Top News PATA session spots the return of over-tourism and misuse of ecotourism labels By Mimi Hudoyo / Posted on 6 July, 2023 16:13 A discussion at the recent PATA Destination Experience Forum and Mart 2023 on the topic of Leveraging New Trends in Sustainable Forms of Tourism revealed that the pre-pandemic challenges of over-tourism are coming back and the misuse of ecotourism term prevails. Hannah Pearson, regional director APAC, Adventure Travel Trade Association, said: “There’s that struggle… between wanting to get back to those 2019 levels and at the same time recognising that getting back to that is perhaps not necessarily what the planet needs.” Panelists discuss pitfalls in destinations’ pursuit of tourism recovery She believes that adventure travel can provide a balanced return to tourism business, as it can drive the economy and contribute to local nature through conservation efforts and serving local communities. “Adventure travel can help to address a lot of those pre-pandemic issues, but it needs to be implemented strategically. This means that you guys (need to) diversify your source markets, disperse travellers throughout the whole country, and give young people an incentive to stay in those rural areas,” Pearson explained. Meanwhile, Masaru Takayama, founding chair of Asian Ecotourism Network, highlighted in his presentation that the term ecotourism is often used to label activities that may not necessarily fit the definition. “Greenwashing is rampant in travel and tourism, but if there is greenwashing, it’s not ecotourism,” he opined, stating that not all nature-based tourism can be considered ecotourism, and that going for a hunting trip or staying in an eco-resort does not necessarily equate to ecotourism. Takayama added: “Sustainable practices in large hotels and resorts are highly commendable, however, a sustainable or eco label is not synonymous to an ecotourism experience. Although the accommodation might be operated using good environmental practices, the siting and construction of the hotel might have had big impact on the local environment and community.” Takayama also advised nature-based attractions to be mindful of the kind of negative impact they may be making through their social media activities. He explained that with “the emergence of social media”, many are tagging locations in their online posts. Should a photo of a rare flower species be shared on social media, more people would want to visit the area to do the same and result in overcrowding.