In 2002, Cape Town declaration defined the term responsible tourism with the emphasis that it is about making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit. Responsible tourism takes actions to make tourism sustainable and it focuses on identifying important issues locally and addressing those issues. It generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well-being of host communities, improves working conditions and access to the industry. This is exemplified in Belum-Temenggor Rainforest, a gem in the north of Malaysia.
Belum-Temenggor Rainforest is home not only to an astonishing number of endemic plants and animals but to many orang asli or “aboriginal people” who have been living in the forest for millennia. In the heart of this 130 million years old rainforest, that covers an area of over 300,000 hectares, lies the Tasik Temenggor with hundreds of tiny islands. Set in the midst of this paradise is Pulau Banding (Banding Island), where Belum Rainforest Resort – Malaysia’s premier ecotourism holiday destination by EMKAY Group is located.
The idea behind the Belum Rainforest Resort is to improve the world through responsible tourism avoiding any environmental or social impact on the rainforest. EMKAY Group envisions the development of Banding Island as a vital introduction to Royal Belum State Park and aims to position it as a premier heritage destination on the world ecotourism map. Hence, the establishment of Banding Island Charter, effective alliances among the key players in the field of ecotourism and property development to ensure conservation, protection, and appreciation of its environment and social structure of Banding Island and its surrounding.
Other initiatives of EMKAY Group is Belum Forest Friends (BFF), a social initiative for the Belum Temenggor founded by its CSR arms, Pulau Banding Foundation and EMKAY Foundation, to develop bridging programmes to ensure all Orang Asli children throughout the state is given access, especially to early childhood education in addition to developing more skill-based training for the Orang Asli womenfolk.
To date, EMKAY Foundation has set up 4 ‘i-play’ toy libraries in Orang Asli villages in the Belum Temenggor area – some of which are only accessible by boat or four-wheel drive through logging tracks – to expose the Orang Asli children of pre-school age to early childhood education. In addition, EMKAY Foundation in collaboration with the Perak Labour Department has also organized a skill-based training programme for the indigenous people, where they are given various opportunities to generate income.
Another important key player in Belum Conservation effort is Pulau Banding Foundation (and its initiative – Pulau Banding Research Centre), which aims to promote research and eco-tourism through the sustainable management of the Belum Temenggor Rainforest Complex.
Responsible tourism should be one of the most important and ethical ways to promote tourism, especially in the thick rainforest of Malaysia, the habitat of thousands and hundreds of floras and faunas.