International ecotourism confab and training programme to be held in Miri

ITC capacity-building director Alex Rajakumar speaking at the news conference. ITC director-general Zainuddin Abdul Wahab is at second right.

Miri – 12 April 2010 – A 2-day international conference on ‘Linking Culture, Nature and Community through Ecotourism’ jointly organised by the Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC) in Kuala Lumpur and Curtin University of Technology, Sarawak Malaysia (Curtin Sarawak) will be held in Miri from 3 to 4 May 2010.

The conference will be followed by a short training programme with the same theme from 3 to 14 May 2010. Both events will be held at the Mega Hotel here.

About 200 participants from around the world comprising policy and decision makers of private, public and NGOs involved in tourism planning and development, as well as tourism industry practitioners and other tourism stakeholders will attend the conference, which will see 14 presentations by speakers.

Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Industrial Development and Minister of Tourism and Heritage, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr. George Chan Hong Nam, who is also the chairman of the Curtin Sarawak Campus Council, will declare open the conference while Malaysian Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr. James Dawos Mamit will be a keynote speaker.

Both events are being organised in collaboration with, and supported by, the Sarawak State Government through its Ministry of Tourism and Heritage, as well as the federal Ministries of Tourism and Foreign Affairs, Tourism Malaysia and the Sarawak Convention Bureau.

ITC director-general Zainuddin Abdul Wahab told a news conference here on Wednesday that the conference would be the first of its kind to be organised to promote sustainable ecotourism development.

He said the aims of the conference and training programme included promoting understanding of the philosophies and concepts of ecotourism in developing countries with reference to culture, nature and community; the nature and complexities of tourism and ecotourism development; the impacts of tourism and ecotourism development in the context of culture, nature and community, and the significance of planning and monitoring in ecotourism development.

ITC director of capacity building Alex Rajakumar, who was also present at the news conference said, “The conference will be a good platform to share experiences and knowledge. We hope to learn from each others’ best practices and together chart out action for ecotourism throughout the world.”

Ecotourism is often viewed as an ‘alternative’ form of tourism as compared to mass tourism. According to the Quebec Declaration on Ecotourism, ecotourism embraces the principles of sustainable tourism, but distinguishes itself from the wider concept of sustainable tourism through several principles, namely, actively contributing to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage; integrating local and indigenous communities in its planning, development and operation and contributing to their well-being; interpreting the natural and cultural heritage of the destination to the visitor, and better lending of ecotourism to independent travelers, as well as the organising of tours for small groups.

As ecotourism is introduced and embraced by governments in Third World and developing countries, there is a need to revisit and review its basic fundamentals and concepts. Predominately a Western idea, much of the positive and optimistic rhetoric of ecotourism should be examined in the light of the realities of the countries in which ecotourism is taking place.

According to the organisers, participants of both the conference and the short training programme will gain a greater understanding of the planning and development of ecotourism in the context of a developing country such as Malaysia. While the conference is open to all interested parties, the training programme is restricted to participants from Malaysian Technical Cooperation Programme (MTCP) member countries only.

Topics to be covered include the formulation, implementation and monitoring of policies and strategies that will facilitate and enhance ecotourism while mitigating or rectifying any probable impacts.

They will also have a better insight into the designing and development of mechanisms for public-private sector collaboration and stewardship in ecotourism planning and development, advocating best practices in ecotourism development, and engaging more inclusive public participation in all spheres of ecotourism planning and development.

For more information on the conference and short training programme, contact Sopia Reggie at +60 85 44 3900 or Felicitas Erin Usup at +60 85 44 3924, or e-mail [email protected] or [email protected].

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