Players in tourism are keen to invent new strategies to ensure sustainability of the lucrative industry amid calls the sector needed to move away from over-dependence on rain-fed water activities.
There are fears some tourism activities would in the long run be affected by climate change, in the wake of erratic and delayed rainfall patterns, rising temperatures and human activities.
Victoria Falls, the country’s prime tourism destination and tourism draw card through the Falls, relies largely on rainfall patterns as tourists enjoy one of the World’s Natural Wonders during the high water season, with rafting activities on the same Zambezi River also seasonal.
Game drives also depend on rainfall, with Zimparks resorting to artificial solar water pumping during the dry season to augment water availability and save wildlife for viewing.
Sector players comprising climate researchers, wildlife and water experts, strategists, tour operators and hoteliers met in Victoria Falls Friday afternoon for a climate change and tourism workshop to deliberate on possible measures to come up with a green tourism strategy.
Participants concurred on the urgent need for adoption of sustainable strategies to save the country’s major foreign currency earner.
Speaking at the event, Tourism Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu said besides natural climate changes, human activities posed a huge threat to the environment.
“Recent changes in climate have been attributed to human activity. These include massive burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas since the industrial revolution especially in developed countries.
“Developing countries are now also equally contributing to destroying the climate system mainly through poor land-use planning and unsustainable utilisation of natural resources such as charcoal production which are linked to the climate system,” said Ndlovu.
He said Zimbabwe is also bearing the brunt of climate change due to limited adaptive capacities, susceptibility to climate change impacts and general poverty.
Ndlovu bemoaned the effects of Cyclone Idai and drought that also led to death of over 200 elephants, adding that some climate sensitive tourism sites had also lost their sparkle.
He said Zimbabwe’s prime tourism destination, Victoria Falls which was also declared a special economic zone, has not been spared from the impacts of climate change which have over the years, reduced the Falls’ peak season.
While this year, Zambezi River experienced record inflows in more than a decade, over the past few years the Falls had not been the marvel attraction they are known for because of low water.
“Being a developing country, Zimbabwe is highly vulnerable to climate variability and change. Our prime tourist destination was not spared as the records show that it had one of the record low water flows.
“All this shows the urgent need for multi-stakeholder and multi-disciplinary approach to climate change within government together with private sector and partners including neighbouring countries need to raise awareness.
“It is time for enhanced renewable investments including use of solar geysers, protecting wetlands and promoting environmentally friendly constructions. It is possible to mainstream green tourism as Victoria Falls and indeed as a country.
“I believe it is not only possible but pretty much the only viable option going forward as we build a strong and resilient tourism industry with key enablers.
“Zimbabwe’s tourism sector dependence on water-bodies, flora and fauna which are all rain-fed require review and strategising.
“There is an urgent need for transformative approaches in the tourism sector towards sustainability and a need to craft sustainable strategies and interventions which are guided by the best available science,” said Ndlovu.