Mersing District Council has launched a new initiative called ‘Mersing Sustainable Destination’ that aims to ensure the long-term viability of tourism in the district.
Council president Norazmi Amir Hamzah said the project would run for five years and incorporate the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) destination criteria as a basis for developing an inclusive and participatory programme in the district and surrounding area.
He said the district with more than 90 islands had seen significant growth in tourism in the last few years.
“Car parks are always full of vehicles during weekends and the increasing number of tourism operators has raised concerns over their management and the impact of tourism in this once quiet town.
“To prevent tourism from growing uncontrollably, a group of people from various stakeholders decided to pitch the idea of establishing Mersing as a sustainable tourism destination to the district council.”
He said the council established the Sustainable Travel Mersing Destination Coordination Group to lead the programme.
“The goal is for Mersing and its surrounding islands to be recognised as a GSTC-certified sustainable destination where tourism is sustainably managed together with communities and businesses thriving alongside healthy ecosystems.
“The group will be led by a steering committee that will guide the implementation of the programme.
“Its eight members comprise representatives from the government, local islanders and the private sector,” said Norazmi.
He explained that the day-to-day activities would be managed by a secretariat, assisted by a technical advisory group who would provide expertise in specific skills as required.
“To generate external support for this effort, the coordination group will apply to be a Sustainable Tourism Observatory which is an initiative of the United Nation’s World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
“The UNWTO International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories’ main objective is to support the continuous improvement of sustainability and resilience in the tourism sector through timely and regular monitoring of performance and impact,” he said.
Norazmi said the group would also look at connecting dedicated places in order to better understand destination-wide resource use and foster responsible management of tourism.
“If successful, Mersing will be the first Sustainable Tourism Observatory in Malaysia,” he added.
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