Ecotourism key to natural heritage preservation in climate change war

Herds of wildebeest and zebras at the Maasai Mara game reserve.  

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

In recent months, rains have been ravaging Kenya, resulting in devastating floods that swept across the country, leaving an indelible mark on the country's landscape and people.

From the plains of the Maasai Mara to the streets of Nairobi, the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly hard to ignore. This situation is not unique to Kenya; our neighbours in Tanzania and Burundi have faced a similar situation.

As we grapple with these environmental challenges, we must rethink our approach to travel and tourism in the region. Ecotourism, with its emphasis on sustainability and community benefits, offers a path that can help mitigate the impacts of climate change while preserving Kenya's rich natural heritage.

The recent floods are a stark reminder of our vulnerability to climate change. It has resulted in significant challenges for local and urban communities, disrupted wildlife habitats, and destroyed vital tourism infrastructure.

Experts warn that such extreme weather patterns are likely to become more common as global temperatures rise. This not only threatens Kenya's biodiversity but also its tourism industry, which is a significant component of the economy considering it was rated the best-performing sector in Kenya.

Ecotourism should be regarded as a critical solution to the challenges affecting tourism sites as a result of the adverse effects of climate change. By focusing on conservation, education, and community engagement, ecotourism ensures that tourism activities do not harm the environment but rather contribute to its preservation.

Take, for instance, the Maasai Mara, where many establishments were partially or fully submerged. This resulted in disruptions of tourism activities, displaced animals, and loss of revenue.

How can we address the issue? Tourism operators must integrate sustainable practices into their operations. Stakeholders need to take the lead in supporting and initiating conservation projects. We have an opportunity to implement green practices, such as minimising carbon footprints and supporting local conservation projects. We can encourage travellers to play a significant role in promoting sustainability by making conscious choices.

Sustainable tourism not only protects the environment but also brings substantial benefits to local communities. By embracing ecotourism, we can protect Kenya's natural treasures, support local communities, and build a resilient future.

The writer is managing director at Hemingways Travel.

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