For many Mozambican tourism operators 2019 will go on the record as one of the most disappointing years yet. Just when it seemed that tourism was finally beginning to justify all the time and effort that operators had invested, along comes cyclones Idai and Kenneth leaving devastation in their wake.
Add to this the unrest in Cabo Delgado and the unpredictability of an election year and it becomes obvious why tourists chose to stay away. For operators in the Quirimbas Archipelago its been particularly heartbreaking
The climate emergency
Extreme weather events are going to become more frequent because of climate change. Destinations like Mozambique are vulnerable and need to focus on building resilience into the tourism sector if there is to be any future
To do this we can learn from the response of other destinations in similar situations.
Caribbean case study
Tourists have long flocked to the Caribbean to enjoy the turquoise water, islands and diverse cultural experiences. Tourism is the lifeblood of the Caribbean economy, and comprises 40% of the region’s GDP and employs 13.4% of the people. However, challenges include better harnessing the region’s natural capital in a sustainable way and making the tourism sector more resilient to natural disasters.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria
In 2017, category five hurricanes Irma and Maria caused destruction similar to Idai and Kenneth and clearly demonstrated the environmental vulnerability of Caribbean destinations. A conference was held.
Key conference points included:
The first action was to initiate a public-private effort to rebrand the region, to mitigate the perception of risk that all Caribbean destinations were devastated following the hurricanes, and to show that the region is open for business.
The key word for the conference was resilience: not only how to build back better, but also how to build resilience into the everyday management of tourism, how to be better prepared, how to manage a crisis, and how to ensure greater shared economic and social benefits from tourism in the region.
Sustainable tourism development can help build resilience and can also offer destinations many additional benefits, including environmental conservation and jobs for women, young people and indigenous communities. Updating infrastructure to more modern and disaster-resilient designs help destinations remain competitive, and more quickly recover after a crisis whether this be climatic or economic.
Inclusion is another ingredient to successful tourism industries in the developing world. Program Leader for Latin American and Caribbean region, reiterated the commitment to tourism as a poverty alleviation tool, and many of the delegates recognized the role of women and SMEs in tourism: for instance, women make up 60-70% of the labor force in the hotel sector, and in some countries, tourism has twice as many women employers than other sectors. Tourism is linked to all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and speakers at the conference stressed the point that more needs to be done to ensure the positive benefits of tourism reach local farmers and fisher folk.
Blue economy approach to growth
The three-day event culminated in a 15-point commitment to action that outlines the need for greater regional cooperation, improved crisis preparedness, and a Blue Economy approach to growth that recognizes and values ocean health for all economic activities in the region, particularly tourism.
The conference marks an important shift beyond the acknowledgement of tourism as a development tool and job creator to the responsibility to build more resilient and inclusive tourism sectors that sustain both the environment and people of small island states.
It’s time for Mozambique’s tourism sector to build resilience
Conference report can be found at https://blogs.worldbank.org/psd/resilience-sustainability-and-inclusive-growth-tourism-caribbean