The important role that a Palawan tour operator plays in lowering the impact of mass tourism on local communities, natural attractions, and economies is indeed underestimated and under-recognized. Choosing a sustainable tour operator in Palawan is one step to becoming a responsible traveler in this region.
Sustainable tourism is still quite unknown in this part of the world where mass tourism thrives despite its apparent destructive effects. However, for a Palawan tour operator, it only means that a new market has opened up. It’s that opportunity to lead by example. The locals don’t need to wait for Palawan to become the next Boracay. It has now become more apparent than ever that protecting Palawan’s environment is much more urgent and important than what the locals previously thought.
Sustainable tourism is defined by the UN World Tourism Organization as “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities”. A functional Palawan tour operator not only relies on the natural environment but also the well-being of the whole community and local businesses. The locals rely on the revenue that the tourism brings. Protecting both the natural and economic environment in tourist areas should be in the best interest of a sustainable Palawan tour operator.
Most travelers don’t even think about their impact socially and environmentally. Seeing others are doing the same thing, they often don’t feel the need to travel more sustainably. They often place less important on minimizing their environmental and social impact as it is easier for each individual to rationalize the relatively small impact that they are having in the largest scheme of things. If only each and every individual traveling to Palawan has the same sustainability mindset, the impact is significant.
When choosing a sustainable tour operator in Palawan, a traveler should ask the following important questions:4>
How do you reduce the environmental impact that your guests make on their tours?
This often involves providing guests with conservation resources for the environment they are visiting, promoting sustainable activities such as wildlife sanctuaries and cycle tours, making sure that the guests are setting good examples in terms of properly disposing or minimizing wastes during or after the tour, and encouraging them to participate in El Nido’s ‘Plastic Battle’ campaign. A responsible Palawan tour operator also helps reduce their environmental impact by maximizing the use of digital technology to spread environmental awareness and educate future travelers in Palawan.
Do you take into consideration your own impact on Palawan’s nature as a Palawan tour operator?
A sustainable Palawan tour operator sets a good example by ensuring that their guests reduce their waste and take their rubbish with them. “Leave nothing but footprints” should be the mantra in each El Nido island-hopping tour or any other ecotours within the province. The tour operator should be actively involved in environmental campaigns or initiate projects that aim to reduce the impact on Palawan’s environment. They also reduce their own waste by moving on from print resources to digital systems and online bookings.
How can you maximize the social impact that your guests are having in local communities?
This involves supporting small local businesses and participating in local conservation projects. A Palawan tour operator should encourage their guests to do the same. They also maximize the benefit of digital technology to actively promote or advocate for sustainable tourism to a wider audience. In this way, they ensure that the region receives more socially conscious travelers and not just another set of irresponsible party-goers.
How do you protect the economy of the local communities in Palawan?
Is the Palawan tour operator a 100% locally-owned and operated small business engaged in promoting authentic experiences? A lot of travelers coming to this part of the world are not considering their social impact when choosing a tour operator. Palawan has always been about witnessing the natural beauty it is famous for. When choosing a tour operator, make sure to check that they are using local guides and are not participating in any tour activities that harm the nature and disrespect the culture. It also important to know if they are paying the locals proper wage. Keeping the profit within the community will ensure that the locals are not being exploited, Palawan as a tourist destination continues to exist, and the local economy prospers.
Karen is the local expert and itinerary specialist of Palawan AlterNATIVE. When she’s not traveling, she likes to immerse herself in a good book or blog about her life. Parts geek, parts scuba diver. Her other obsessions include things-to-do lists, cycling, solitude, and cryptocurrency. She currently lives with her cat in El Nido.