To save our planet for future generations we subscribe to an age old proverb:
Give a man a fish you feed him today. Teach a man to fish and you feed him until the fish run out. Teach a man to breed fish, to build a business and he will sustain a community for life and ensure the survival of a species.
Despite of the grim headlines about Zimbabwe that cover newspapers all over the world, this land is one of southern Africa’s most beautiful countries. And although being forced to sacrifice so much, Zimbabweans have not lost their humour or resolve. With so few visiting the country, those who do can expect royal treatment. They need you. While the world’s media focuses on the fall of Zimbabwe, visitors will see a very different image of the country. From the absolute wilderness of Mana Pools National Park, the ruins of Great Zimbabwe and the mountains looking over Mozambique in Eastern Zimbabwe, adventures are to be had.
What is sustainable tourism?
Sustainable tourism in its purest sense, is an industry which attempts to make a low impact on the environment and local culture, while helping to generate income, employment, and the conservation of local ecosystems. It is responsible tourism that is both ecologically and culturally sensitive. Thus, Sustainable tourism activities have minimal impact on the environment and culture of the host community.
According to the World Tourism Organization, sustainable tourism is tourism that leads to the management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems.
The World Tourism Organisation defines sustainable tourism as tourism that meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future. Rather than being a type of product, it is an ethos that underpins all tourism activities. As such, it is integral to all aspects of tourism development and management rather than being an add-on component
The objective of sustainable tourism is to retain the economic and social advantages of tourism development while reducing or mitigating any undesirable impacts on the natural, historic, cultural or social environment. This is achieved by balancing the needs of tourists with those of the destination
The United States initiated the idea of cultural conservation with nature conservation. A White House conference in 1965 called for a ‘World Heritage Trust’ to preserve “the world’s superb natural and scenic areas and historic sites for the present and the future of the entire world citizenry.”
Tourism driven impacts on Natural World Heritage
Tourism is often praised for its ability to reconcile conservation and development goals in or near protected areas (Ashworth & van der Aa, 2006; Figgis & Bushell, 2007). From a conservation perspective, tourism can raise funds for protecting natural areas, enhance local and tourist awareness of biodiversity and conservation issues as well as discourage local people from unsustainable livelihoods.
From a development perspective, tourism revenue may reduce poverty by stimulating business development and job creation that is in principle compatible with biodiversity conservation as well as enhancing local services, and through improved education empower local people to advocate for the protection of the natural environment.
Some terms related to Sustainable Tourism
Responsible tourism is the closest definition to sustainable tourism; however it tends to refer to the consumers’ choice of destination and mode of transport based on their ethical, political and racial sensitivities as well as being concerned for the environment and local culture.
Historically the definition of this term has been travel which is environmentally friendly or benign that in general does not concern itself with cultural or economic elements of the destination. Current uses of the term are becoming broader to incorporate full sustainable tourism principles.
Ethical tourism has evolved as a term when one considers travelling to, or developing tourism in a destination where ethical issues are the key driver, e.g. social injustice, human rights, animal welfare or the environment. Ethical tourism is geared towards encouraging both the consumer and industry to avoid participation in activities that contribute or support negative ethical issues.
Ecotourism, also known as ecological tourism, is a subset of sustainable tourism which focuses on ecology. Ecotourism tends to be encountered in destinations where flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions. The industry actively works towards conserving or improving the natural and cultural heritage through managing its own operations to help conserve the environment, organising conservation projects, offering volunteering and educating visitors.
Sustainable Tourism – UN initiative
Tourism is one of the world’s fastest growing industries and an important source of foreign exchange and employment for many developing countries. Tourism that focuses on natural environments is a large and growing part of the tourism industry. While it can contribute in a positive manner to socio-economic development and environmental protection, uncontrolled tourism growth can also cause environmental degradation, destruction of fragile ecosystems, and social and cultural conflict, undermining the basis of tourism.
However, if tourism is badly planned and not managed responsibly, it can on the contrary lead to biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation and negative impacts to local communities. It is therefore essential for tourism that takes place in protected areas to be managed correctly and uphold the principles of sustainable development. Furthermore, it should not be forgotten that the overall goal of a protected area is conservation and in the case of World Heritage Sites there is a particular emphasis on the protection, conservation and presentation of the features that are of OUV.
A recent IUCN study on developing biodiversity businesses explored to some extent the relationship between tourism and protected areas (IUCN, 2009). The study focused on IUCN NGO members that have set up small businesses to solve conservation problems and the majority of the businesses were tourism businesses. One of the key recommendations of the study which relates well to this discussion on impacts was the constant need to keep present the conservation objective behind tourism development. This needs to be clear when establishing the vision for the business and should be integrated in all components of tourism development. This is also vital in developing, managing and monitoring tourism in and around World Heritage Sites.
Successful World Heritage Sustainable Tourism
Avoid a one-size fits all approach to sustainable tourism development in natural World Heritage Sites. A case-by-case and values based approach to tourism developments is more appropriate and will ensure better long-term outcomes. Research draws attention to the diversity of inscribed natural World Heritage Sites and their social contexts and difficulties therefore in finding commonalities amongst them. Common positive and negative impacts of tourism development are identified but not simple or shared reasons. The key negative issues are associated with visitor pressure and inappropriate infrastructure development, and key benefits related to community development and revenue for conservation. For successful and sustainable tourism development there is a common need for:
Effective tourism planning within and outside the site;
Good governance of tourism that considers the site, in the context of a destination;
Involvement and participation of stakeholders and especially collaboration between the private sector, local communities and the site management authority in relation to planning for sustainable tourism;
Effective and innovative communication tools that add value to the site.
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