Logging vs Tourism: Who is winning in Borneo?

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Over 50% of Borneo’s forest cover has been lost to loggers and palm oil plantations over the last three decades. But as a growing sustainable tourism industry recognises the value of Borneo’s natural resources, and increasingly contributes to its protection, leading ethical travel company responsibletravel.com argues in its newly published 2 minute guide to Borneo that while logging may still have the upper hand, it’s a fight tourism is meeting head-on.

Deforestation in Borneo

Credit: Wakx https://www.flickr.com/photos/95747669@N00/661247561/

While logging may still be winning, tourism is recognising the real economic value in preserving the forests.

According to the WWF*, logging in Borneo during the 1980s and 1990s was the most intensive the world has ever seen, devastating over half of the regions forests and severely threatening the survival of the island’s endangered and endemic wildlife, including orang-utans, proboscis monkeys and pygmy elephants, as well as that of indigenous communities whose livelihoods rely on the forest. And although the rate of logging for timber has slowed in recent years due to stricter regulation, the development of palm oil plantations has increased, meaning deforestation rates in Borneo have continued to rise between 2007-2012**. Malaysia and Indonesia now accounts for over 90% of the world’s palm oil, and with global consumption increasing, the Indonesian government is looking to double its output by 2020*.

It’s an ongoing battle. Deforestation not only removes individual trees, but also adversely impacts remaining flora and fauna, leaving intact forest vulnerable to landslides and flooding. With the economic and environmental value of existing forest then adversely affected, the rationalisation for clearing it for agriculture or palm oil plantations becomes much stronger.

But responsibletravel.com believes this is a battle tourism is now meeting head-on. Justin Francis, Managing Director of responsibletravel.com says “While logging may still be winning, tourism is recognising the real economic value in preserving the forests. And the good news is that unlike the mass developments in other South East Asian destinations, in majority tourism in Borneo is being developed sensitively and sustainably, so communities and conservation are starting to see real benefits”.

How is tourism fighting back?

  •     Visitors paying entrance fees to National Parks and for tours to see orang-utans and other species in the wild place a value on Borneo’s forests and provide an alternative source of income for local communities. This offers a strong, economic incentive for governments and communities to protect the untouched forests.
  •     Community stays and treks with the Dayak tribe in Batang Ai National Park has helped establish them as income-generating tourism centres, empowering communities to be able to fight government eviction threats and stay as guardians of their forests.

What can you do to bolster tourism’s fight? Responsibletravel.com believes that the steady growth of tourism across Borneo provides hope for the survival of its forests, and the people and animals which rely upon them, but only if this is done in a responsible way. The company encourages visitors to support local community tourism initiatives, such as those with the Penan or Dayak tribes in Sarawak, which directly contribute to community livelihoods and offer a forest-friendly alternative income.

For more advice on how to support responsible tourism’s fight see responsibletravel.com’s 2 minute guide to Borneo - http://www.responsibletravel.com/holidays/borneo#travel-guide


Notes to editors:

About responsibletravel.com

responsibletravel.com is the world's leading online travel agent for responsible holidays and a pioneer of responsible tourism. Started in 2001 with backing from Dame Anita Roddick of The Body Shop the site's mantra is 'travel like a local'. It sells holidays that are about more than just a brief stay somewhere - instead it is travel that offers a real connection with the people, the landscape, the culture, the food and the environment. It offers over 7,500 responsible holidays from over 3,000 holiday providers which all support communities and conservation. Handpicked local specialists provide authentic holidays for those seeking adventure, culture, or luxury whether travelling with family, joining a small group or looking for tailor-made experiences worldwide, in destinations as diverse as Cuba - http://www.responsibletravel.com/holidays/cuba, Thailand - http://www.responsibletravel.com/holidays/thailand and Madagascar - http://www.responsibletravel.com/holidays/madagascar

In addition responsibletravel.com:

  • founded and organises The World Responsible Tourism Awards, celebrating 11 years at World Travel Market this year.
  • campaigns for positive change in the travel and tourism industry.
  • publishes an expanding series of honest, expert 2 minute travel guides

CEO Justin Francis has been included in Courvoisiers The Future 500, Thames and Hudsons 60 Innovators Shaping Our Creative Future and taken his place on the Advisory Board of The International Centre for Responsible Tourism at Leeds Metropolitan University.

The company is based in Brighton's North Laine district, England.

Sarah Bareham
01273 829 269 (UK)

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Sarah Bareham
since: 09/2009
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