Today, the 27th September, marks World Tourism Day, and for obvious reasons holds a great deal of significance for us here at African Impact. Responsible tourism is in our DNA. It’s what we champion on each volunteer project we run, and we get to see the positive impact it has on communities and wildlife conservation efforts every day.
The purpose of World Tourism Day is to raise awareness of the role that tourism plays on a responsible, sustainable and developmental level. With over 1.2 million travellers crossing international borders in 2016, there are enormous opportunities to enrich and empower communities worldwide.
In South Africa alone, 1 in 7 people put dinner on the table because of income from tourism. We know it has similar effects for hundreds of other countries around the world also. Fact is, tourism lifts economies, creates jobs and raises the quality of life for billions of people on the planet.
How can Tourism Contribute to Sustainable Development?
There are 5 key ways tourism can truly make the world a better place, as stated by the Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization this World Tourism Day.
1. Economic Benefits
Tourism, on a fundamental level, improves the economy, raising the wealth and status of a whole country.
2. Social Benefits
Tourism brings jobs, higher income and greater opportunities for individuals and families. It raises the quality of life for many people living in poverty and empowers whole communities.
3. Environmental Benefits
Tourism, when done responsibly, creates an awareness around important issues such as environmental and wildlife conservation, and can provide action.
4. Cultural Benefits
Tourism provides the opportunity to learn about, understand, respect and celebrate another culture.
5. Peace Benefits
Tourism bridges a gap between two cultures, creating a mutual respect that promotes peace.
How are African Impact contributing to the 5 pillars of tourism as a tool for sustainable development?
Responsible tourism takes the positive impact of tourism a step further. Being a responsible tourist is about having a positive influence on the country you visit, it’s people and their environment.
A great representation of this is the volunteer travel industry, which has grown enormously in recent years. Aside from providing tangible support to initiatives worldwide, it is also an incredible platform for cultural exchange and personal growth. As a volunteer, you are given the opportunity to immerse yourself in a foreign culture, expand your world view and challenge your own knowledge and beliefs. But it’s a two-way street, in which both those being helped, and those helping, come away richer.
We are proud to see the impact that our responsible tourism volunteer projects have on development in Africa, which are expanded on below.
In 2008, as a tool for responsibly managing donations and funds received from African Impact volunteers, the Happy Africa Foundation was born. As the charitable arm of our organization, it monitors and evaluates the impact of our projects, while ensuring the generous donations are put to sustainable use on the ground.
These donations and funds go towards health and nutrition, education and enrichment, gender equality and conservation initiatives that empower communities and conserve wildlife. What it does for African Impact (along with our volunteers physically lending a helping hand) is provide much needed funds that filter into the local economies where it’s needed most, without the possibility of its distribution being corrupted along the way.
Perhaps most importantly, African Impact employ local staff on every volunteer project; a direct boost for the local economy.
Our staff team in Cape Town
African Impact firmly believes in the concept of giving local communities a “hand-up”, as opposed to a “hand-out”. This means that instead of sending volunteers into a project for a temporary fix, or creating reliance on African Impact resources, we establish sustainable systems to ensure lasting change.
A recent example of this is African Impact and The Happy Africa Foundation’s 5-year plan for Linda Farm, a disabled community in Livingstone, Zambia. Both volunteers and funds raised will be used to help achieve:
- Clean and safe community facilities
- Increased food availability
- New skills for employment within the local people
- Improved gender equality
- Safe spaces for young girls
- Start-up initiatives for income opportunities
- Basic English and reading skills within the local community
- Education for children
- Better health care for the community
This is just one of the many examples of how volunteer tourism, and African Impact, gear projects towards socially empowering communities - and individuals alike - throughout Africa.
Teaching volunteer with her class at Linda Farm
As well as working with local communities, African Impact’s focus is on environmental conservation. As a result, we have 35 different volunteer conservation projects across Africa. These projects work towards reducing the negative impact humans have on the environment and its species through:
- Research and action into environmental protection
- Conservation education with local communities
- Species protection through research, action and monitoring
- Assisting with rehabilitation and release programs
One of the unique aspects to travelling with African Impact and some of our best feedback we receive from volunteers is the authentic and cultural aspect of the trip. Upon induction, our volunteers are immediately introduced to the landscape and culture. The local staff on project provide a bridge for the two cultures to connect on a level that most tourists would otherwise not. Furthermore, our volunteers can engage in cultural tours of the township or village in which they work, introducing them to the arts, food, customs and general African way of life. In return, the locals benefit from learning about the plethora of cultures from all over the world and the skills they bring with them.
It’s this cultural exchange, a mutual understanding and respect which creates a two-way street that both enlightens and enrichens the local and volunteer experience alike. As such, all emerge with a clearer understanding of the significance of the who, why and what they are doing here.
Volunteers with local community in Livingstone, Zambia
You can’t have development and progress in a society without peace. And you can’t have peace without positive development and progress. African Impact’s mission is to make long term and positive change to communities and conservation efforts, ultimately promoting peace and harmony with people and their environment.
Giving selflessly to others can only come from a place of love. Love and peace fit into our core values and beliefs here at African Impact. We have a vision of one day seeing all the countries of this beautiful continent free from conflict and corruption, and living a sustainable, peaceful and harmonious existence.
The tourism industry is now worth upwards of 1260 trillion dollars and accounts for 1 in 10 jobs globally. Furthermore, the sector is expected to grow at an average of 3.3% per annum until 2030, and already accounts for a massive 10% of the world’s gross domestic product! Hence, the potential for making tourism a catalyst for positive change is glaringly obvious. If you are seeking to make a difference and have a meaningful experience by connecting on a deeper level with your travel, then volunteering abroad could be just for you.
Be the change you want to see in the world and travel responsibly.
Happy World Tourism Day from all of us here at African Impact!
If you want to contribute to sustainable development via volunteer tourism, check out our available volunteer projects in Africa: