Since the early 1980s, Malaysia has steadily
diversified its economy. Major changes include a departure from a reliance on
the cultivation and export of raw materials, in particular natural rubber, to a
focus on services, manufacturing and tourism. Tourism, in particular, has had a
significant impact and, as a generator of foreign exchange, is second only to
the oil industry. Increases in employment, development and foreign exchange
earnings, however, can burden a tourism infrastructure that is not fully
Ecotourism is a quickly expanding
segment of Malaysian tourism. Where parks noted for their
biodiversity were once established solely for research and
conservation, increased tourism has created a dilemma --- how to
balance the revenues from tourism with the importance of research.
Activities associated with ecotourism such as resorts, golf courses,
marinas and even roads can play a role in the destruction of natural
habitat. Furthermore, increased tourism has not inspired more
regulation of tourism or education of visitors in how to minimally
impact these areas. These omissions increase the chances of more
significant damage to ecosystems.
In certain cases, over-development
is a negative factor as resident business owners seek to capitalize
on the economic windfall of tourism through increased construction.
The building of large coastal resorts has a twofold impact. First,
many of these resorts are constructed without an environmental
impact awareness and, as a result, coastal lagoons, beaches and
mangrove forests are hurt. Second, over-development in some cases
has actually driven tourists away as the structures built are often
Coastal Malaysia is a playground
for recreational scuba divers. As the country opened its doors to
dive operators, it also opened its doors to destruction of marine
habitats. Dives with large groups of relatively inexperienced
divers, for example, often unwittingly crash into corals that took
years to grow as these novices have yet to master techniques for
maintaining buoyancy. Contributing to the problem are dive operators
who can't possibly manage such large numbers of divers with their
limited staff size. The onus here doesn't simply fall upon lack of
government regulation. Dive organizations who reward newcomers with
certifications for limited experience also must rethink their
policies as well as maintain proper student-to-instructor ratios.
Until both the government and these operators make significant
changes, marine habitats remain at risk of further damage.
Taxi drivers in Malaysia are well
known for unscrupulously charging visitors high fares. This stems
from lack of regulation in face of an increase in tourism.
Unchallenged by government, taxi drivers are free to demand whatever
fare they feel like charging and often simply shut off their meters.
Moreover, tourists arriving at airports, Kuala Lumpur International
Airport, for example, will not always have a suitable alternative
when they want to go to specific locations.