BY: Dennis S. Imaan(Guest Writer)
Tourism Final year Student and a Tourism and business Consultant
For starters, tourism is a multi-sector industry which connects a lot other product and service industries to create one big product namely the “Tourism Product”. Tourism is actually the fastest growing economic sector in the world which is now turning into a key driver for socio-economic progress. Today, tourism business only competes with oil exports, food products or automobiles.
Safe, Clean drinking water, still just a dream for many in the 21st century
So with a lot of Malawians not yet in terms with the industry, it is very clear that we are way behind on the revelations of what tourism can do for us and our economy! The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) shows a growth in international tourist’s arrivals of between 3% and 4% in 2013 which means that about 1 billion tourists will be on the move in 2013. This is according to the international tourist arrivals’ figures which show that tourists’ travels grew by nearly 4% in 2012 to 983 million and are expected to grow by the same percentage in 3013. Meanwhile, in 2011, international tourism generated US$1,032 billion in export earnings globally.
These numbers should be able to show us that tourism is big business and as a nation, we need to do more to get a good share of these dollars which are freely circulating in the industry. Now looking at this years’ World Tourism Day Theme; Tourism and Water: Protecting our common future, there must be a lot of questions on how the two link. So, “why are celebrating tourism and water in 2013?’
Tourism is one of the biggest consumers of water in the world and with ever increasing numbers of demanding tourists traveling every year, the demands for clean water have rapidly increased in the past few years.
The hotel industry relies on water for food preparation, cleaning and hygiene, guest comfort and recreation. Hotels also depend on their supply industries, such as agriculture and the food & drink industries, none of which would function without enough water. A number of variables affect the amount of water used in the accommodation industry, such as: Number of guest nights sold, total hotel floor area, presence of spa or pool facilities, climate zone (i.e. temperate, Mediterranean or tropical).
Landscaping and golf courses can dramatically alter the water bills for a resort. In a large hotel, a swimming pool can increase freshwater consumption by 10%. Plus, according to the Worldwide Fund for Nature, on average, a golf course uses around 1 million cubic metres per year (or the equivalent of the water consumption of a city of 12,000 inhabitants). I hope you get the picture here. So it is no secret that the tourism and hotel industries are one of the major consumers of water, not just water but fresh and clean water.
Consider the following facts about water to appreciate why issues of water though taken for granted by many of us need to be given special attention. Fact is that, 60% of the world’s freshwater is frozen in glaciers, 30% is in groundwater often deep below the earth’s surface, and 10% is in lakes, streams, and rivers. The amount of water on earth today is the same as when civilizations first arose thousands of years ago. Yet, the number of people needing water has increased dramatically. Also take note that only 2.5% of the earth’s water is fresh water and as if that is not enough, freshwater animal species are disappearing faster than land or sea animals. One major fact however is that; 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water in 2013! This therefore means that, in 2013, when 1 billion tourists will be traveling around the world, another 1 billion people will be going another day without safe, clean drinking water.
So for Malawi as a country, where do we stand? Lake Malawi also popularly known as The Lake of Stars is a fresh water lake and is one of the biggest Freshwater lakes in the world. This Lake has always been touted as the main attraction Malawi has apart from her ever smiling and charming people. The biggest thought however should be wherever we have enough activities on the lake to keep our visitors around for long enough and make them spend an extra dollar on those activities. We have always said this asset gives our tourism industry a competitive advantage in this part of Africa but how much have we invested in it? Have we introduced enough sports? Do we have any cruise ships that can offer our visitors a holiday on the lake? The questions are endless and that is why we must start looking for answers.
But one big question looking for answers is, “are we making sure that this extra dollar spent on these water sports by our visitors is making a meaningful impact on the lives of the local people?”
The whole reason tourism is said to be a leading economic sector is because; tourism is deliberately designed in a way that it benefits the locals. But if the development of a lakeside resort prevents the locals from having access to the lake which is their rightful source of income and drinking water and at the same time the lodge does not provide these locals with an alternative water source, then the whole concept of tourism has been missed. As the tourism sector grows, we now have a disproportionate hotel growth in coastal and island destinations, where arguably water scarcity and water equity issues are most pressing. An increased demand for high-end tourism accelerates water demand of new hotels and resorts.
In Malawi alone, about 30,000 people are dying every year from issues caused by dirty water. With this revelation, the tourism industry in Malawi and worldwide, must take responsibility to supply the communities they operate in with clean water as a way of giving back to these communities. It is disheartening to note that Malawi has a population of about 15.8 million people, 85% of which lives in rural areas, 52% lives on less than $1 a day 63% do not have access to clean water while our biggest attraction is a body of fresh water which if treated could be easily turned into safe clean water. The tourists are saved with fresh, safe, treated mineral water while the locals a stone throw away, can only drink from a dirty, muddy contaminated well.
Mzuzu university’s faculty of tourism and hospitality management is training managers, planners, entrepreneurs and other experts who are equipped with vast knowledge and expertise to make sure that the industry is reducing the carbon foot print through setting realistic goals & continuously monitoring results. Adoption of newer technologies and making sure that tourism is a vehicle for community development is what is emphasized in these courses. The faculty offers courses such as eco-tourism, responsible tourism, culture and heritage tourism and many more which aim to make sure that tourism benefits the locals and gives back to them!
This university therefore stands out as an institution that offers courses that are public oriented. Through a working collaboration with other faculties and departments such as the department of water management, the faculty of tourism and hospitality management, has the potential of putting Mzuzu University on top of all academic institutions in this country which offer public demand driven programmes and address global challenges outlined in the United Nations millennium development goals (MDGS). What the institution is instilling in its graduates is a rethink of how to deal with water and recognition of just how valuable it is — especially in a warming world.
That means focusing on modulating demand as much as increasing supply in the industry. Through most of the 20th century, governments dealt with water problems through massive construction projects designed to expand and regulate supply. This time around, the tourism sector in collaboration with other line departments, industries and stakeholders, can make this dream a reality by proving water in the communities that tourism activities take place.
TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE THE WATER DREAM A REALITY
It’s not bottled mineral water that they need! It’s only a simple borehole that provides the whole community with clean safe water that they need! Everyone’s dream to access safe, clean drinking water is possible! 1 billion travellers into a 1 Billion Clean water dream is very possible! Let’s make it happen.
By Dennis So’favoured Imaan (The author is a Tourism Final Year Student, former Tourism Students Association President and a Consultant with Deter Tourism Consultants. He blogs about Tourism on www.detertourism.typepad.com where you can also find this article and he is a guest writer for Tourism sections on Malawi Voices and Nyasa Times.)