An excert from The Ecologist- Tanzania: can the country's booming eco-tourism sector ever be truly green?
From local participation to wildlife conservation, Tanzania’s green tourism projects show how responsible travellers and tour operators can improve lives and ecosystems - but there's still much to do.
Tourist trips to developing countries is increasing by six per cent per year. Twenty per cent of these new tourists go to Africa, with Morocco, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania scooping up the majority. So what’s driving the trend? The answer is eco-tourism. Ecotourism appeared as early as the 1960’s in Kenya, when hunters in search of game flocked to the savannas and forests, providing an economic reason for conservation. Since then, eco-tourism - happily minus hunting - has become the fastest growing sub-sector of the tourist industry. With an annual growth rate of between 10 and 15 per cent worldwide, it’s no wonder that the travel industry regards it as a sort of wonder pill. But what exactly is eco-tourism and is it really as green as it’s supposed to be?
Some see eco-tourism as a marketing ploy. Others regard it as a genuine effort to imaginatively dispose of waste, employ and train local people, preserve the environment and support local communities. Obviously prominent sprinklers on the lawns of some of the big hotels in Dar-Es-Salaam are a bit of a giveaway, as are daily deliveries of imported strawberries and foie gras to luxury South African boltholes. Ironically, it is often the smaller, independent lodges who are best at involving local communities in macro tourist initiatives but they are also the ones who find it most difficult: long-term training, secure employment and monitoring whether profits really are ploughed back into their surrounding villages is expensive and labour intensive. Rob Barbour, of AfrikaAfrika runs four eco-camps in Tanzania. He’s one of a handful of travel operators here who uses his imagination, thinking broadly, laterally and holistically. Uniquely he employs a trained, local community co-ordinator and the salaries he pays are higher than normal. His challenges include involving locals in the development of the camps, reducing poaching with snares and encouraging work such as beekeeping. For him, eco-tourism has to include secure employment. He says: ‘Promotion of ethical working practices has to come from within. It has to come from the top. It has to be done with communities in mind. Involving local communities is not a difficult thing to do. You have to build trust and the best way to do that is to always deliver on the things you say you are going to deliver on with no exceptions. Always keep the communication channels open to the community - tell them your issues and problems and ask them to do the same.’
Link to complete article written by Themi Mutch