An Africa Business Community
Tourism creates both risks and opportunities on a fairly large scale. Tourism generates an increase in commercial development and economic activity, which can increase consumptive pressure on natural resources in general as well as directly destroying environmental assets through development.
This is particularly true in coastal areas where tourism developments tend to be particularly dense in prime areas and environmental impacts commensurately high.
The flip side of the coin is that tourism, when linked directly to natural resources such as wildlife, forests, or coral reefs, can provide an important economic rationale, both locally and nationally, for environmental conservation.
In eastern African countries such as Tanzania and Mozambique, which are among the poorest in the world and where the chief priority of both governments and local citizens is to increase incomes and economic opportunities, such economic incentives are essential for sustainable conservation policy and practice.
For example, Tanzania has one of the world’s largest networks of state protected areas. These areas such as Serengeti, Lake Manyara, and Kilimanjaro National Parks, are in turn the foundation for the country’s rapidly growing tourism industry.
Without the income and other socioeconomic benefits generated by tourism there would be little public justification for maintaining such a vast protected area estate at the exclusion of other economic activities.
The dual nature of tourism development as both a threat and opportunity to the environment is fundamental to determining how to construct a strategic approach to the industry from a conservation perspective.
Sustainable tourism requires striking a balance and developing models of tourism development that create strong local and national conservation incentives, while creating disincentives for the types of overdevelopment that can ‘kill the golden goose’.