In this interview, Ary Suhandi, Executive Director of the Indonesian Ecotourism Network (INDECON), shares his insights on tourism development in Indonesia. Mr. Suhandi’s work has involved establishing and supporting ecotourism, community-based tourism, and conservation education programmes. As a nationally and internationally recognized expert in nature and community-based tourism, Ary provides valuable lessons.
- Ary Suhandi’s main personal and professional insights;
- How and why the Indonesian Ecotourism Network formed over 20 years ago;
- The best way to measure sustainability;
- The inspiring story about a village that turned from logging to ecotourism;
- Key “ingredients” for developing courses to educate the community.
Ary, when – or how – did you discover your passion for sustainable tourism? Who got you interested?
I was still a student, when I spent years of life in research and conservation of Orang Utan in Sumatra. The forest where I used to live was close to village areas. Often during my stay, together with other researchers, I went to local schools to share my experiences. When I shared my knowledge, it was a shock to me that many of the school children had not learned about the biodiversity that lived in the forest.
I realized that it would take more than just conservation to save the forests. The forest and the people living around it cannot be separated; they are integrated and depend on each other. Thus we need to protect them together. However, I did not know what could strengthen this mutual relationship until I actively guided visitors to the forests for bird watching. They showed me how visiting the forests can become a powerful tool to increase respect for nature and to promote the values of biodiversity to others. That’s when I began to create more education and conservation activities for my guests and local people.