Connected Eco Labels for Chinese water recreation and tourism sector

Rising living standard costs limited nature resource - an increasing pressure and crisis worldwide.

Boating is an ancient green lifestyle and traffic tool for more balanced development on land and on water.

In China and Asia, versus luxurious living trends, environmental-friendly leisure boating and eco tourism are receiving more and more consciousness and market attention.

At the occasion of the 20th China International Boatshow and CTIBA (China Boat Industry & Trade Association) International Forum on Yacht and Waterfront Leisure Industry Development in Shanghai on 10th April 2015, FEE’s Blue Flag and Green Key were introduced by Xiaoying Liu, an environmental planning expert and architect, Natureherit Design & Consult, The Netherlands. Researching environmental-friendly leisure boating and eco tourism implementation plans at Chinese Taihu Lake (Suzhou), she identifies the two FEE eco labels as potential effective catalyzers to initiate pilot cruising areas and amphibian healthy environment for people and nature.

According to Liu, marinas and beaches are often linked to restaurants, hotels and meeting facilities, especially in China and Asia. With integrated requirement of surrounding environment and management, the two labels are of high potential operations to jointly combat water-environmental crisis and challenges.  

She also says, as China is one of the oldest water cultures, it is high time to develop waterfront and boating regions priotizing environmental-friendly interactions. China is already an important global yacht producer (incl. clean energy boats) and have increasing yachting marina locations. However, Chinese coastal and river regions need connected and versatile cruising system as a water-eco-people “working system” to combat smog, climate change and biodiversity challenges. Transformations of Chinese policy and green governance are on the way, such as “Ecological Civilization”, “One Belt, One Road” and innovative PPP project modes.

Blue Flag programme for beaches and marinas have been set up in 49 countries with success. It could be a great help for Chinese leisure boating industry to transform the developing questions (such as environmental information, planning coordination, boating and cruising technology) into pleasant environmental recovery tools. More routing possibilities are needed. Cruising safety, management and environmental education should come more together to re-establish natural environment for cruising and living. There are new challenges to coordinate between governmental departments, but this green economy will worth the efforts.

Besides the individualization of yacht players, big opportunities are also in water sport and sailing schools with small-scaled harbors, with increasing needs for physical health, recovery and spiritual training for young people. With flexible location and low impact to water quality, some sport marinas showed big interests in the forum to be the first Blue Flag pilots.

In China, tourism development has increased drastically with rising living standard. Tourist facilities from hotel to camping and restaurants are searching value-adding brands and programs, for which Green Key programme could be the great help to stimulate environmental programs and interact with facilities in other 47 countries.  

Ms. Liu suggests Blue Flag and Green Key to be introduced jointly to Chinese authorities and boating sectors. It will help Chinese venues to exchange environmental knowledge and programs with others abroad and existing FEE eco labels in China: Eco School and Young Reporters for the Environment are run by the FEE official operator China, CEEC of Ministry of Environmental Protection. The needed feasibility study, roundtable process and pilots are interesting challenges for improving the coastal and river region environment,such as Taihu Basin-Yangtze River Delta (Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou etc.), Pearl River Delta (Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai), Xiamen, Qingdao, Hainan, Tianjin, Chongqing and Dalian Region.