Today we take you to Bangkok, Thailand and Kyoto, Japan – meet Masaru Takayama, owner of Spirit of Japan Travel, ecotravel agency, founder of the Japan Ecolodge Association (2006) and founding chair of the Asian Ecotourism Network.
In this interview, Masaru tells us why he believes in the need for a network and platform run by Asians for Asians (the Asian Ecotourism Network was officially launched in Bangkok earlier this week). He also shares his thoughts on the current state of sustainable tourism in Japan and Asia more widely, and his most memorable moment as site evaluator for the WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards.
- Masaru’s first contact with ecotourism, and how his view of sustainable tourism has changed over the years;
- Why he set up the Asian Ecotourism Network, and its purpose;
- The current state of sustainable tourism in Asia;
- How long it usually takes for sustainable tourism projects to see tangible results;
- Why Asia is going against sustainable tourism;
- Which eco-labels he recommends to Asian tourism businesses and destinations;
- His favorite books on tourism, travel and sustainability.
Masaru, when did you discover your passion for sustainable tourism?
I was traveling the world and when I hit Costa Rica in the late 90s, I participated in a village tour between my scuba diving days, which turned out to be an ecotour. I was thrilled to learn that travellers can make a difference to the host community and country.
With my background in oceanography, coastal engineering and energy conservation, I thought I could contribute in promoting ecotourism in and out of Japan. Later on, this led me to establish the Japan Ecolodge Association.