Experts meet to discuss sustainable tourism in Southern Africa

An ad-hoc Experts Group Meeting preceding the 18th Intergovernmental Committee of Experts was officially opened on February 28 by the UN Resident Co-ordinator for Mauritius & Seychelles, Ms Leyla Tegmo-Reddy.

The two day meeting was convened on the theme, ‘Harnessing natural resources for sustainable development: opportunities and challenges in the tourism sector in Southern Africa’. According to the Southern Africa Subregional Office of the Economic Commission for Africa, (ECA), the meeting was aimed at bringing together experts to exchange ideas on economic conditions and topical issues pertaining to the region.

In her opening remarks, Ms Tegmo-Reddy said that the discussion on the interface between tourism and the sustainable use of our natural resources in light of threats that developing States face when it comes to tourism was critical and topical. She said that a regional approach will be important to inform national initiatives “Tourism is one of the sectors in which all the countries in the sub-region have a common stake and which holds the promise not only as an avenue for economics diversification, but also a sector where all citizens participate.”

She however, expressed concern over the current threat to the global economy due to the Euro crisis, which she cautioned could slow down progress made towards poverty reduction and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

ECA’s Officer-in-Charge for the southern Africa Office Mr Sizo Mhlanga, in his welcoming remarks said that tourism held massive potential as a growth pole for southern Africa, a region rich in bio-diversity, eco systems and other natural resources that support the economy and livelihood of its habitants. “Tourism should be viewed as a vehicle for expanding the economic space while ensuring environmental sustainability through integrating community based resource management, greening as a viable option, reducing pollution and protecting the Eco system.”

He congratulated the Government of Mauritius for leading the region in sustainable tourism and appealed to the experts to deliberate and offer strategies and recommendations on how member States can harmonize policies with other sectors such as trade, finance, immigration, transport and communication, “to create a conducive environment for tourism to flourish.” He added that particular attention should focus on sustainable management of tourism, inclusion of local communities and fair trade practices.

The meeting was attended by experts from the United Nations system and Southern Africa region, including COMESA. Recommendations from the meeting will be submitted to the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts meeting taking place from 1-2nd March, also hosted by the Government of Mauritius.

Source: CSR Africa.Net – 29 Feb 2012