Reply To: Eco-tourism stifled in Hong Kong


email I’ve just circulated to members of HK Coalition on Sustainable Tourism, replying to quick flurry of emails after Paul Zimmerman reported on meeting w Travel Industry Council (TIC):

” The issue of “specialized tour guide” has yet to be formally discussed at the TIC.”
– this shows the TIC has near zero interest in sustainable tourism of “ecotourism” (in very broad sense, ie inc culture, nature)

This, perhaps, is as things should be – TIC is focused on mass market (yes, very retro).

But helps show that tourism structure here is not at all suited to developing sustainable tourism, of ecotourism sort (with aims of benefiting local environment, communities).

For local tours, impetus should perhaps come from consumers. While people are happy with crap “ecotours” (to Tung Ping Chau, Deep Bay etc), that’s what they’ll continue getting. Education a big part of it; seems to me local “ecotours” still novel here, so maybe people figure it ok to go in big group led by some folk who occasionally speak thro megaphones.
May be scope here for, say, trying for media articles on what makes for a half-decent ecotour, and for a crap tour. (decent tours inc not grabbing lots of animals in rock pools, as I’m concerned may happen Tung Ping Chau)
Did see a guy quoted in paper as saying a Hoi Ha trip was useless; so there’s scope for creating change here.

Market forces important
– though I know this isn’t thought true by many in Hong Kong today, but anyway

Tour companies not essential for ecotourism. People can go by selves; witness the many thousands of Hongkongers heading to countryside each weekend and public holiday. With decent info, even some overseas visitors can go by selves. People interested in ecotourism rather more likely to be independent minded; indeed may prefer to hike, visit villages and temples etc at own pace.
HK facilities are good to superb by comparison with many places – think of superb facilities in country parks, inc the trail system. (what other city – anywhere – can rival this?). But companies can play important roles, esp for less independently-minded people.

Promotion important. I believe one reason hiking now popular w Japanese groups is promotion to Japanese market. Then, people have visited, hiked, enjoyed it and passed on info – also v important, esp for tourism of this kind (without huge advertising dollars, word of mouth esp important).

Glad Paul met TIC.

When had FirstStep Nature Tours, we joined TIC (as seemed only way could continue getting some promotion thro HKTB).
All we got from TIC/members were a bag and an infinite number of junk emails.

As part of joining, we joined HATA. For this, got lobbied for vote in TIC election (duly voted, Paul Leung won, but since done nothing for sustainable tourism – and why should he, he’s mass market guy?); had cheap trip to Thailand for conference w some uninteresting talks, albeit met one or two contacts.

Again – shows that travel structure here no use for good ecotourism development here (and ecotourism isn’t just a “narrow range of interests” – spans a broad spectrum, much of what we discuss re sustainable tourism).

These points not new.
We talk but don’t progress.