserving a wide array of ecosystems in the region.  Of these, she notes that 80 percent are engaged in ecotourism. Local communities in many of these sites have been severely affected by drastic decline in visitors during the pandemic. She narrates the cases of 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 being into more eco-friendly tourism ventures.  We see opportunities for greater participation of local communities, empowerment of local cultures, and enhancing windows for sustainability and continuity,” Dr. Lim says.


The ACB facilitates cooperation among ASEAN countries and ASEAN coordination with

regional and international organizations to conserve biological diversity and ensure its

sustainable use. Set up in 2005, it is also concerned with the equitable sharing of benefits

arising from use of these natural treasures. 


Experts, ecotourism practitioners, advocates, participants and exhibitors are expected at the

IETM for the great opportunity to learn and network across cultures, according to Masaru

Takayama, IETM co-chair and AEN president.


AEN, which is the Asian initiative of the Global Ecotourism Network, and based in Costa Rica, provides relevant opportunities for members to work together on a regional scale. It actively seeks out channels for growth opportunities with both small and large organizations within Asia and shares among members significant information and educational materials.


The Philippines is an active AEN member. AEN sees the IETM as a “celebration to make sure that beautiful nature is passed on to the next generations to enjoy.”


Dr. Mina Gabor, Event Chair of the International Ecotourism Travel Mart, in an interview with

Experience Travel and Living, expounded on the subject on ecotourism. She also discussed the condition of Philippine Ecotourism and the importance of hosting the first IETM for the country.


She thought basically a lot of people don’t know the difference between regular tourism and eco-tourism. They should be able to change that misconception. What is important is what eco-tourism is all about. Learning the 4 principles is key. And the most important even Pope Francis, she remember when Pope visited South America when he went into the rainforest, he said,” my goodness this is the work of the Lord”’ We are losing the significance of what the Lord has actually developed. We are bastardizing it and we forget that nature and humanity are one and the same. If we lose one, we lose the other. “Life is like being an entrepreneur, you have to take care of life in the same way we take care of the business. Taking care of ourselves is actually taking care of the environment where we live in,” Pope Francis added.


On a scale of 1 to 10, we are probably around 6 or 7. That means we still have a lot to do to get that kind of appreciation, conservation, and love for nature. Actually, many of those start from the home. And she guess we have to be able to create that kind of communication -what ecotourism can do to families? It should begin in the home. The way we take care of

environment. We cannot even segregate properly. She was in the rainforest of Costa Rica, the waste segregation they have even included the colors, not only the waste from plastic and paper. For example, you have a banana. Do not throw it anywhere even if its natural, because some birds are attracted by color, and if they eat it, they might choke. These little things should start from the home, we should be able to segregate. If every home will do that, waste will be minimized. It should start from the home.


To have this as the first one is an acceptance that the Philippines is a rich resource of

biodiversity- both in our waters and in our land. We are a very rich resource of many things.

From our forest, our seas. It is an acceptance that we are a rich destination for ecotourism.

The second one, I think for the Philippines it is very important because we will be exposed to

these experts coming from abroad and we will learn from them.


Third, we should be able to keep in mind that this is now what our people are looking for. After the pandemic, we should realize, the kind of destructions we have for environment that created the pandemic. We should be able to restore our equilibrium and the balance of nature. She think that is very important. This should be the concern of every Filipino.

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