Building communities, saving nature.
The School of Tourism and Hospitality in collaboration with the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW) held its third biennial Africa Conference on Sustainable Tourism (ACOST) at Strathmore University. The conference sought to bring together trade professionals, academia, students, industry leaders and government officials from all over Africa for a unique learning, development and networking opportunity. Various presentations focusing on the five thematic areas: community and conservation; tourism and rural development; policy and governance; trends and innovation; tourism and human capital development were made over the three-day period.
“If we do not actively sustain our environment, our beloved Nairobi’s temperatures may rise to be as hot as Dubai” echoed Dr. Chiawo, Dean School of Tourism and Hospitality, who is passionate about sustainable tourism and has co-chaired and chaired this conference for the third time.
There are two key elements in sustainability; recognition and responsibility. Recognition helps us identify the resources that need to be maintained while responsibility is the action undertaken to sustain our resources. We were reminded that it is everyone’s responsibility to change their mindset about sustainability, and little actions such as collecting and disposing of litter in the appropriately allocated bins are steps towards sustaining our environment.
Over the years, ACOST has made tremendous steps forward and students have been and continue to be direct beneficiaries of the conference. Since its inception, students from the School of Tourism and Hospitality have had the opportunity to present, actively network and receive key insights on tourism research within the region. This has led to several students publishing their work from the motivation received at the conference. Moreover, the ACOST team is in the process of releasing their first peer-reviewed journal: African Journal of Sustainability Tourism which will showcase cutting-edge tourism research exclusive for Africa. All selected papers from this year’s conference and previous conferences will be published in the journal.
“You cannot marry academia with industry; rather they have to collaborate to make each other successful. One must be the check and balance of the other and each has a role to play and must do it for the benefit of all” were some of the sentiments shared by Prof. Richard Makopondo from the Technical University of Kenya.
The Government of Kenya has not been left behind. In 2014, the Kenya Tourism Board developed a sustainability policy that focuses on environmental conservation; education and empowerment; social responsibility; and culture and heritage preservation. During her keynote address, Dr. Betty Radier, CEO Kenya Tourism Board gave key insights on what the government is doing to ensure Kenya remains an attractive tourist destination both locally and internationally. She reminded us of the beauty of all our forty-seven counties and challenged each one of us to look beyond Mombasa as a holiday destination.
Tourism research, which was the cornerstone of the ACOST conference, must be done with utmost passion. The researcher needs a clear agenda and their research must be directed towards solving a current or future problem in the community. One also must put the necessary effort and time to collect enough data for analysis. It was echoed by various speakers that we need to ensure our research can be applied to address direct issues within our communities and that there is an urgent need to have a platform where research findings can be shared. This will encourage sustainable thinking in our communities.
It was an eye-opening experience and we are grateful to God for making it a success. We would like to leave you with two questions: Are you sustaining your environment? Are you enlightening others on ways to sustain your environment?
This article was written by Martha Munene and Anne Njoroge
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