A few thoughts on Sustainable Tourism

Progress Namibia - A few thoughts on Sustainable Tourism
29 January 2018

Namibia prides itself on sustainable tourism. In fact, many of our lodges declare that their operations are sustainable. Namibia, thanks to a few pioneers some years ago, even has 'Eco-Awards': a mark of distinction for accommodation establishments that are planned and managed according to sustainability principles. Many tourism operators are certified under this programme. However, having traveled recently around the campsites and lodges of southern Namibia, it is surprising how some lodges that hail sustainability have some operations not completely aligned to the key principles. Case in point, and most notably, with regard to water use. Some lodges in the middle of the Namib Desert, a place that has little to no rainfall, with aquifers that have little to no recharge (despite having quite a bit of water) have more than one open swimming pool (quite a few have two, some have even three pools), have large lawns, and have sprinklers going during the middle of the day. I understand water recycling takes place in many such circumstances, but water sprinklers on a green lawn in the middle of the desert does not seem very thoughtful. In addition, how are we thinking about technologies regarding flush toilets - the fact that we are flushing drinking water down toilets in desert environments should be viewed as nothing short of ridiculous. With other lodges, it is hard to see the socio-economic role they have the region. These few examples are important things to consider, and most notably indicators to measure such things need to be holistic in nature. The Eco-Awards criteria have good focus (e.g. water use, energy consumption, staff development programmes).

We thought it important to outline the overall principles that govern sustainable tourism - so that you can make your decision as both a possible consumer, and a possible tourism operator, on what to support and how to run. The key principles include:
  1. Use of resources maintain ecological processes and help conserve natural resources and biodiversity in the long term;
  2. Respect for the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and contribute to inter-cultural understanding;
  3. Viable, long-term economic operations that provide socio-economic benefits to the area, including stable and empowering employment opportunities that promote social development in the area.
Overarching principles such as these are an important consideration in how we want to see our tourism futures come to fruition.

Picture Credit: http://desertcamp.com/pool.html