From its renowned warm hospitality and the bustling markets of Lusaka, to the wilds spanning from Mosi oa Tunya to Meru National Park, Zambia is abundant in all of the elements of a travel experience built on the nation’s natural and cultural heritage assets. The travel and tourism industry has a critical role to play not only in showcasing these assets – the nation’s best – but also in protecting them.
Those who take on this responsibility can be credited for doing their part to safeguard the future of the destination, and deserve to be recognised for it. Connecting them to the market demand for such sustainable tourism practices underpinned a recent collaboration between The Netherlands’ Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI) and Fair Trade Tourism (FTT).
In 2019 CBI started the 5-year Sustainable Tourism Zambia programme to position the country as a stand-alone destination to attract sustainability-aware European tourists that stay longer, spend more and undertake a greater variety of activities. CBI supports incoming tour operators and small and mid-range lodges to have a clear understanding on how to better serve different European niche markets such as adventure, eco- and safari tourism with improved, diversified products and innovative product packages. Furthermore, CBI works together with several tourism institutions in order to present Zambia’s tourism offer more effectively, enhance sector collaboration, and sustainably develop different tourism regions in the country.
In support of CBI’s programme, Fair Trade Tourism (FTT) was invited to provide an option for sustainability certification in the destination. FTT is a not-for-profit company with a 20-year track record of offering business support, networking, marketing, and certification to develop, endorse, and promote sustainable tourism in Africa. To date, FTT’s services have been available in South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe, so the invitation to support CBI’s programme in Zambia was a welcome opportunity.
FTT’s Lisa Scriven confirmed that the timing is ideal. “Industry collaboration to find accessible, context-appropriate solutions for tourism to contribute to more resilient destinations is essential. As a regionally developed initiative, FTT is well suited to adapt in support of the necessary sustainable business innovation that speaks to the specific development priorities of African destinations. What’s more, with the increasing market demand for sustainable tourism experiences and the urgency for tourism to play its part in taking climate action, ensuring inclusivity in tourism, and conserving biodiversity, now is the time for the sector to position accordingly.”
Studies suggest that the pandemic served as the tipping point for travellers to be more mindful about their holiday decision-making.
Recent research conducted by Booking.com, Expedia, the World Travel & Tourism Council (and more) across more than 30 countries showed that between 70 and 90% of travellers stated that the “pandemic has influenced them to want to travel more sustainably”. With 73% in Booking.com’s studies saying “authentic experiences that are representative of the local culture” are high on their list, and a convincing 76% indicating that they want the “economic impact of their travel choices to be spread equally across all levels of society”. These are precisely the characteristics that simultaneously benefit destinations, that FTT’s systems are designed to support, and that are independently verified by businesses that choose to become FTT-certified.
Local auditors have now been trained by FTT, ensuring that those most familiar with Zambia’s tourism sector and development priorities are equipped to independently verify that the requirements for Fair Trade Tourism certification are being met.