News: Sustainable Tourism and it’s impact on African Tourism

Sustainable Tourism and it’s impact on African Tourism

This year’s COP22 summit in Morocco was largely overshadowed by the election of Donald Trump and his promise to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement concluded under President Obama the year before. As a result, many of the small successes the COP22 did manage to achieve have largely been overlooked.

On November 10, 25 African states adopted the first African “Charter on Sustainable and Responsible Tourism” and signed the “Declaration on Tourism and Climate Issues in Africa.” Seeking to enhance the conservation of biodiversity on land and in the water and to develop a responsible tourism sector, the charter established a common framework to foster more sustainable approaches in the continent’s tourism industry.

In 2014, travel and tourism amounted to 47 percent of Cape Verde’s GDP, 58 percent of the Seychelles, and 19 percent of Morocco’s, and the monetary contribution of tourism to African countries’ GDP has consistently increased over the last decade. These numbers reflect the overall rise in the number of tourists to Africa, with65.3 million international tourists visiting in 2014 compared to a mere 17.4 million in 1990. As a result, Africa has turned into one of the world’s fastest-growing tourist destinations. According to a 2013 World Bank report, tourism “accounted directly or indirectly for one in every 20 jobs in Sub Saharan Africa in 2011”, and is expected to “directly employ 6.7 million people by 2021”. It is clear from these numbers that this booming industry needs to be properly regulated so as not to upset the balance between protecting the environment and stimulating economic growth.

The agreement is a rather timely piece of legislation for Africa, considering the increasingly pivotal role tourism plays for the economies of many countries. As the dominance of the European and American travel market is shifting to the emerging economies of the BRICs, a major percentage of tourists in Africa now hail from Asia, thanks to increasing wealth and disposable incomes.

African countries quickly recognized the need to appeal to Asian tourists, particularly those from China, and a lot is being done to facilitate travel arrangements. Visa controls are lowered for Chinese travel groups, and tourism promotion agencies are established. South Korean travellers are also being wooed, with the tourist traffic between South Korea and Africa rising steadily, particularly between South Africa, Ethiopia and Kenya thanks to new international flight connections between the destinations.

However, as the population increases across the continent, so does environmental pollution. And ironically, it is tourism that often undermines the very reason for its existence by destroying the landscapes and natural environments that sustain it. It has long been argued that there is a flipside to tourism, one where the environment and local communities get increasingly strained. Air pollution is already a major problem in fast-developing countries such as South Africa, Nigeria and Ethiopia. But ocean and land pollution as well as littering are additional important factors leading to the destruction of the places that function as natural tourist attractions.

Tourists participating in activities such as safaris or trekking tours tend to leave behind all kinds of garbage, from plastic bottles to camping equipment, thereby degrading the environment and critically damaging entire ecosystems.

While many people across Asia are becoming more aware of environmental problems besetting their home countries, many tourists from Asian countries have come to be viewed as extremely insensitive towards their surroundings when traveling abroad. For example, due to mounting international criticism of their conduct abroad, authorities from the Chinese Tourism Administration felt compelled to publish behavioral guidelines for Chinese tourists, calling on them to respect, among other things, “tourism resources” and to “protect the ecological environment.”

Vietnamese tourists, too, have built a reputation for inappropriate behavior such as littering, while the behavior of Koreans abroad was criticized domestically as “shameful,” and pictures of a Korean tourist mishandling a shark in a reserve widely sparked outrage. Japan has long been complaining of tourism’s negative effects on its environment. A study conducted by the Japanese Environment Ministry between 2010 and 2013 found that half of the debris washing onto Japan’s shores originated from South Korea, with the rest evenly split between Japan and China. “Washed Ashore”, a recent documentary, documented the extent of the damage that South Korea’s littering habits have caused to Japan’s beaches and urged Seoul to help clean up the coastline.

With its massive population centers and increasingly wealthy people lifted out of poverty into the middle-class, citizens from Asian countries are the future of the tourism industry, and Africa is slated to profit from the economic benefits these travelers provide. However, for all the good that tourism can bring, as more and more people look to Africa and its great opportunities for nature tourism, African countries will need to find a way to raise awareness among travelers about environmental protection.

It’s the only way that the economic benefits of tourism as a key driver for socio-economic development can be reaped, especially for those countries that are poor in natural resources but rich in natural wonders. The COP22 sustainable tourism agreement is a meaningful step in the right direction and African countries would be wise to implement and enforce it fully.
Source: diplomaticourier.com

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