Tourism is a catalyst for growth in any country whether it helps in the advancement of the country’s economy by creating various job opportunities and demands in different groups of industries, or the development in the community and place itself. Almost every country in the world strives to expand its tourism sector and numbers which brings about a big problem — mass tourism.
While mass tourism is a blessing for many of us travellers by allowing us to appreciate the beauty each place has to offer, the rise of tourists travelling solely as a breakaway from life instead of considering the economic impact towards the country, comes at a great price — Mother Nature.
Huge carbon footprints, a growing rate of pollution, and an increased number of unsustainable activities, like overproducing products, for the purpose of mass tourism, has restructured our ecosystem, the places we love, and the quality of life for the different communities.
Before you unpack your luggage, cancel your next holiday plan, and give up all hope on travelling (even when the relaxed movement control order allows for it), there is a solution to the double-edged sword of mass tourism — sustainable tourism which is a way of travelling that leaves minimal negative impact towards the environment and the destination’s culture, buildings, as well as local communities.
Did you know?
The United Nations 70th General Assembly declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development to promote sustainability and raise awareness on environmental issues.
With his vast interest in sustainable tourism, community participation, residents’ perception toward tourism development, urban sustainability, and advancing quantitative analysis approaches, Associate Professor Dr. Seyyed Mostafa Rasoolimanesh from the School of Hospitality, Tourism & Events at Taylor’s University knew that he had to find a solution in maintaining the lives of those around him.
Dr. Mostafa was inspired to improve and maintain the quality of life for the people around him after working for local governments and municipalities for more than 10 years and becoming the deputy mayor and mayor in different touristic and historic cities in Iran.
“After 10 years of working, I realised my interest was to teach and research about what I’ve always been working on for a long time — sustainable destination development and tourism especially from the local community perspective and in heritage sites,” he shares.
And thus, began his journey into research and academia in his area of expertise.
Being awarded the Fundamental Research Grant Scheme (FRGS) from the Ministry of Higher Education in 2019, Dr. Mostafa has been able to conduct projects developing and validating sustainable tourism index, as well as on tourists’ experiences in heritage destinations, which would help in decisions involving the improvement of their experiences. The results from these projects would cause a significant positive impact on achieving sustainable tourism for urban destinations in Malaysia.
Malaysia is the perfect destination for any tourist because of its rich history and architecture, amazing wildlife and nature, and not forgetting, glorious food! There’s something for everyone to do! (Even if it’s just going around the area that you’re living in.)
Each of Malaysia’s states is painted with unique character and personality evident in the buildings, community, and landscape. So, protecting our environment and heritage while practising sustainable tourism is crucial to ensure that these features aren’t restructured or demolished to accommodate unsustainable tourism.
Aside from being the perfect destination, we’re famous for being known for our heavenly food. With the influx of both international and local tourists moving around Malaysia, there is a great need to feed their hunger. However, more often than not, we tend to feed eyes instead of stomachs leading to a great amount of food waste.
It’s no wonder that Dr. Mostafa, along with a team of collaborators from the United Kingdom, Brazil, Poland, Thailand, and Malaysia, have applied for an international grant on Food Waste Management in hospitality, in order to work on the significant impact that food waste has on sustainable tourism.
Though these research projects aren’t new to Dr. Mostafa, like the rest of us, COVID-19 has caused many uncertainties to our future and the future of many industries, with the tourism and hospitality industry probably being impacted the worst. So it begs the question, is sustainable tourism still a priority or do we have to shift gears?
COVID-19 has undoubtedly caused priorities to be readjusted. Many businesses, companies, and governments are no longer focusing only on causing a positive impact but to recover, restart, and reopen the industry that was halted by the pandemic.
“Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the biggest challenge for the tourism and hospitality industry was undoubtedly sustainability where we’re not only sustaining the industry but balancing between economic growth, social development and inclusion, as well as environmental protection. Right now, it’s resilience too,” he shares.
While there is a need to refocus on being resilient and reviving the tourism and hospitality industry, sustainability must be considered alongside the plans and not be pushed to the backburner. Instead, there is a more dire need now to find the balance between sustainability and resilience in the industry.
Take it from Dr. Mostafa who’s currently leading a project for the future of travelling after COVID-19 and a flagship project on sustainable cities that will cause a significant impact in the lives of the community.
Though there's still much room for research on how sustainable tourism can be effectively and efficiently executed and whether tourism can ever be sustainable, don’t let that stop you from playing a part in sustainable tourism.
Whether it’s saying “No” to plastic or supporting real local businesses, remember that you can also practise sustainability through some of these steps the next time you’re planning a domestic trip during this relaxed movement control order.
Let’s start being a more conscious traveller and to always think about sustainable tourism.
Taylor’s Law student, Megan Choong, shares her thoughts on our attitude during the pandemic and how we can prevent a pandemic of this scale again.READ MORE
Taylor’s Professor Dr. Chong Pei Pei eliminates the barriers for women participating in cervical cancer screening through her revolutionary prototype.READ MORE