Eco-tourism is about empowerment of the local community: Ron Leidich
By Francis Talasasa, Reporter
August 23rd [Koror] “Eco- Tourisms; they need to be locally owned and locally operated” stressed Biologist and Manager of Planet Blue Kayaks Mr. Ron Leidich during the 1st National Environmental Symposium this week. [restrict]
Palau now has 176 license tour operators and the majorities are foreign owned and foreign operated. Mr. Leidich said according to the foreign investment article 105, It was assumed that tour companies, gift shops and transportation companies were supposed to be 100% Palauan owned.
Findings showed from year 2000 to 2012 while Palau expected more employments for locals in private sectors, the number of jobs have actually decreased. How is that possible when a number of visitors in the same time period have doubled, he said.
The statistic office shows a growth adjusted wage index, an average spending power of every Palauan men, women and child. What have we’ve seen in a 12 year period is that every citizens of Palau has lost 18 hundred dollars in spending power. One will expect more visitors would mean more profit and those profits would spread to the community. This report tells the story of what is called a transfer income. The money never comes to Palau because transactions are booked and billed abroad without tax. Everybody from tour companies, pre- booked restaurants and Hotels are doing this practice, explained Leidich in his strong presentation. Many economists call this phenomenon “Leakage”. It is simply leaking out.
“The richer are getting richer and many locals are simply getting by, the promise of mutual benefit has not being kept”, “There is a cash economy flowing like a river under this economy that continues unreported”, he says.
He made calls to teach young generations how to become entrepreneurs and help suggest better concepts through a community partnership, yet it brings another challenge how would children become entrepreneurs when the water front property in Palau has been leased to the next 5 generation. [/restrict]