Flores Island – Why Responsible Tourism is so Important?

Article by Ludgardis Lipa & Wise Steps Travel , 29 August 2018

It seems nowadays everyone wants to tavel the world. The UNWTO World Tourism Barometer showed that ‘International tourist arrivals grew by a remarkable 7% in 2017 to reach a total of 1,322 billion [sic] and this strong momentum is expected to continue’. Wonderful Indonesia is no exception to this trend. According to the Indonesia Central Bureau of Statistics, ‘the number of foreign tourist arrivals to Indonesia in April 2018 rose by 11.04 percent compared to the number of visits in April 2017’.

One of the uprising tourism destinations in Indonesia is Flores, an island in eastern Indonesia. Mainly known for the famous Komodo dragon in its natural habitat, an ancient monitor lizard that is the biggest lizard in the world today. Flores is also known for its cultural diversity, as there are eight different regencies and each region having their own traditions, rituals, and language. Considering this remarkable touristic potential, it is no surprise that Flores is also facing the continuous growth of tourist arrivals over the last years.

Seeing these growing tourism numbers, I was wondering how tourism in Flores can develop in a responsible and more sustainable way so we can protect our culture and nature for our future generations and visitors at the same time?

My name is Gardis, I come from a small village in Flores and I am currently studying Tourism Destination Management at the Bandung Institute of Tourism. When I was 6 years old, I met a tourist who made me very nervous and unconfident because I couldn’t speak English and at the same time I was also curious why tourists would come to my hometown.  After I moved away from home to study and explore other places I realized that my island is very special.

As a student who is still learning about responsible tourism, I am very passionate about protecting nature, culture and supporting the local communities of the destination, especially because Flores is my home island. In this small article, I just felt like sharing the idea of responsible tourism and how we might be able to improve tourism for the sake of the environment and local communities in Flores.

More benefits for local communities

One of the goals of responsible tourism is to generate knowledge about tourism for local communities and explain to them how to participate in tourism. This knowledge can be a chance for communities to get additional income through tourism.

“Many people in Flores don’t know what tourism is and how to participate in it. Just like my father who actually didn’t allow me to study tourism because he thought tourism only has negative effects such as drugs and free lifestyle. Other villagers I know, thought that tourists always have a lot of money and they will just give it to them.”

Partly I can understand these worries because if tourism itself is not managed responsibly it can change local cultures. Responsible tourism should educate travelers about local traditions and cultures so travelers can respect local customs. Tourism can also be a tool to introduce local culture and wisdom which is a way to keep it conserved. A positive effect can be to make the community proud of their culture, especially teenagers would be more eager to practice and show off their authentic culture.

“A lot of teenagers in Flores are still thinking that traditional clothes are only nice if worn by their parents, although I think it looks so nice when they wear traditional clothes during a traditional dance for example. When I first moved to Bandung together with some friends from the same area, we all used our traditional clothes and made a selfie in front of the University. I am proud because this is my identity and origin” 

The environment is maintained

As people say “nature is fine without tourism but tourism is nothing without nature”. Part of responsible tourism practices is to conserve nature actively, we have to start thinking about the consequences for example for local people and the environment if we don’t manage waste properly caused by tourism industry or what will happen to the rare Komodo Dragon if more and more people are coming to the small islands to watch it in their natural habitat.

“Whenever I have the chance to come back home, I realize how beautiful Flores is. It still has a diverse natural environment and beautiful landscapes, but we have to make sure it doesn’t change. In my opinion, tourism can also help to protect nature, for example creating National Parks but then we have to manage it well, considering the carrying capacity, the number of visitors, waste management, and involvement of local communities.”

In the end, responsible tourism needs to involve all tourism stakeholder, i.e. tour operators, local government, accommodations, tourists and local communities. I think responsible tourism makes sense for everyone, we can build authentic cultural experiences that attract visitors, we can contribute financially to businesses and local communities, we can protect and enjoy the nature at the same time.

Flores has a big touristic potential and we have to use it in a smart way so we can build a better place for tourists to visit and moreover a better place for current and future generations to live.

 

References :

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/18/destroying-the-worlds-natural-heritage-komodo-is-reaching-a-tipping-point

http://www.necstour.eu/sites/default/files/BCN%20DECLARATION%202018_17April%202018.pdf

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