Ecotourism Masterclass by The Expert

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Grace Easteria

Ecotourism is a tourism model that stands differently from the conventional tourism model. Ecotourism emphasizes the connection between human and nature (the environment), and also the connection between guests and local communities. While conventional mass tourism relies on the quantity of guests and on how much profit can be generated as the goals, ecotourism prioritizes the natural environment and the local communities. We had the tremendous opportunity to dive deeper into the subject and best practices we can learn from to further advance our knowledge and capacity on ecotourism.

 

Last September, our team learned about ecotourism with Mr. Nurdin Razak, a well-known ecotourism expert and practitioner in Indonesia, and also the director of Indonesian Ecotourism Institute, an independent institute that is focused on developing ecotourism in Indonesia. The masterclass was given in his own small and humble guest house, Baloeran EcoLodge in Wonorejo Village, one of the villages bordered by Baluran National Park, East Java. By immersing ourselves directly in Mr. Nurdin’s site where he developed one of the top ecotourism destinations in Indonesia, we were able to gain an invaluable applied learning experience. Here are some of the things we learned!

 

  • Emphasizing emotion:

We first learned about ecotourism theory, specifically, what makes it different from conventional mass tourism, and the economical and managerial aspects behind them. Interestingly, Mr. Nurdin believes that ecotourism emphasizes emotions, values, and stories as opposed to just the destinations, which are the dominant point of conventional tourism.

 

  • Community Development

We also learned about  community development. We always need to remember that practicing ecotourism means increasing the livelihood of the local communities, not only economically but also to all aspects of their lives. In order to achieve that, the local communities have to be the champion or the owner of ecotourism in their own home. For example, we were given some case examples from Mr. Nurdin’s personal experiences in Manusela National Park, Moluccas, and Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park, Gorontalo. In both cases, people from bordering villages, who used to be illegal animal poachers, transitioned into being owners of  ecotourism sites. Some of them now have homestays while others serve as tour guides for visiting guests.

 

  • Patience is key

It is important to note that transitioning livelihoods occur slowly over time and therefore, require patience and continued effort.  In educating and developing local communities to realize their own potential, there are several things crucial to understand.  They first need to understand themselves by defining their own vision (what do you want to be), Passion (what do you like), Action (what you have done or what do you want to do), and Collaboration (what you have done with others). After they gain a better sense of self-understanding, they now have to uncover their own potential by using the TOWS method (threat, opportunity, weakness, strength). Their potentials are not only limited to the natural aspects, but also the social and cultural aspects that they have ingrained within them.

 

  • Understanding the mindset

What makes ecotourism special? It is because we aim to have an eco, growth, and responsible mindset. We want to prioritize sustainability  and ensure it is beneficial to everyone as opposed to aim to gain as much profit as possible. We also need to be responsible for every impact we give on the environment, since a small impact  from one person can accumulate into much bigger impacts.

 

Based on the case studies and lessons we acquired, we see that this model of tourism is most suited to be applied in conservation areas, such as national parks and even our mangrove planting site in Bintan and coral planting site in Padang Bai.  We are currently planning to apply all the knowledge and experiences we have to develop ecotourism in our sites. Starting from Padang Bai, together with Livingseas and our female fellows where we plan to  analyse our current situation and establish a program to educate locals that have been involved in tourism for years to adopt a more ecotourism-oriented direction.

 

Grace Easteria

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Under the banner of Generation Restoration, the Youth in Landscapes Initiative (YIL) and the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) launched the Restoration Stewards program in 2020 to support and highlight the work of six young restoration practitioners and their teams, dubbed ‘Restoration Stewards’. The year-long program provides funding, mentorship, and training to deepen the impact of these projects.
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