For development pros, Myanmar is among the hottest places to be. Because the country has been closed off for so long, the potential for tourism is immense. In this interview, sustainable tourism consultant Paul Rogers tells us what got him interested in this topic, shares his experience from working in Myanmar, and proposes two books you should definitely read.
- How Paul Roger’s perception of sustainable tourism has changed over the years;
- Which projects as consultant he is particularly fond of;
- Why the sustainability focus is shifting to destinations;
- Why the Millennium Development Goals won’t reach full potential;
- Which books on sustainability and tourism he highly recommends;
- What he’d do differently, given the chance to start his career all over again.
Paul, when did you discover your passion for sustainability?
I’d say my passion for sustainability and wanting to “do the right thing” has been innate.
It really awakened as a backpacker in Asia, and crystallized while on the Everest base camp and Kala Patar trek: watching the sun come up behind Everest at 5.30am. Things started to take on more meaning while wandering back down those majestic alpine valleys (that I didn’t want to leave behind).
What was your view of sustainable tourism when you first started your professional career?
With that intense experience – immersed in the enormity and scale of the Himalayan landscape and the spirit of the people who lived within it – I wanted to know how tourism could be developed to create win-wins for everyone. So I started researching, reading all I could on tourism, development and protected areas, and ended up with a PhD on “ecotourism” to the Mt Everest National Park and it’s environs.
To me, ecotourism should be intrinsically sustainable – or it ain’t ecotourism!
But at the same time, I realized (and continue to realize) that sustainable / responsible tourism is incredibly complex. It’s a process – a journey which we’ll unlikely achieve or reach. It’s a dynamic system in constant need of attention.