This week, Ichipululu presents two perspectives on tourism and in no way assumes a position on the matter although. You are advised to make a careful study of the matter and make a balanced and well informed opinion.

Why do some people go away from home for a brief few weeks every year? Could it be that life at home become routine and boring? Some people have argued that the modern sedentary way of life especially in the developed world is so fixed and predictable that desire for change and excitement drives people abroad for tours. Some scholars such as PLO Lumumba have even argued that people from developed countries go abroad because there is little to attract and/or excite them at home. The amount and variety of native wildlife in Europe, America and parts of Asia have been killed off in the name of progress and development. Do you agree?

Tourism is loosely defined as the travel for pleasure or business. When a large number of visitors go to one place to sightsee some landmark, animals or heritage sites it is called mass tourism.

Countries like Kenya have developed their tourism sector as an important sector that has a significant impact on the development of that country’s economy. Tourism has the potential to generate income, create jobs for local people (who could work as guides, creators of artefacts, curios etc.), and infrastructure development to mention a few. It is no wonder that developing countries like Zambia are keen to develop tourism in order to become.

Notwithstanding the numerous benefits that tourism has, it would seem that it has contributed to some serious damage on the most fragile ecosystems. In some places like the Mediterranean coastlines, more than 100 million visitors each year crowd beaches, littering sea area which eventually chock aquatic ecological system. In East Africa, Kenya has become so fashionable that wild animals are totally unconcerned by the clusters of minibuses that crowd around them. Fragile ecosystems are killed by off road vehicles chasing the big five mammals. For the tourists, the concern is more on what they could snap on their happy-snappy camera holiday makers. While chasing the big five other animals are disturbed and run over just for a happy holiday photo. Is that healthy?

Loss of indigenous tree species in tourism active areas is also a big problem; local people who are into making curios cut down trees minus planting back. Suffice to say, infrastructure development in sensitive wildlife corridors has the potential to disturb the abundance and distribution of wildlife resources.

More natural wonders such as falls and heritage sites in parts of the world have come under immense pressure.  Additionally, vehicles that go in the national parks affect the flora and fauna by soil compaction. Soil compaction has negative impacts on the growth of flora and for barrowing fauna.  Tourism could very quickly destroy the fragile beauty of Zambia, too.

If tourism is not good for the diversity of species in the environment, should it be ruled out completely? Not quite. Zambia could adopt ecological tourism with deliberate measures aimed at regulating the flow of tourists. For instance, visits to national parks as well as visits to National Heritage sites such as the Victoria falls should be regulated.

Let us be wise in our development, and learn from the devastation that has been caused elsewhere. We should emulate the Rwandans and offer very exclusive and very expensive experience to a few, rather than go for the fatal ‘quick buck’ which will leave a country in ruins. Quick buck means providing massive tourist infrastructure, that costs more foreign exchange than the tourists bring in, deprives people of their traditional way of life, cheapens the country’s heritage and has a very limited lifespan.

Every year virgin holiday destinations are sought, the process is a very vicious cycle. In order to cater for the influx of tourists, hotels have to be built, roads to be graded and/or paved usually in places of natural beauty. Standards of accommodation will require the importation of materials and furnishings for them. Services demanded by the tourist draw people into hotel employment and off the land sometimes by force. Food preferences mean importation of the alien foodstuffs.

Some researchers are of the view that developing countries like Zambia should not be blinded by the potential ‘quick buck’ income arising from tourism because a lot of it goes straight out again, hence forfeiting more than what is gained! We are forfeiting more than we gain! We may also be forfeiting our natural heritage and our national pride.

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Wildlife & Environmental Conservation Society of Zambia

P.O. Box 30255, Lusaka, Zambia.

Telefax: 260-211-251630, Cell: 0977-780770

E-mail: wecsz@mircolink.zm or wecszzam@gmail.com

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