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BEST-L  December 2014

BEST-L December 2014

Subject:

Sustainable Development #6: Son Doong Cave and the question of tourism

From:

"Spaulding,Alec B" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Spaulding,Alec B

Date:

Wed, 3 Dec 2014 15:55:14 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (72 lines)

Hello BEST Society,

      The Son Doong Cave in one of Vietnam’s national parks is among 
the most unique in the world.  Only 240 tourists are currently permitted 
to visit each year and the entire 2015 year has already been booked.  
Plans are in development to install a cable car system to the cave, 
whereas now it requires an entire team of locals to help backpackers 
reach the site.  The project raises questions about the approach of 
sustainable tourism.  On the one hand, allowing more visitors to the 
cave can bring in more money to the poor locals; on the other, 
construction and foot-traffic could cause irreparable harm to the 
national park and devalue its assets.  Mass tourism has already ruined 
some Vietnamese sites and could destroy the beauty that makes Son Doong 
such an attractive destination.

      The environmental impacts that this project implies are not 
uncommon.  ‘Eco-tourism’ blends appreciation of nature with the 
luxury of a vacation.  Costa Rica is famous for doing this well, with 
examples of organic farms that double as lodges, providing environmental 
tours and education.  This approach not only conserves the ecology of 
the land, it actually encourages visitors to be more mindful of nature, 
both abroad and at home.  However, ‘eco-tourism’ can also be a term 
that is abused, such as is the case in India’s Kothaguda Reserve.  In 
this instance, businesses have convinced the government to lift 
regulations, thus allowing huge commercial ventures to be planned.

      Nature parks need not be the only resources that developing 
countries rely on to attract visitors.  India’s strength in tourism 
comes from its cultural uniqueness: festivals in India are famous 
worldwide.  In one desert locale, the world’s largest cattle fair is 
held annually, bringing a year-round economy to an otherwise desolate 
place.  Cultural tourism not only brings money to locals, it also 
encourages them to maintain their heritage and traditions; additionally, 
it can divert tourists from stressed environments towards places and 
peoples that have no real natural resources.  One organization near 
where I work, Haiti Made, empowers orphans by teaching them how to make 
art from leather and recycled metal, which Haiti Made promises to sell 
through their website.  While not tourism, it operates on a similar 
principle.  Cultural uniqueness is a value that may be less taxing on a 
land base compared to other means of tourism.

      Where does that leave Son Doong Cave?  If done responsibly, a 
system can be operated to bring in more tourists, while maintaining the 
biodiversity and purity of the park.  Sustainable tourism can only be 
implemented if it empowers the local resources.


“Son Doong: hard choice between mass tourism and sustainable 
development” – Tuoi Tre News – November 04, 2014
http://tuoitrenews.vn/business/23797/son-doong-hard-choice-between-mass-tourism-and-sustainable-development

“Top 10 affordable eco-lodges in Costa Rica” Sarah Gilber – The 
Guardian – November 10, 2014
http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2014/nov/10/top-10-affordable-eco-lodges-costa-rica

“TS against eco-tourism project on forest land” – The Hindu – 
December 02, 2014
http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/ts-against-ecotourism-project-on-forest-land/article6652412.ece

“India Developing Cultural Tourism Through Festivals” Karishma Sen 
– Travel Trends Today – November 14, 2014
http://www.traveltrendstoday.in/news/2014/11/14/india-developing-cultural-tourism-through-festivals

Haiti Made website
http://haitimade.gobigwin.com/


Cheers,
Alec Spaulding
BioEnergy and Sustainable Technology Lab
Soil and Water Science Department, UF-IFAS
on location in Haiti

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