Transboundary ecotourism

What is the issue? Community-based ecotourism can develop into a sustainable conservation-based enterprise, but in order to deliver on its promise, conditions must be created under which communities can exercise control over the kind and intensity of tourism, retain autonomy, and develop tourism in accordance with their own vision of the future and the needs of environmental conservation.

Local people should be in a position to benefit from revenues of ecotourism, and to control ecotourism development to minimize negative impacts on their territory, culture, and society. In the HoB, cultural, nature and adventure tourism have a great deal of potential.

Moreover, HoB offers the unique ‘feature’ of transboundary ecotourism between Malaysia and Indonesia, which BIMPEAGA has already identified.

Viable examples of private-community partnerships have been developed in pilot project areas (Kapuas Hulu in Kalimantan Barat and in the Krayan Highlands, Nunukan, Kalimantan Timur).

Who is the seller? Businesses / communities

Who is the buyer?Tourists / tour operators

Steps towards
successful business model
  • Comprehensive environmental and social impact analysis;
  • International cooperation in terms of flights, roads, border-crossing, three-country travel pass, tourism infrastructure development and other supporting factors;
  • Multi-stakeholder planning process (local government, communities, operators);
  • Design a system that distributes economic returns fairly among all stakeholders;
  • Create economic benefits from conservation for local stakeholders;
  • Strengthen local community organizations and local business operators;
  • Invest in capacity building, support cultural revival and empowerment of local people;
  • Establish community ecotourism concessions with long-term management licenses.
What can banks do? Banks and other financial institution (e.g. credit unions, cooperatives) can offer microfinance, provided the initiative is part of a greater integrated plan that includes an assessment of environmental and social risks

What can the private sector do? Tour operators:
  • Tour operators:
  • Engage in long term contracts with communities to stabilize income, while respecting the carrying capacity of the host communities and their environment;
  • Encourage tourists to contribute directly to the communities, rather than only financially through the operator;
  • Establish a fund for donations to the local community which can be used for addressing environmental stress that may occur from the increase in tourist arrivals;
  • Engage in promotional activities;
  • Aid government officials and community members to improve service while maintaining environmental quality.
Other businesses:
  • Sell mainly local products;
  • ‘Imported’ products which are difficult to dispose of locally (e.g. batteries, medicine, etc.) can be taken back by tourists or operators on their way out of the HoB and properly disposed of in the city.
What can the Government do? National:
  • Draft legislation that recognizes the human and legal rights of indigenous communities in the HoB, including land rights;
  • Set-up immigration points at key locations to enable transboundary ecotourism;
  • Promote (green) entrepreneurship, e.g. through budget allocations for SME development in forested areas;
  • Draft special guidelines for tourism development in forested areas;
  • Draft regulations to simplify tourist visits to concessioned forest areas (e.g. timber concession) and conservation areas (e.g. standard price on entry permit, guide from forest ranger, etc);
  • Negotiate lower airfares/ initially subsidize airfares for remote HoB areas, to stimulate ecotourism development;
  • Build capacity of government officials in charge of destinations such as national parks.
  • Recognize and respect intellectual property rights and adat (customary law/rights) claims of local peoples;
  • Design fast track administration to settle land tenure issues favouring productive communities who manage their forests sustainably;
  • Invest in opening and improving small airstrips in the interior as main access to the HoB area, and improve basic infrastructure in village areas (bridges and roads, water and electricty supply, internet and telephone access);
  • Use budget/facilities of Ministry of Tourism for providing skill training for tourism development;
  • Facilitate fair partnerships between community organizations and ‘willing’ private sector;
  • In order to spread the gains from tourism equitably, and avoid conflict regarding the distribution of income, the local government can act as an intermediary: A fee or levy is charged on tourists for use of environmental services. The resulting income could be used to establish a PES scheme that can compensate members of the community who are not involved with the tourism business;
  • Require non-community based enterprises to get Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) from community concerned.
Contribution to…
  • Securing natural capital: Ecotourism depends on aesthetic natural beauty. To be able to sell this product, natural ecosystems and biodiversity needs to be secured. With this, other essential ecosystem services are maintained benefiting downstream industries and society.
  • Poverty reduction: Well-planned ecotourism which involves local people in ecotourism activities can secure additional income.
  • Economic growth: Builds local economies and helps them diversify away from the energy and commodity sectors.
  • Climate change: This sector can reduce pressure to deforestation. By keeping the forests standing, ecotourism secures a natural buffer against climate change and supports climate mitigation.