Bishow Parajuli Special Correspondent
The United Nations General Assembly designated 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. In line with the global designation, Zimbabwe launched last week, the Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development under the theme, “Travel, Enjoy and Respect”. It is my sincere hope that this launch, albeit done mid-year, should be used as a way of bringing all stakeholders to exchange ideas to foster sound partnership to advance tourism for sustainable development and poverty eradication in Zimbabwe.
Tourism represents nearly 10 percent of the world’s GDP and 30 percent of global services exports. It ranked third as a worldwide export category in 2015, after fuels and chemicals and ahead of food and automotive products.
In many developing countries including in Zimbabwe, tourism ranks as the first export sector. Tourism has been estimated to generate one in 11 jobs in the world.
According to the latest Africa Tourism report published in 2015 by the Africa Development Bank Group, tourism industry in Africa showed tremendous progress with 65,3 million visitors generating US$43,6 billion in 2014 compared to a mere 17 million visitors in 1990.
Despite negative perceptions due to real and perceived terrorist activities, Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia are among the top tourist destinations with 10 million, 9,6 million and 6 million visitors, respectively.
South Africa, our neighbour to the south, is the third tourism destination in Africa with 9,55 million visitors compared to a little over 2 million visitors to Zimbabwe.
Given the proximity with South Africa, Zimbabwe has huge potential to grow its tourism industry by simply considering synergy with South Africa, and improving perception through deliberate marketing. Interestingly, South Africa’s tourists are 57 percent domestic and 43 percent international visitors. If we get the economy back on track, domestic tourism is one big push for Zimbabwe’s.
Zimbabwe, with the enormous national and international heritages, historical sites, serene landscapes with unique flora and fauna, well maintained sanctuaries and conservancies, coupled with highly literate human resource, general stability and peace could grow its sustainable tourism industry in leaps and bounds.
If we remain vigilant in protecting the environment, we will preserve Zimbabwe’s heritage to the next generation while ensuring the country becomes a preferred tourist destination and achieve its national plan of earning US$5 billion by 2020 from US$ 1 billion in 2015.
From a development perspective, the tourism value chain provided 20 million employment opportunities in Africa. Sustainable tourism can be harnessed to full potential particularly in our efforts to empower women and youth and stimulate entrepreneurship in other productive sectors in goods and services.
These include local business linkage initiatives for sourcing fresh produce and crafts, training community tour guides and other local tourism workers, and providing health care services and education programs to surrounding communities.
In this regard, allow me to share some perspectives through which sustainable tourism could contribute significantly in our quest to end poverty and accomplish the principle of leaving no one behind under the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development in Zimbabwe:
First: Sustainable tourism’s direct effects, a myriad evidence show that tourism is more labour-intensive than other non-agricultural sectors. It also uses a relatively high proportion of unskilled or semi-skilled labour. Many examples of responsible tourism come from rural areas, where tourism may be the only formal sector employment. Tourism’s employment impact can also be highly significant in urban and coastal areas with higher population densities.
Second, indirect effects occur through the tourism value chain. Tourism draws on inputs from the food and beverage, construction, transportation, furniture, SME and many other sectors. Evidence suggests that in developing countries, this inter-sectoral impact adds an extra 60-70 percent on top of the direct effects of tourism.
Third, tourism has a wide range of dynamic effects. Tourism development can affect the livelihoods strategies of local households, the business climate for small enterprise development, partners of growth of the local or national economy, and the infrastructure or natural resource base of the destination.
Fourth, tourism has proven impact on development. Despite its proven impact and development potential, recent data show only 0.09 percent of total official development assistance and 0,4 percent of total Aid-for-Trade disbursements were allocated for tourism.
By bringing key partners together for increasing aid for sustainable tourism, the sector can produce development results. Tourism has strong linkages with other productive sectors and value chain that provides employment opportunities for women and youth and can stimulate entrepreneurship in other productive sectors.
Achieving sustainable tourism is not only the preserve of government, international development agencies or the private sector.
Active citizens engagement, for instance, by simply adopting the notion of reduce, reuse and recycle in our day to day activities, and getting involved in programmes aimed in conservation of the environment and our national heritage, wet lands and keeping our cities, towns, villages and safaris clean will go a long way.
The United Nations remains committed in this journey.
Bishow Parajuli is the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Zimbabwe.