HARARE – Zimbabwe will today mark the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development in Harare as pronounced by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.
Government considers tourism as a low hanging fruit that contributes 10,9 percent to Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product, 7,3 percent to total employment, 18,8 percent to export earnings and over a $1 billion in annual revenue.
As such, there is need for the country to make sure its policies and actions for development and management fully embrace the principles of sustainability.
For the past 30 years, the United Nations has been pushing for sustainable development, which involves creating a better life for all people in ways that will be as viable in the future as they are at present.
In other words, sustainable development is based on principles of sound husbandry of the world’s resources, and on equity in the way those resources are used and in the way in which the benefits obtained from them are distributed.
It should also be understood that making tourism more sustainable should not just be about controlling and managing the negative impacts of the industry. The tourism industry in Zimbabwe is in a very special position to benefit local communities, economically and socially, and to raise awareness and support for conservation of the environment.
There is also an increasing appreciation of the potential role of tourism in addressing world poverty, by bringing sources of income to the heart of some of the poorest communities.
Massive growth is predicted for tourism between now and 2020, providing excellent opportunities for spreading prosperity but presenting considerable challenges and potential threats to the environment and local communities if not well managed.
Climate change is recognised as a major global issue, with significant implications for tourism.
To that end, governments must come up with tourism policies that address economic, social and environmental issues, and which are developed with an awareness of the potential both for harm and for benefit.
These policies can then channel the forces resulting from the sector’s dynamic growth in a positive direction.
For the tourism industry, accepting this responsibility is not only about good citizenship, it should also be fuelled by a strong element of self-interest, since any harm inflicted to the natural, cultural or social environment of destinations can lead to their eventual destruction as well as loss of value as a tourism product.
In economic terms, sustainability can guarantee the viability of enterprises and activities and their ability to be maintained in the long term.