By Byron Mutingwende
In line with the United Nations General Assembly declaration of the year 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development (IYSTD), Zimbabwe has joined in celebrating this milestone.
The declaration is in recognition of tourism as a critical pillar of economies, a passport to prosperity, and a transformative force for improving millions of lives across the globe. In this scope Tourism is largely viewed as the key to the success of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG).
It emerged that most countries in the UNWTO family have already launched their programmes to celebrate the year of sustainable tourism. Zimbabwe as member of the UNWTO is also joining the rest of the world in celebrating the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The Honourable Vice President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Cde ED Mnangagwa will do the official launch of this programme on 02 June 2017 at the Harare International Conference Centre. The Ministry and the ZTA will run with events highlighting the IYSTD.
During these IYSTD commemorations, Zimbabwe seeks to promote the role of tourism in the following five key areas, agreed by the International Steering Committee on IYSTD to which Zimbabwe is a member.
- Inclusive and sustainable economic growth
- Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction
- Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change
- Cultural values, diversity and heritage
- Mutual understanding, peace and security
Speaking at a press conference Monday, Walter Mzembi, the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry said the commemorations would foster a change in policies, business practices and consumer behavior towards a more sustainable approach that can contribute effectively to the achievement of the SDGs.
“Through the activities that have been put in place across the country, we are hoping to bring awareness and education to all stakeholders and general publics on tourism’s contribution to the development agenda, peace, equality, partnerships, prosperity and culture, moving towards a more sustainable and prosperous nation. This brings benefits to individuals, businesses, communities and the nation at large. Currently, the sector contributes 10.9% to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 7.3% to total employment and 18.8% to export earnings and over a billion in annual revenue. The sector harbors a lot of potential for further growth and development,” Mzembi said.
A number of programmes and activities are being implemented through the ZTA across the country. The activities are participatory in nature and are hinged on building capacity, education and knowledge sharing. The short to long term programmes include but not limited to the following:
There will be a comprehensive and sustained national clean-up campaign programme in which every citizen of Zimbabwe should proudly partake. The aim is to encourage behavioral change at national level on littering and promoting awareness on the importance of cleanliness to the country. This will provide a platform for active participation by different communities and corporates to work towards fostering a culture of cleanliness. This effort recognizes work on the same currently taking place in other line Ministries, particularly the Environment Ministry, and we will move in tandem with their efforts.
Sustainable Tourism Symposium
The Sustainable Tourism symposium will bring the academia under one roof to further explore and exchange ideas on innovative ways of carrying out sustainable operations in different businesses and communities beyond the IYSTD.
Sustainable Tourism Social Media Challenge
In recognition of the importance played by social media, the social media campaign provides active participation platform to the socialites especially the youths in communicating sustainable development agenda in posterity. This will also bring about subtle innovations vested in many contemporary communities.
World Tourism Day (WTD) Celebrations
The Nation will also join the international community to celebrate this WTD, a day which is set aside to solely recognize the importance of tourism in the world. The day is set for 27 September and this year’s theme is Sustainable Tourism – a tool for development. The theme corroborates with the UN 2017 theme of International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The main commemorations of this day will be done in Bulawayo.
Locally, September is a Tourism month packed with major national events that include; the Gwanda Gospel Festival taking place from 1-3 September, the Harare International Carnival on 9 September and the Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo in Bulawayo from the 27th of September to the1st of October 2017. The long term programmes on Sustainable Tourism Development also include:
Community Based Tourism (CBT)
The Government through the ZTA is working with various communities throughout the country on Community Based Tourism projects and Enterprises in order to achieve inclusivity and sustainable socio- economic growth, employment creation and poverty reduction. Community Based Tourism (CBT) are projects owned and/or managed by communities and offer services to tourists while generating wider community benefits. CBT offer a range of diverse products and services notably the arts and culture, the tradition, the natural landscapes and host services in rural villages. They provide an opportunity for the tourism sector to achieve pro-poor and sustainable objectives. CBT reaches out to marginalized communities who can participate directly through developing and managing tourism enterprises or benefit indirectly through the economic activities stimulated when visitors come through their areas.
Green Tourism Initiative
Zimbabwe adopted green tourism approaches within the tourism sector. Our National Tourism Policy as well as best international practices on creating sustainable competitive destination also informs the move. The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority in partnership with Green Tourism Programme (UK) and Environment Africa is rolling out the Green Tourism Initiative Programme in the country. Green Tourism seeks to address the following key elements in businesses:
- Conserving and enhancing the environment
- Supporting local communities
- Reducing business operational costs
- Combating climate change
- Promoting universal access
- Enhancing visitors experience.
The Authority is also working with youths and communities in Harare and Bulawayo in developing township tourism. Township tourism is a form of cultural tourism which shows the urbanization of people in different parts of the country and affords tourists and other interested persons the experience of the cultural and social diversity of people. It is a strategic initiative that has the potential to contribute towards the development of local communities through collection of revenue, provision of employment and development of arts and culture.
“With the above mentioned activities and programmes, it is hoped that a better understanding of sustainable tourism will be achieved. The programmes are expected to bring understanding of the importance of tourism in Socio-economic development of a nation in a sustainable manner.
However before I conclude let me emphasize the need for more collaboration between and amongst different stakeholders and partners across the sectorial divide including the media if this programme is to succeed. The media has always been one of our consistent partner in tourism development and we are looking forward to working with you in the execution of these programmes and beyond,” Mzembi said.