• Friday, July 12, 2024
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Why Africa needs to invest in sustainable, inclusive tourism

Why Africa needs to invest in sustainable, inclusive tourism

Imagine waking up one day unable to enjoy travel or experience the majesty of nature, no longer enjoy a walk on the beach, a hike up a mountain, take in that sunset view, or enjoy your favourite tourist experience. While this is unimaginable, it is not impossible, given the trajectory we are on. At the rate at which we are going as a society, such a day is unimaginable, but not impossible. This is because we have come to know tourism as an integral part of our lives, even when you are broke, you always dream of a holiday.

But similarly, not making the right decisions today will haunt us tomorrow and rob our kids of tourism. Tourism is woven into the fabric of our dreams and aspirations; it is a cornerstone of our economic vitality. Yet, it is a sector in peril, not just from the recent global health crisis but from a more long-term threat that will rob us and generations to come—climate change.

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Today, we commemorate UNWTO’s World Tourism Day, dedicated to the crucial theme of ‘Tourism and Green Investments.’ This comes just days after witnessing heart-wrenching natural calamities like the floods in Cape Town, the most beautiful city in the world as recently named by The Telegraph and KwaZulu Natal. These events are more than just headlines; they are cautionary tales. Tourism in Africa predominantly capitalizes on our irreplaceable natural beauty, and any harm to it is a direct blow to our industry. As we focus on sustainable tourism recovery, it calls for all players in tourism and hospitality to make sure the green investments are made today to secure the future of tourism.

It is baffling that tourism often takes a backseat in policy discussions and investment planning. The sector is overlooked in favour of more “glamorous and lucrative” industries like mining, neglecting its critical role in economic development. We must transform this outlook, especially in South Africa where there is an urgent need to make tourism more inclusive and representative. The industry needs targeted investment in education and up-skilling, with a focus on women and SMEs, who constitute a significant portion of our tourism workforce.

UNWTO emphasizes the triple pillar investment strategy: People, Planet, and Prosperity. However, the big question remains—why should we even need to be told this? It should be common sense. Tourism’s sidelining by our leaders isn’t just negligent; it’s catastrophic for a sector that has enormous economic potential.

The need for green investment in tourism has never been more crucial. Hotels alone present a $24.7 trillion investment opportunity in green buildings by 2030. Accelerating climate innovation and supporting new technologies and business models are not just ethical choices; they are smart, future-proof investments.

Private actors must step up. We need zero-emission pathways, renewable energy adoption, and more sustainable business practices. For our sector to survive and thrive we must close the gender gap in financing and promote women entrepreneurs who bring innovation and societal values to the table. The message is clear. If we act now, if we truly invest in sustainable and inclusive tourism, we safeguard not just an industry but also our environment, our cultural heritage, and indeed, our future. Strategies and policies are meaningless without action. It’s time to hold our leaders accountable and demand implementation.

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Let this World Tourism Day serve as a call to action. As we rebuild post-pandemic, let us strive for a tourism industry that our children and grandchildren can not only enjoy but also be proud of. The time for green investment is now, and the future is watching.

Nomasonto Ndlovu is the acting chief executive officer, South African Tourism