Sustainable tourism is quite a wide concept and by extension a long term goal. Its success depends on how clearly the government can achieve a difference from the other destinations in competition.
It is true that tourism has become the backbone of our economy and much effort has to be put into sustaining it. Over the last few decades, the concept of sustainable tourism has been a subject of increasing attention. It is therefore an objective of every county, an initiative of all the county governments through their environment ministries and collective responsibility of the citizens to ensure sustainable tourism by 2030.
Internationally, the tourism practice is proving that whichever the kind of tourism a country is involved in, in the long run it must affect the social and environmental part in the particular county involved. So much has to be done for the realisation of this vision.
First of all, the government should begin by building local capacity. Good businesses in the tourism industry do not operate independent of those communities in which they are based but they should collaborate with the businesses in those areas to establish a positive and a good self sufficient capacity at that level. This involves participation by the local county government by developing plans for strategic development of local regional tourism and to help in developing particular projects. This increases the locals’ participation towards promoting sustainable tourism by 2030.
Secondly, a wide consultation should also be done among all the interest groups which includes those in the administration, transport sectors, farmers and custodians of historical assets in the particular area. It is important to realise that the success of tourism a greater part depends on the goodwill of the locals more than the other industries.
The locals must be happy with the visitors and the security of the knowledge that the presence of the visitors around will not affect their operations both socially, economically and even politically and that they will not impose values that are not welcomed in their society. This can easily be achieved when the locals are engaged by involving them in dialogues relating to the influence of tourism in that particular area.
Another issue is about establishing a code of practice or way of doing things for the benefit of tourism at all levels. This includes the national and regional levels based on international standards. At this point, there is establishment of guidelines for tourism operations, impact assessment, monitoring of cumulative impacts and limits to acceptable change.
Education and awareness are equally important. Education of tourists and the impact generated by them helps in improving their personal attitude towards the environment, reducing negative impacts to the environment for example through ecological education. A campaign should be carried out and local citizens involved. Training programmes to improve and manage heritage and natural resources should be established. Awareness of sustainable tourism issues should also be improved among staff in developing business plans as this will assist in terms of streamlining development and approval processes.
Another very important initiative towards sustainable tourism involves the use of resources sustainably. This can be done by reducing overconsumption and wastage. Sustainability in this case is the one in which a new development doesn’t damage natural, social or cultural diversity. Making good use of the environmental resources that constitute a vital component in tourism development, maintains essential ecological processes and help to conserve natural heritage.
Finally, long term operations are needed to provide socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders that are equally distributed including employment that is stable as well as income earning opportunities and services that will benefit the local communities. Adding value achieves a richer tourism experience by helping diversify the local economy. This includes and not limited to accommodation and conference facilities in association with established industries.
Organisations should also identify new development opportunities based on heritage and ensure that tourism policies that are sustainable are being advanced throughout their area of interest. With this, we will be on our way as a country to achieving the threshold of sustainable tourism in relation to Vision 2030.
Sidney Opiyo is an Environmental Science student at Machakos University and a youth policy and environmental sustainability advocate.