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A framework for sustainable tourism in Pulau Banggi, Sabah : integrating biophysical and socio-economic considerations Teh, Lydia C.L.

Abstract

Ecotourism is often viewed as a sustainable form of tourism, but has the potential to impart negative environmental and social impacts if not well managed. When planning tourism, ex ante assessments can provide a contextual understanding of the ecological, economic, and socio-cultural forces that shape the prospects for sustainable tourism development. Underlying conditions can suggest 'limits' to acceptable change levels incurred by tourism development, which respect socio-cultural expectations and biophysical realities. Pulau Banggi is a relatively remote island on the brink of tourism development in the Malaysian state of Sabah. I conduct an ex ante biophysical study that evaluates how existing conditions of the island's marine biodiversity, seasonality, and infrastructure might influence options for sustainable tourism development. Through interviews, I also assess local residents' perceptions and trade-off preferences towards environmental and socio-economic change associated with tourism growth. I find that human expectations of economic benefits might demand tourism development on a scale not compatible with existing biophysical capacity. Persistent use of destructive fishing techniques, uncertainty over groundwater capacity, and inadequate waste infrastructure are major ecological constraints to growth. I conclude that prospects for sustainable tourism in Pulau Banggi can be enhanced through small scale development operating under a community based approach, and institutionalised within a Marine Protected Area framework.

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