BY ISSA YUSSUF, 5 SEPTEMBER 2012
Experts from various countries worldwide met in Zanzibar mid last month to discuss various issues on tourism industry in developing countries. The International Conference on Sustainable Tourism in Developing Countries was organized by the University of Dar es Salaam Business School (UDBS), Marketing Department.
Dr John Philemon, the Conference Coordinator said the August 8 and 9 meeting at Zanzibar Beach Resort in Zanzibar was to “deliberate on findings emanating from various researchers on matters pertaining to the industry, as well as practical experiences that would offer solutions to numerous problems facing the tourism industry in developing countries.”
The conference, attracted participants from Uganda, Kenya, Botswana, Israel, Nigeria, South Korea, Iran, Mexico, Sweden, United Kingdom and hosting Tanzania. Some delegates came from Namibia, New Zealand, South Africa, United States and Germany.
In his speech to open the conference, Zanzibar second vice president ambassador Seif Ali Iddi said friendly eenvironment are important in promoting sustainable tourism in developing countries with a focus on cultural tourism, capacity development, and awareness in conservation.
“It is now common knowledge that social and economic development in African and other developing countries depends considerable on establishment and development of small and medium size enterprises,” the vice president said in his speech read by Mr Said Ali Mbarouk, Minister for tourism, on his behalf.
He said that the enterprises are now greatly in tourism sector, therefore the need for sustainable tourism remains crucial in developing “our countries,” as most of the participants mainly students, lecturers, and tourism operators from 15 countries mainly African countries nodded in support.
Several papers were presented at the conference being held at the Zanzibar Beach Resort, with emphasis on sustainable tourism to involve conservation, environmental integrity, social justice and economic development, aiming at benefiting people.
The Vice Chancellor of the University of Dar es Salaam Prof Rwekiza Mukandala also observed that sustainable tourism was important at this era when sustainable tourism plays a big role in economical development.
The World Tourism Organization defines sustainable tourism as “tourism which leads to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems.”
In addition WTO describes the development of sustainable tourism as a process which meets the needs of present tourists and host communities whilst protecting and enhancing needs in the future.
It explains further that sustainable development (including tourism) is about making sure that people throughout the world can satisfy their basic needs now, while making sure that future generations can also look forward to the same quality of life, it should recognise that the three ‘pillars’ – the economy, society and the environment – are interconnected.
But according to the researchers, and stakeholders at the meeting, although in many developing countries like Tanzania, there have been efforts to develop tourism, little efforts is being taken to overcome challenges facing the tourism sector and particularly how it could be improved, and alternative tourism products managed so as to maximize their contribution to economic development and poverty alleviation.
Mr Simon Ole Seno, from the school of natural Resources management- Narok University College, Kenya also mentioned another challenge of the tourism market is almost entirely controlled by both the tourism companies and the tourists of the developed countries, with little benefits by local people surrounding the tourist sights.
Local people and Members of Parliaments (MPs) have been also complaining about the foreign dominance of the tourism industry. Many hotels are owned by foreigners, most staffs in hotels are foreigners, and most tourists are foreigners! With only few benefit for local people.
Members of the Zanzibar House of Representatives (MPs in Zanzibar) have repeatedly that the tourism sector is dominated by foreigners contrary to the isles ambition of establishing the industry three decades ago.
At Tourism conference, participants urged governments in developing countries to focus at training local people to work in hotels instead of foreigners, motivate local investors to invest in tourism business, improve infrastructure, and over come other challenges.
Mr Sudhanshu Shekhar Mahato, Lecturer, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, School of Social Science College of Humanities and Social Science, University of Dodoma says, “Although there has been substantial growth in the number of tourist in the recent years, but it is difficult even to maintain the trend in the absence of improvement in the existing infrastructure and facilities.”
Mahato said expanding business in tourism, means individual government in developing countries have to overcome some of the existing challenges in the tourism industry which include infrastructure, poor hotel services, climate change, maintaining good relations with local people, wild fire, drought and migration, and security in the country and tourist sights.
Infrastructure: plays a vital role with regards to convenient movement of people both from inside and outside the country. Access to different parts of the Tanzania and Zanzibar by roads, railway, air is most suitable from comfortable point of view as well as the travelling cost is concerned.
Hotel Services: Hotel services throughout the country are limited especially at the tourist spots. This gives no option for the tourist to make a choice but to opt for what is available at hand although the prices are very high in comparison to the facilities available.
Climate Change: One of the significant issues that have posed to be a matter of serious concern to the government, researchers and social activist in the recent years is the impact of climatic change experienced by water bodies specially.
The dropping down of water level in Lake Victoria due to climatic change is very threatening. Similarly loosing of glaciers from Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in the African continent by almost 80 percent since 1912 and rising water level in Indian Ocean undoubtedly suggest the consequence of climatic change. Beach erosion has become almost a regular feature in recent years, mitigation could help.
Eviction of people from the National Park Area: A good number of people, who have inhabited the areas from generation after generation, are forcefully evicted when the government lease out the area for industrialization and other reasons. This threatens the social harmony in the region.
Although efforts are made for their resettlement and compensation but the compensation paid is not adequate to meet their requirement especially in terms of recreation of their livelihood.
Wild fire: Besides acute shortage of water, the spread of wild fire is equally a great threat to flora and fauna of the regions. A number of species are endangered because of either natural or manmade fire that engulfs the insect and small animals particularly.
Drought and migration of animals: During dry season in general and droughts situation in particular compels the huge migration of animals from one region to another either in search of food to meet their hunger or looking for water to quench their thirst.Since there is no physical boundary to restrict their movement, there exists every possibility of a large number of animals entering into the neighbouring territory.
Security: Although developing nations like Tanzania in African continent can proudly boast of not having a civil war or the act of terrorism as mostly reported in other developing countries but the maintenance of such temperament itself is a big challenge for the government. Mere negligence of the government might spark an ignition that would cause huge pay particularly to this growing industry serving as the backbone of the nation’s economy.
Presenting a paper at the tourism conference on “the Impact of 2011 post elections violence and “Boko Haram” insurgency on tourism development in northern Nigeria…” Mr Ibrahim Sani Kankara from the department of history and security studies at the Umaru Musa Yar’adua University, Katsina state, Nigeria said that the development of tourism industry in Katsina that was established over long period time has been greatly destabilized over the period.
“Katsina state is the centre of origin of Hausa people and at the same time an important centre of learning in the West African sub-region. The historical development in the area had left Katsina with legacies of historical sites and monuments that attracted people from different continents as tourist over the last century,” said Ibrahim adding
“The government in the area over the years have committed millions naira to burst and improve the tourism potentialities through building of roads and providing basic amenities in order to give the tourist site a world class outlook. But, with 2011 post election violence that erupted after the April elections and the present Boko Haram insurgency in the Northern Nigeria region economic activities were greatly affected.”
Tourism in Zanzibar which relies heavily on biodiversity with several wonderful sights from historical sights, culture, to the sandy beaches on its coastline, is a major foreign exchange earner with about 80 percent. It now employs over 40,000 people including those employed indirectly.