The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) have pushed for smoke-free tourism especially on cities with heritage sites. It emphasized that the move is an excellent strategy which could bring a three-fold benefit to governments considering that tourism is a major economic driver.
Most of the countries in the region, noted SEATCA, have comprehensive laws in place to create wider and more effective health zones featuring smoke-free workplaces, public transport, restaurants, bars and other public places. The group is hoping that smoke-free tourism will gain headway for it brings a threefold benefit – namely; to the economy, environment, and public health.
Multiple studies have showed that tourists have preferred to travel to places where the environment is healthy, revealed SEATCA, therefore a 100% smoke-free site is a guaranteed attraction and it is a sure way to make it healthy for everyone.
Smoke-free tourism on cities with heritage sites was the main agenda during SEATCA’s 7th Asia Pacific Smoke-Free Meeting held at the Angkor Wat – a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Siam Reap, Cambodia.
There were around 200 leaders and representatives from all over Asia Pacific who attended the meeting last November 28 – 29, 2019 with the theme: “Smoke-Free: Linking Cities to Advance Tourism and Preserve our Heritage”. It was organized by Cambodia Ministry of Tourism (MOT), the World Health Organization in the Western Pacific Region, and SEATCA.
This is the second year that the theme of SEATCA’s Asia Pacific Smoke-Free Meeting is focused on smoke-free tourism. The gathering discussed steps on how to promote heritage sites through smoke-free tourism and they deliberated on strategies, challenges, and plans to strengthen smoke-free tourism in the region.
The delegates also shared how their government have integrated smoke-free initiatives as part of their tourism campaigns. The delegates also had a learning tour at the Angkor Archaelogical Park which has been smoke-free since 2012.
“Tourism is an important economic driver of cities like Siem Reap. Successful tourism relies, not only on individual attractions, but on a clean and healthy environment. As more and more people are able to travel, it is important to strengthen the smoke-free campaign of tourist spots of cities to maintain fresh air and create a healthy environment for citizens and tourists alike,” said Dr. Domilyn Villarreiz, Smoke-free Program Manager of SEATCA.
“A non-smoking environment will also aid in preserving old monuments and buildings and prevent non-biodegradable cigarette butts from littering the environment,” added Villarreiz who is also the Secretary-General of the Smoke-free Cities Asia Pacific Network (SCAN).
SEATCA explained that smoke-free tourism programs is significant for it ensures the protection of heritage sites from the damage of tobacco smoke and fires. As an intervention, smoke-free tourism would mean that people working within the tourism sites are not exposed to the hazardous second-hand smoke and that the vicinity are clear from the indiscriminate disposal of cigarette butts.
Some of the heritage sites who has maintained their smoke-free campaign and recognized by SEATCA are Angkor in Cambodia, Borobudur, Prambanan, and Sewu Temples in Indonesia, Malacca and Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia, Luang Prabang and Vat Phou, Champasak in Lao PDR, the Ancient Town of Hoi An, and Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, Bagan and Pindaya Caves in Myanmar.
It also recognized the new smoke-free heritage and historical sites, such as; Batu Ferringhi, Penang; Mt. Samat Shrine of Valor in Bataan; and Tinuy-an Falls, Heritage town of Jimenez in the Philippines.
The regional grouping continues to push for a more comprehensive policy that would strengthen regulation among member countries in order to preserve the value of its natural and cultural attractions. Moving forward, it aspires that smoke-free tourism efforts in Asia Pacific would set the direction for all areas with heritage sites and become globally adoptable as a practice.