[Coral-List] Sustainable tourism!?

Juergen Herler juergen.herler at univie.ac.at
Sun Nov 27 12:05:59 EST 2011

Dear listers!

I really like some of the ideas, especially that well-managed coral reef
destinations should be certified and financially rewarded by visitors.
However, the main problem why I believe that tourism cannot contribute
much for sustaining ecosystems in general is that tourism in itself is
highly unsustainable. If you fly across half the world to spent one or two
nice weeks in one of the luxury resorts of the Maldives, which takes an
enormous amount of gasoline every day to be run in a comfortable way, how
can that ever save their coral reefs in the long term and not do major
damage to these and other ecosystems in the world?
It of course would be great if tourism would become more 'eco' (based for
example on some of the good suggestions in previous posts) but in terms of
energy consumption, there is no such thing as 'eco'-tourism. Sustainable
holidays will unfortunately only be the ones that are spent in the own
garden. But since people will certainly not accept that, it is of course
good if they prefer short- versus long-distance trips and destinations,
which perform good conservation and are highly efficient in terms of water
and energy consumption, but such destinations are usually expensive and
restricted to the more wealthy people, which do not represent the majority
of tourists. I have been doing research in the Red Sea of Egypt for more
than seven years and this country has experienced a tremendous tourism
boom, especially along the Red Sea coast, but unfortunately they receive
many tourists which carry little money to Egypt and do not care much about
corals reefs at all. The great majority are even not divers and do not
like corals (because it hurts when they step on them during swimming). I
also doubt that it is is a very humane approach that we preserve
ecosystems (especially those of third world countries) because wealthy
people from other countries - who can afford to travel there - would like
to see them untouched. Very often you meet tourists who wish that, for
example, fishing is banned from reefs so that they can see more fish while
diving, but this fish very often feeds the local people (although they
very often also do not fish sustainably).
This all may apply less to destinations (just for example) like the
Caribbean, when visited by US-tourists from the southern USA or to the
Great Barrier Reef, visited by eastern Australians, but what I want to say
is that it is just not correct to tell people that they do something good
for an ecosystem if they travel a long distance to see it, instead of not
visiting it, at least as long as tourism is run the way as it currently is
(usually starting in pristine areas and degrading those areas quickly). I
know this is a dilemma, but Ulf’s suggestion of a sustainability index
could be applied to holiday trips also, and tax the travel and service
providers according to that would be a necessary thing. So people could
not easily shift to cheaper and unsustainable travels or destinations (and
there are far too many of those in the world), if the sustainable ones
become even more expensive (and some of the previous suggestions would of
course cause that). People with less money would probably have to make
shorter-distance trips and stay there longer, which for sure would still
enable nice holidays. Today, people are 'fined' if they decide for more
sustainable holidays. From my point of view, this cannot be the right

Best wishes

Dr. Juergen Herler
Faculty of Life Sciences
University of Vienna
Althanstraße 14
A-1090 Vienna/Austria/Europe
e-mail: Juergen.Herler at univie.ac.at

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