By Jassmine Shadiqe
JOHOR BARU: Sultan of Johor's consort Tuanku Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah launched Iskandar Malaysia Ecotourism Summit (Imes 2013).
Raja Zarith, who is also Universiti Teknologi Malaysia's chancellor, said Imes was where locals and foreigners could share knowledge on ecotourism clusters and corridors.
The summit which is in its second year saw more than 200 local and foreign participants.
Themed "Creating Competitive Ecotourism Clusters and Corridors", the summit was held at Persada Johor International Convention Centre, here.
Imes 2013 was organised by Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia's (UTM) Centre for Innovative Planning and Development (CIPD).
It aims to provide a platform where participants can share their success stories in developing ecotourism clusters.
This will help enhance integration, boost competitiveness and increase the yield of ecotourism products as well as foster collaboration among government agencies, academics, industry players, local communities and NGOs.
Irda chief executive Datuk Ismail Ibrahim said, besides developing theme parks in Iskandar Malaysia to promote tourism, Irda was also focused on its natural and cultural resources.
Ismail said three of the six Ramsar (wetlands of international importance) sites in Peninsular Malaysia were located in Iskandar Malaysia.
The Ramsar-gazetted conservation sites in Johor are Pulau Kukup, Sungai Pulai and Tanjung Piai.
He added that Ramsar sites could be connected with cultural and community-based ecotourism attractions, such as Kampung Sungai Melayu, to form vibrant thematic corridors.
"This will generate critical mass, increase the depth of the tourist experience, facilitate packaging by tour operators and encourage self-drive holidays," he added.
The speakers at the three-day summit were Tasmania University's professor of tourism Trevor Sofield, Ping Anchorage Travel and Tour Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Alex Lee who is also the owner of Terrapuri Heritage Village in Terengganu, Birdlife International (Asia) regional director Cristi Nozawa, Reef Check Malaysia general manager Julian Hyde, Akita International University Japan's regional sustainability initiative director Prof Yoshitaka Kumagai, Colombian freelance ecotourism consultant Natalia Pineros Arenas, UTM CIPD director Prof Amran Hamzah and Travel Impact Newswire executive editor Imtiaz Muqbil.
They shared their knowledge, ideas and experience in developing ecotourism clusters and corridors.
The speakers agreed that unsustainable development practices were causing serious damage to ecotourism assets in Johor, such as the wetlands and coral reefs.
They said that while development was needed, there was a crucial need for responsible development to ensure that the environment was protected.
Several case studies, including on the Setiu Wetlands, Terengganu and the offshore islands of Peninsular Malaysia were presented and discussed.
The resolutions from IMES 2013 will be presented to IRDA and the state government to help policy makers to scale up ecotourism development.
|Sultan of Johor’s consort Tuanku Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah hitting the gong to launch the summit. Looking on is state Tourism, Domestic Trade and Consumerism committee chairman Datuk Tee Siew Keong (second from left). Pic by Hairul Anuar Abd Rahim|