[Image: Jari Island, the Solomon Islands | © James Morgan]
The middle of June marks the end of the first phase of a project that I first became involved with in September 2015 – WWF's long–term focus on 'Developing and Promoting Nature–based Tourism in the Coral Triangle'.
My first real involvement with the project was when I undertook a Baseline Analysis of Nature–based Tourism in the Coral Triangle – a real macro look at global, regional and then country–level tourism trends in Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands and Timor–Leste.
My last involvement was at the true micro–end of the scale; participating in a CSIRO–led workshop in the Kimbe Bay region of West New Britain in PNG where I got to meet and try and help 60 members of the local community explore what Nature–based Tourism could mean for their (and their families) futures.
It's quite humbling to look back on the almost 2 year journey that took me from the initial analysis to the hands–on work with Community and Provincial Government leaders in one small corner of the Coral Triangle.
As challenging as the journey's been (and it has certainly been that at times!), seeing the original theoretical analysis translate into real–life action involving actual people has been one of the highlights of my time running 2iis. It's pretty much exactly the sort of project I set–up shop to get involved with; a large–scale, economically driven, potentially transformational piece of work that could have a far–reaching impact on many people right across the region.
I'm proud of the small part I've been able to play in the project and also inspired by the other members of the project team I've met along the way. Many of whom I'm now working with on other projects in the Region.
This first phase has concluded with one last fascinating dive into analysis for me with a look at the potential Return on Investment of Nature–based vs. Mass Tourism and some work on the Investment Prospectus and Destination Plans for PNG, the Solomon Islands and Timor–Leste that are designed to build some momentum behind the second phase of the project.
These last documents provide a tangible glimpse of what the future could actually look like for Sustainable Nature–based Tourism right across the Coral Triangle – and the positive impact it could have on millions of vulnerable people who face a multitude of challenges in the next few decades.
They also helped remind me of the inspiring beauty that exists within the Coral Triangle – one of the most biodiverse regions on the Planet and somewhere I hope to explore with my wife and 2 young girls as a Nature–based Tourist rather than a 2iis Consultant in the very near future!