Sustainability |

Do We Really Know How to “Build Back Better”?

SUSTAINABILITY | 8 September 2021

Sustainability Advocacy MVB supported by Now! Bali and Now! Jakarta recently held a very well attended webinar, not focused on how to reopen the borders to international tourism, which is a matter for the health experts and the government, but what we should be doing to prepare for when they open. We felt it was very possible that Indonesia, and perhaps many other countries, face a re-start which could just be heading just back to where we left off? We have to ask the crucial questions: have we taken the steps we all talk about: to make sure that tourism is restarted on a more sustainable, equitable, responsible, moral and culturally sensitive basis?  That is the question we askedan array of top-level expert speakers to answer, asking them to help all of us in the tourism and travel industry to put together a really new –and really sustainable- approach. 

The Indonesian Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy has clearly stated that it wants tourism to be lower volume, higher value, more sustainable and more sensitive to local communities and to local cultures, but what are the actual steps we have to take to ensure this happens? 

We asked our Keynote Speakers from the primary destinations of Bali and Yogyakarta, Their Excellencies Vice Governor of Bali Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati, and Kanjeng Pangeran  Haryo Wironegoro of Yogyakarta if their provinces have completed their "build back better"  plans? And asked them to tell us what they encompass? We asked what assistance they needed from the national government or from experts in specialist areas? Crucially we need to know what limitations are in place to reduce" Over Tourism " and if guidelines have been discussed with industry representatives  and issued to them? What are theose guidelines? 

Then we askedour expert speakers: Sean Nino Lotze of Eco Mantra, Didier Perez of PIPA and Wiwik Mahdayani of Desma if they saw a better awareness and organisation in the local governments for sustainable tourism, for example, better waste collection and disposal? Are the plastic reduction plans in place -not just single use plastic bags, that is only step one- but the whole plastic waste aspect? Then we asked the key questions: Are the rivers being cleaned and kept clean? Are the deep wells being phased out and replaced by responsible and efficient water management? Are the water and waste challenges being actively tackled so we will have new processes in place when tourism returns? Is air pollution being looked at, traffic regulations studied, zoning and development plans being revised? What else needs to be done- practical achievable steps that the local governments and the private sector can do to make the tourism industry not only look better to the target markets, but actually be better for the communities and the planet. Pretty tough questions , but they were more than prepared with the answers. 

To the hotel industry, represented by Marco Groten of Hyatt Hotels Group, we asked if hotels are not only responding to the government’s Cleanliness, Health, Safety and Environment regulations but also really focusing on the aspects of sustainability that are behind the scenes? Are they pursuing the reduction in water usage and the recycling/reuse of grey water, the reduction in waste to landfill and a push towards zero waste output, a reduction in energy use and the use of chemicals in gardens and cleaning processes, and an elimination all plastics in hotels. A related and often forgotten element in sustainability is the whole issue of equality and inclusiveness in employment, the emphasis on using local suppliers and making sure they themselves are ethical and sustainable. 

These and many more things were discussed, clarified and proposed but we quickly realised that not many have actually been implemented and we need to do so  before we open the borders again or we will face a frenzy of desperate marketing to get anybody and everybody back to Bali, Lombok and Jogja in particular, no matter the quality or quantity. And that will start us off in the wrong direction. Understandable - but wrong. On the following pages we synopsise the presentations from all the speakers and then wrap up the actions that need to be taken to make this all happen. 

MVB Chairman Alistair Speirs who moderated the meeting opened the session by reminding everyone that it is not only the very visible challenges we face from waste, water, energy, traffic, development zoning, infrastructure etc but also the invisible: the hidden side of underground water depletion, the air pollution, the continuing inequality, the cultural dilution, the lossof arable land and with it farmers and local crops, the loss of heritage and the skills it encompasses, the loss of local languages to the pervasive invasion of the digital world, and the continued erosion of morals and ethics as we become more and more focused on profit and less and less on people and planet. 

He proposed we adapt the wonderful “Credo” of Johnson and Johnson, written amazingly back in 1943 by Robert Wood Johnson to become our provinces Credo and give some really good guidelines on how to behave. Here is the proposed credo.

Adapted from The J&J Credo of 1943 by Alistair Speirs 

We believe our first responsibility is to the people of Bali (Jogja) , the people who till the land and work in the shops, factories and hotels, to the families who live here and then to the visitors who come to enjoy the land in all its richness.

 In meeting their needs everything we do must be of high quality. We must constantly strive to provide value, reduce our costs and maintain reasonable prices.

Visitors’ needs must be serviced promptly and accurately. Our business partners must have an opportunity to make a fair profit.

We are responsible to our employees who work with us throughout the island/province. 
We must provide an inclusive work environment where each person must be considered as an individual.

We must respect their diversity and dignity and recognize their merit. They must have a sense of security, fulfillment and purpose in their jobs.

Compensation must be fair and adequate and working conditions clean, orderly and safe.
 We must support the health and well-being of our employees and help them fulfill their family and other personal responsibilities. 

Citizens must feel free to make suggestions and complaints. There must be equal opportunity for employment, development and advancement for those qualified.

We must provide highly capable leaders and their actions must be just and ethical

We are responsible to the communities in which we live and work and to the national community as well.

We must help people be healthier by supporting better access and care in more places around the island/province.

We must be good citizens —support good works and charities, better health and education, and bear our fair share of taxes. 

We must maintain in good order the land and property we are privileged to use, protecting the environment and natural resources.

Our final responsibility is to our stakeholders, the people, the government, those who own and run businesses on the island. Business must make a sound profit.

We must experiment with new ideas. Research must be carried on, innovative programs developed, investments made for the future and mistakes paid for.

 New equipment must be purchased, new facilities provided and new
 products launched.

Reserves must be created to provide for adverse times.

When we operate according to these principles, all the stakeholders should realize a fair return 

This is what matters, not just WHEN we reopen, but HOW we reopen. And the expertise and guidance of every member of the tourism industry, especially, will be very important in this matter.  

If you want to watch the whole webinar –or just skim through it- go here!