LOS BAÑOS, Laguna – The International School for Sustainable Tourism (ISST), the Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), forged an agreement to collaborate in the International Ecotourism Travel Mart (IETM), the first-ever green travel mart and selling fair in the world organized by the Asian Ecotourism Network (AEN).

The biggest ecotourism-focused fair is set to be held on March 29 to April 2, 2023 in Cavite, Philippines.

“This celebration of green technology and sustainable practices in the tourism industry signifies an opportunity towards a better normal and a more resilient community as the world slowly re-opens,” said in a news release on Thursday.

For a region as naturally diverse and culturally rich as the Asean, tourism contributes significantly to economic growth and local livelihoods.

Acknowledging the tourism sector’s vital role in recovery, the Asean has declared the revival of the tourism sector as an imperative in the region’s overall recovery efforts in its comprehensive framework.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has catalyzed the growing awareness that nature is part of the solution to public health and environmental challenges,” said Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim, executive director of the ACB. “Thus, a regional fair that elevates the tourism sector as a leader in promoting the balance between economic development and harnessing nature as a solution to our current challenges only comes timely.”

This partnership is also part of the Asean’s efforts in mainstreaming biodiversity across sectors such as tourism and agriculture.

Dr. Glenn Gregorio, director of SEARCA, shared that they recognizes not just science-based, but also nature-based solutions to agricultural challenges since conserving biodiversity also contributes to food security.

“We are more than willing to work with you in establishing this green economy for our farmers and farming families in the Southeast Asian region who can be part of this trade fair,” Gregorio said.

The IETM is designed to bring together delegates and exhibitors worldwide to showcase products and services that have a strong ecotourism component, green technology, and sustainable green practices.

Dr. Mina Gabor, ISST President, acknowledged the vital roles of sectors such as the youth and indigenous peoples in promoting ecotourism.

She likewise thanked the government of the Philippines, through the Department of Tourism, for expressing its full support to IETM 2023.

The event scheduled for 2023 will feature discussions that offer practical insights into improving sustainability knowledge and practice for tourism operators. Experts and tourism practitioners with over 40 years of combined experience will gather and share best practices and lessons on sustainable tourism from the Asia-Pacific region.

“As we try to build back better, we can also take the opportunity to build our tourism greener and more sustainable,” Lim said.

As a partner for the IETM, the ACB will feature the success stories of its biodiversity conservation and livelihood programmes through an interactive exhibition. (PR)