Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Challenges in Local Communities over the development of marine tourism industry

by Charles Roring
Today, marine tourism has given a significant financial contribution to many island nations around the world. Countries whose coral reefs are still in pristine condition attempt to develop their marine tourism industry. Worldwide, it is estimated that coral reefs provide the world with US $ 375 billion in goods and services. For instance, tourism in the Caribbean generated approximately US $ 34 billion in 2002. Such enourmous amount of revenues attracts more investors to develop resorts.
The number of certified recreational divers has reached more than 15 million people. Many of them regularly seek new diving sites around the world. Scuba diving industry is seen as a business opportunity most island nations to develop their remote coastal villages. This trend will dramatically change the social, cultural and economic life of the islanders.
Diving center cannot run by itself. It needs modern airstrips, hotels, roads, and boat builders. The introduction of marine tourism industry will give more pressures both to the local communities and coral reefs environment.
Local communities who have relied on coral reefs for years as their food resources will have to face foreigners in their traditional subsistance fishing-ground. How they interact with tourist divers depends on how the stakeholders of marine tourism industry include the local communities in that business. They will only receive the divers if they receive financial benefits from them.
Therefore, stakeholders diving and other marine tourism industry such as resort and boat owners must recruit local islanders in their business. Local people working in diving center will gradually change their lifestyle. They will not abandon their traditional livelihood as fisherman. They have to learn new languages, new culture and values from the tourists.
A rapidly developing recreation marine park will attract job seekers from other islands or countries. Resort owners need managers, dive instructors, and cook and engineers.  The locals do not have such skills. There will be competition between local and foreign job seekers who are better and more experienced for those positions.
The development of diving resorts will also affect local communities and the visiting tourists as the costs of living and housing tend to increase.
The existance of recreation divers in the coral reefs will limit the access of local fishers on their traditional fishing ground. Potential conflicts between marine recreation providers and local fishers have to be anticipated by the government.
This conflicts have to be minimized. Government and resort owners must support the islanders in continuing livelihood through a sustainable fishing practices. The tax that the Local Government receive from marine recreation businesses have to be invested back into the local communities. Facilities such as health center, schools, roads need improvement.
Some resort owners even launch a number of CSR programs for the villagers living near their resorts. The staff teach English lessons in community schools, provide scholarships and even participate in regular beach clean-ups. Other income generating schemes such as aquaculture and handicraft making can be introduced to the islanders support the villagers in improving their standard of living.

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