Tourism Businesses in Asia must be Socially Responsible

Memo #176

By Azilah Kasim – azilah [at] uum.edu.my

The World Tourism Organization predicts there will be 1.8 billion tourism arrivals around the world in 2030. Arrivals to Asia and the Pacific are  expected to reach 535 million by 2030. This robust prediction indicates growth of tourism businesses, ultimately exerting greater pressure on local environments through resource consumption or pollution. To be sustainable, the region’s tourism businesses should accept wider responsibility of their surrounding environment and not simply exist for profit.

There are two main reasons for this: First, the increase in global tourism by 30 per cent in the past decade implies stronger pressure on local resources such as water, electricity, and land space. There has also been increased production of solid waste, gray water, and sewage. As Asia and the Pacific mainly consist of developing countries, local governments are simply incapable to effectively address environmental management of destinations alone. Tourism businesses must step up and help out.

Second, being socially responsible is a business approach already widely practiced among Western and European tourism businesses. Hotels for example are awarded by local and global associations (such as the Green Hotels Association in the US and the International Hotel & Restaurant Association) for implementing positive environmental practices. The Pacific Asia Travel Association must enforce a similar “carrot and stick” approach to encourage more of the region’s tourism businesses to be environmentally friendly. Doing so will not only help improve the environmental conditions of a local destination, but also attract more discerning, high-end tourists from developed countries.

Being socially responsible towards the environment is a strategic business decision that can enhance the image of a business. Many prominent tourism companies such as GAP Adventures, Marriott International Inc., and Metropolitan Touring have strategically shown social responsibility in dealing with their externalities to enhance their image.

Ultimately, tourism is an industry that relies on environmental aesthetics. It makes sense for tourism businesses to not “kill the goose that lays the golden egg.” Unsustainable business practices will slowly but surely degrade a destination. In the long run this will jeopardize the tourism businesses’ own existence and sustainability.

Dr. Azilah Kasim is a visiting associate professor at the Institute of Asian Research. She is from Universiti Utara Malaysia, Malaysia. She is a cited author who has researched and published quite extensively in the area of CSR and Marketing.

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Nature at its best is tourism’s primary draw

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Asia Pacific Memo is published by the Institute of Asian Research (IAR) at The University of British Columbia. Distributed weekly, we feature 350 word essays or video interviews on contemporary Asia.