Exploring Equator-Asia

Community-Based Sustainable Ecotourism


The BIMP-EAGA Business Council's conference - held in October 2008 at Manado, on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi - highlighted the outstanding cultural and natural heritage of BIMP-EAGA.


BIMP-EAGA is a region known for environmental diversity and in particular the high concentration of marine life. Theories suggest this is because when the world's land mass shifted from one large body to the multiple continents we now know, the Sulu and Celebes seas became the centrepoint. The present continental land masses moved away in all directions, leaving this centrepoint relatively undisturbed.

Others suggest the rapid changes in sea depth around islands in the region creates such diverse habitats in a nutrient rich sea that it can support an unusually high diversity and density of marine wildlife.  The reputation and  popularity of wall dive-sites in the region certainly supports this idea.

The jungles of Borneo and Irian Jaya slowly reveal their secrets, with scientists "discovering" dozens of new plant and animal species every year. Scientific research centres - such as the University of Brunei Darussalam's Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre inside Ulu Temburong National Park and Operation Wallacea's centre on Hoga Island in Walkatobi - play host to international and regional scientists working together to develop greater knowledge and understanding of the amazing natural heritage of the region.

Looking towards the future of a warmer globe, scientists and governments have already begun the search in this region for genetic material to help create new varieties of grain crops which will productive in a higher temperature. A UK university has already established a branch in Malaysia to focus on this task. The BIMP-EAGA region is recognised as a repository of as yet undiscovered genetic material; on land and sea.  And as a major future producer of the world's food through sustainable management of the amazing natural and cultural assets it contains. 

The rainforest jungles of BIMP-EAGA - including Borneo and Irian Jaya -  are regarded as important "lungs" for the world.

BIMP-EAGA includes the Heart of Borneo. This WWF  project - in conjunction with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia - is designed to help preserve and protect the unique cultural and environmental heritage on Borneo.

BIMP-EAGA incorporates a large portion of the Coral Triangle.  This important region is recognised as containing over half the world's marine biodiversity and is a vital future world food source if effectively protected and responsibly managed. 

BIMP-EAGA also contains the Wallace Line - the transition between species common to Australia and those common to Asia. This boundary was identified by Alfred Russell Wallace during his 19th Century explorations in the area. According to some writers, Wallace's discoveries - along with his subsequent letters to Darwin and his relative isolation (Darwin was in the Galapagos at the time and therefore closer to the UK) -  prompted Darwin to return quickly to the UK and publish first, to be credited with the concepts of evolution and "survival of the fittest".

Wallace explored extensively, spending considerable time living with the island, coastal and inland indigenous communities while he conducted his studies. He recognised the extensive traditional knowledge these communities possessed about the plants and wildlife. Many traditional communities still use that knowledge to create traditional medicines, to gather and to hunt food. 

This traditional knowledge was highlighted - at the BIMP-EAGA Business Council's Manado conference in Oct/Nov 2009 - as an asset to help generate a long-term, tourism based, income stream to replace income generated from short-term environmentally destructive practices.

The BIMP-EAGA Tourism Council has adopted the concept of Community-Based Sustainable Ecotourism to help preserve the region's cultural and natural heritage by developing viable tourism operations to generate sustainable income for local communities. Tourism income can replace food and income from more damaging practices, and thereby help preserve the environment, the cultures and the unique traditional knowledge about the wildlife and their habitats.  This has been endorsed by the respective governments. 

In addition to the CBET goal, the BIMP-EAGA Tourism Council has proposed to adopt a set of guidelines and criteria for Green Tourism in hotels and tour operations throughout BIMP-EAGA.  The project is titled Go-Green BIMP-EAGA.

The opportunity to help preserve and protect BIMP-EAGA's incredible cultural and natural heritage was incorporated into the concept of Community Based, Sustainable Ecotourism (CBET) which has been adopted as a key goal for tourism development in BIMP-EAGA. 


The Association of Travel Agents, Brunei (ATAB) took over the rotating role as Chair of the BIMP-EAGA Tourism Council (ie: BIMP-EAGA's private sector tourism representative) for three years from the Oct/Nov 2009 Manado conference. The Deputy Chair is now rotated to Malaysia.

At the August 2009 BETC meeting in Brunei - attended by national representatives, along with Asian Development Bank and GTZ representatives, Brunei's ATAB President - Hj Umar Mohammad - outlined goals for ATAB's three year role as Chair of BETC:

1. Develop an eco-tourism standards and certification scheme for BIMP-EAGA which supports the CBET-and Go-Green BIMP-EAGA initiatives.

2. Promote the sub-region's attractions - including it's CBET programmes - by establishing Sail BIMP-EAGA.

3. Advance the development of tourism packages which include activities and/or venues in two or more BIMP-EAGA member countries and promote these at regional travel shows.


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