STTA’S THIRD GREEN TOURISM SUMMIT SUMMARY NOW AVAILABLE
(Posted 26th June 2017)
Disruptive Thinking and Policies Imperative for the Tourism Sector to Thrive and Effectively Contribute to the SDGs – Concludes the 3rd Green Tourism Summit Africa
Africa’s tourism is at crossroads. Political instability, closed borders and air spaces, elite capture in the tourism industry, unsustainable practices, entrenched poverty in destinations, competition, poor product innovation & diversity, exclusion of host communities, incompatible land uses in wildlife areas, loss of wildlife, extraneous curriculum in learning institutions, weak/poor enforcement of policies and minimal research, among other factors, are threatening the future of tourism.
These were observations emanating from the 3rd Green Tourism Summit Africa that was held at the Park Inn Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya from 13th to the 15th of June 2017. After three days of presentations and discussions, the over 50 delegates representing various tourism interest groups and conservation organizations in Kenya and neighbouring countries, unanimously agreed that sustainable tourism can be a force for good. However, tourism development in Africa in its current form would not transform the regions economies and escalate the realisation of the SDGs.
“Africa must open it borders for Africans,” Carmen Nibigira, Coordinator of East Africa Tourism Platform and proponent of intra-Africa, said during the Summit.
Dr Geoffrey Manyara, of UNECA added that “for tourism to contribute to SDGs it must demonstrate the ability to sustain per capita income over long periods of time, which is not the case today.”
Among other things, the Summit reiterated the following:
· Capitalizing on domestic tourism: Sustainable tourism in Africa must be built on local travellers and not depend on international travellers. Africa’s tourism needs to tap on the growing middle class to build a strong domestic tourism foundation, which will contribute to a sustainable tourism sector.
· Distinct products and services: Aside from capitalizing on local tourism, Africa needs to change its product development approach and plan Tourism in Africa for Africa, which entails developing products and services tailor made for local travellers.
Democratizing Tourism in Africa
· Product costing: In order to capitalize on the potential of its domestic tourism capacity, Africa needs to make travel accessible and affordable
· Seamless travel: Information technology, liberalization of air travel, and open borders, are essential for driving the democratization of travel in Africa and as such, tourism stakeholders need to advocate for and promote the use of information technology across the sector as well as lobby governments to improve the tourism sector policy environment. Tourism operators in Africa must embrace e-tourism to increase its presence in the market and should capitalize on UGC for product development and discovery of new experiences and destinations.
Marketing & Promotion
· Experiential marketing: Marketing of the tourism sector, should focus on selling experiences. Africa needs to tell its story. Each of Africa’s 1.2 billion people should be nurtured to tell Africa’s story and be Africa’s tourism ambassadors. Additionally, destination marketing should be responsible and should reflect the true nature of the destination.
· Inclusive tourism: Pro-poor tourism approaches and strategies that are meant to alleviate poverty among the rural poor need to be rethought if tourism is to benefit local communities. This includes supporting Community Conservancies, an emerging conservation model in Africa, because of their suitability to contribute to SDGs and encouraging industry stakeholders to embrace sustainable tourism to ensure tourism generates benefits for local communities and supports community-led tourism enterprises.
Sustainable Consumption, Production & Climate Change
· Sustainable consumption: Tourism can be an agent for global warming, especially through aviation and other unsustainable consumption and management patterns. This is especially so given the low levels of consciousness about sustainability among African tourism stakeholders. Africa’s aviation in particular, has been slow in adapting sustainability. This makes them uncompetitive and could cost the region ecologically and economically through increased carbon emissions and shunning conscious travellers respectively. In addition, engaging tourism sector stakeholders and actors to reduce negative impacts from their practices and educating travellers and local communities on the impact of tourism on local ecosystems as well as its contribution to climate change is critical in ensuring the sector’s sustainability. For example, industry actors can reduce energy-poverty in rural destinations through co-investing with host communities in clean energy. Aside from energy, there is need to develop and adopt sustainable practices in food handling in tourism facilities as well as waste management systems in order to minimize the adverse impacts of the industry on the natural resources base as well as life on land and life under water.
Research, Innovation & Product Development
· Innovative thinking: The richness and diversity of Africa’s tourism sector should be fully utilized and Africa should be innovative in product development if the continent is to become competitive. However, for this to be realized, Africa must stop overexploitation of its limited natural resources and broaden its range of tourism products, which requires designing innovative tourism products that are suitable for the African market. To this end, operators must be willing to change how they do business to embrace sustainable tourism principles. Their actions will influence change in systems.
· Research: Research combined with innovative thinking and transformative technology will disrupt current tourism development in Africa and will create space for new opportunities that could be exploited. Engaging academia is critical and there is need for recognizing the academic sector as important stakeholders in tourism development.
· As a sector that is highly dependent on local resources including labour, Africa’s tourism sector must ensure the rights of local communities are protected and upheld. The industry must be conscious about its supply chain by ensuring human rights abuses do not occur in the supply chain. This entails protecting children from abuse and exploitation as well ensuring healthy working environments for industry employees.
Sustainability can be achieved by any type of tourism business as long as there is respect for places/resources that tourism is dependent upon. However, this is dependent on progressive policies, commitment to do good by doing well both in terms of consistency and strategy and monitoring and evaluation of industry impacts.
Tourism businesses can re-learn new/green ways of doing tourism. This will require collaborative research, new product development, training and re-learning, curriculum review, new policies, which incorporate the green agenda as well as involvement of host communities among other issues.
“Whichever way we look at tourism, its future is anchored on being sustainable and inclusive,” concluded the Summit Host & Convenor, Judy Kepher-Gona.
About the Summit
The Green Tourism Summit Africa is an annual event organised by Sustainable Travel & Tourism Agenda (STTA). The event is meant to provide a platform for students, academia, researchers, tourism travel actors, policy makers, service providers, destination planners and marketers, media and all interests groups to review and realign tourism and conservation models in Africa towards sustainability. The 3rd Summit focused on “Tourism & the Sustainable Development Goals.”