As a passionate conversationist, I believe we must preserve the natural world that we have inherited, both because respect for the environment is one of my core values, but also because we all depend on the wildlife, biodiversity and natural resources of our planet – they are inextricably linked to our identities, cultures and livelihoods.
For those of us who work in the hospitality industry, the link between our country’s abundant biodiversity and natural resources to our tourism industry is clear. Visitors come to see wildlife and nature thriving, and so they must be protected. Tourism, in turn, is a vital part of our economy, creating employment and empowering communities in towns and rural locations.
In my role at Weeva, I'm working with tourism professionals in Africa and around the world to use tech to support them to build a resilient and sustainable industry.
Research suggests that tourism could create 14 million new jobs across Africa over the next decade. But the UNWTO also estimates that tourism accounts for around 10% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, whilst also putting strain on natural resources like water, increasing pollution and putting strain on delicate ecosystems.
As a young professional woman in the tourism industry, I’ve realised that we cannot wait for those in positions of leadership to make all the changes.
In fact, if we’re allowed and encouraged to take action by employers the experience can both be empowering and foster loyalty. You don’t need a masters in sustainability to get started, you just need the right guidance.
There are many resources out there that can help you to think through the impact your work is having. If we, the next generation, are granted the authority, tools and trust to make sustainable decisions, we can improve prospects for our environment and our economy.
Encourage young people to step up, and we will become ambassadors and agents of change for our companies and industry, as well as for the local communities and environment in which we operate.
Leaders must engage frontline staff
Leaders and managers in Africa’s tourism industry need to engage those working on the frontline of hospitality and encourage a collective approach to stewardship of our environment. Many people working in tourism aren’t highly educated, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t seek to respect nature – if we train them and help them to identify areas for change, they can make a huge difference.
Individual employees at all levels can and should be encouraged to make small adjustments to their work. Domestic workers, drivers and conservationists can all be asked to step up and make changes in their daily routines.
Protecting nature can happen in the everyday — replacing towels only when necessary, not leaving the taps running when washing vegetables and turning the lights off behind you. It means ensuring that guests leave no litter on game drives, that food waste is kept to a minimum and that harsh cleaning chemicals don’t make their way into the water system. These are small changes that collectively make a big difference.
Sometimes moving towards sustainable choices is inconvenient or involves more work, so employees will need regular encouragement to stick with it! It is by understanding what motivates individual employees to go the extra mile that managers can design the most effective engagement strategies that resonate with their staff.
Create a space for different perspectives
Creating a space for different perspectives and ideas to be shared helps employees be better informed and see the bigger sustainability picture. For example, employees responsible for waste collection and management can propose recycling solutions and open a new sustainability avenue for the business.
Asking for their input can help foster a sense of confidence in their ability to be proactive in developing solutions. Inclusiveness is a remarkable way of tapping into employees' undiscovered talent and passion.
And where sustainability stars emerge, leadership needs to recognise their contribution and celebrate it. Managers and owners must provide their committed employees with inspiration and purpose to fuel their passion and enable them to become long-term sustainability champions.
I, for one, belong to a generation whose heart is in creating a more sustainable future. The need to change our ways and become more sustainable is too urgent to wait for directives to be issued from on high.
Everybody can make a difference and I pride myself in knowing the positive change that I can trigger in the hospitality industry. Empowering employees who, like me, are committed to a sustainability course is betting on a long, successful future for the industry for generations to come.
The future of our planet’s biodiversity and the beauty of our land is, quite literally in tourism, everyone’s business.