CHIAYI (Taiwan News) — Having stayed in central Taiwan for five days, the delegation from the Asian Ecotourism Network (AEN) wrapped up their three-day journey to Alishan mountain and the indigenous villages Wednesday, by issuing a declaration that aims to ensure the sustainable development of indigenous communities while practicing ecotourism.
We want to make sure that every board member is on the same page when we practice and promote responsible tourism, and how we recognize the importance of indigenous peoples in terms of ecotourism, said AEN Chairman Masaru Takayama.
The AEN Alishan Declaration on Indigenous People states that all the participants shall
Recognize the importance of the rights of the indigenous peoples, and respect their choices to live in harmony with the practices of ecotourism without negatively affecting them or their distinctive cultures and relationships with the land and natural environment.
AEN members will refer to the declaration as part of the “compulsory standards” as they engage in sustainable tourism, added Mr. Takayama.
Founded in 2014, AEN is an Asia-Pacific regional organization promoting responsible and sustainable tourism. It provides a platform for industries in different countries to work across borders in promotion of ecotourism. It also organizes training programs and marketing events intended to create business opportunities for members.
► AEN Chairman Masaru Takayama and board member CT Wu (Photo: Teng Pei-ju)
Ecotourism is growing in a lot of countries in Asia.The declaration is indented to set out principles so everyone in Asia or at least, the members of AEN, will understand what is the proper way to pursue healthy ecotourism development, said Albert Teo, Vice Chairman of AEN.
Provisions of the declaration envision that indigenous communities will not be exploited by tourism programs, and that the communities will be directly involved in interpreting and presenting their cultures, said Mr. Teo.
“All stakeholders can benefit from ecotourism, and all stakeholders and the government can ensure that the cultures of minorities are taken into consideration” in terms of promoting ecotourism, added Mr. Teo.
“It is very interesting to find out what Taiwan can offer,” said Mr. Takayama, referring to the three-day tour to the indigenous villages and to the national forest recreation area on Alishan mountain.
“I would highly recommend Taiwan become more involved with local indigenous communities,” said Mr. Takayama. “I think they should have more voices in terms of tourism planning and the decision-making process.”
Mr. Teo considers Alishan as a well-known tourist destination worldwide, thanks to the strong international marketing of the mountains and indigenous cultures.
Speaking of the cultural activities of the Tsou people, Mr. Albert suggested that the government in Taiwan and other ecotourism organizations on the island should continue to work together and support these local communities to make them more visible on a global scale.