Before the virus, Asia's ecosystems were buckling under overtourism. When the tourists return, it has to be different

Before the virus, Asia's ecosystems were buckling under overtourism. When the tourists return, it has to be different

Before the pandemic put a stop to most international travel, each year millions of people flocked to Southeast Asia's white sandy beaches, ancient temples and diverse wildlife. In some places the crowds became so intense it caused locals, environmentalists and even governments to complain that overtourism was pushing the region's fragile ecosystems to breaking point. Coral die-offs, vanishing marine life, damaged cultural sites and idyllic islands overflowing with plastic and human waste were all blamed on too many tourists -- and the unchecked development set up to attract and accommodate them. Then the global coronavirus pandemic struck. Countries went into lockdown. International travel dramatically reduced. And the tourists were largely gone. As travel restrictions lift, countries that rely heavily on tourism will be competing for visitors as they seek to rebuild their economies. The temptation to attract as many tourists as possible could be difficult to resist. But experts say the global pause on tourism has offered countries an unprecedented opportunity to examine how to rebuild their tourism industries in a way that benefits their economies and also protects the planet. As one of the most popular destinations in Southeast Asia, the Philippines welcomes millions of tourists each year, many who visit outlying tropical islands for their sandy beaches and clear waters. In 2018, so many tourists visited Boracay island that President Roderigo Duterte famously said it had been turned into a "cesspool," and ordered it to close for six months for a massive cleanup. Susanne Becken, director of the Griffith Institute for Tourism ...
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