The Invisible Burden of Tourism, part 2

As Megan Epler Wood stated in the quote I cited in part one, if local people are engaged in the monitoring of vital indicators to protect local resources AND the policy makers and tourist organizations like and actually listen and implement changes and develop the programs and frameworks to actually protect the health and well-being of the local populations, ecosystems, cultures, and monuments, then the civil disobedience witnessed in July would not be necessary. When local people do not feel they are being heard, but instead federal, state, and county government, as well as the tourist organizations mentioned above put money above the health and safety of the local population and of the delicate ecosystem, then frustration will lead to the kinds of behavior we have witnessed.

Continuing on with the article by Brittany Lyte from Honolulu Civil Beat, which can be found here:

“The famous case is Mallorca, where they were down to $30 per night for a hotel in the ‘70s because it was a very overcrowded tourist destination,” said Megan Epler Wood, director of the International Sustainable Tourism Initiative at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the lead author of the study. 

“And I attended a meeting in the Canary Islands where the mayor of Mallorca announced that they were going to tear down hotels and the whole audience stood up and cheered. And, in fact, they did it.” 

Mallorca has since recouped high-value tourism on the island in part by shuttering hotels, and also by establishing a new eco-tax on tourists in 2016 that is funneled into a fund to pay the hidden costs of tourism. Those include managing and upgrading systems for water use, waste disposal, land use, air and carbon emissions, transportation, community values and cultural heritage.

“You can drive a destination over a cliff,” Epler Wood said. “But the way to reinsert value is to properly account for tourism’s costs and then strategically look at reinvestment.”

The Key here is “properly account for tourism’s costs” — in other words, design and implement meaningful ways to collect the data about what tourism is costing Big Sur. (To be continued next Tuesday.)

Tourist Tuesday: Lessons from Borocay Island 8/6/19

I wrote the article below, and the one that will follow later this morning two weeks ago, before the Mill Fire and before yesterday’s meetings with CABS AND Costas Christ. I still think they are valid, even though as Costas said last night, Borocay Island was an extreme solution.

Today, I would again like to offer two separate articles, this first one: Lessons from Borocay Island, The Philippines and then in a couple hours, continue on with my invisible burden series. While it would be difficult for Big Sur to implement some of these practices — we are not an island, most of the time — there is still much we can learn about the extreme measures that have been used and look at whether we can avoid any such extreme measures, in order to save to save Big Sur. (This post was originally scheduled for last week, but I changed the schedule to accommodate the Mill Fire reporting.)

The President of the Philippines closed Borocay Island, for 6 months — no planes were allowed to land, and no tourists were allowed in. The reason (to use the President’s words) was the island had become a cesspool that needed immediate action from political authorities.

While Borocay Island was closed, it was cleaned up and a new strategy put into place. The sudden decision to shutter the island for tourism in February 2018 was very harsh for the locals who depend heavily on tourism. The main idea behind the decision was to use the hiatus to clean up the environment, improve hotels’ sewage treatment systems, and to develop a tourism strategy that guarantees a sustainable future for the island. Hence, Boracay re-opened on October 26, 2018 with a new strategy that intends to restrict tourism to make it more sustainable

These rules are as follows:

  • Quota on tourist visits based on the island’s carrying capacity (only 6,405 tourists per day can land on the island).
  • New regulations regarding tourists’ attitudes and behavior (e.g., smoking and drinking alcohol are forbidden on White beach, the most visited beach on the island) – (click here to see all the regulations).
  • New regulations regarding locals’ attitudes and behavior (e.g. raising pigs or chickens for a living is forbidden).
  • Only the hotels compliant with the requirements of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and accredited by the Department of Tourism, can open again. Tourists can only come to the island if they reserve a room at one of these hotels.
  • All hotels must be connected to a proper sewage treatment system.
  • Road widening project to resolve congestion issues.
  • Trash and unauthorized buildings will be removed from the wetlands.
  • Buildings within 30 meters of the shoreline will be destroyed.
  • Gambling is forbidden on the island.

These regulations, assuming compliance is widespread, should enable tourism on Boracay Island to become more sustainable. But what has really happened since the reopening? Costas Christ touched on one of the ramifications of this extreme measure last night.

For the answer to that question, go here: to read the rest of the article.