Protecting biodiversity through sustainable tourism in Africa

Professor Marina Novelli

The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) invited Professor Marina Novelli to chair a panel session at the Tourism Investment and Business Forum for Africa (INVESTOUR) during one of the largest international tourism fairs in the world, FITUR, staged in Madrid in January.

The ‘Biodiversity as a Driver for Sustainable Tourism: The Importance of Effective Community Involvement’ session considered an integrated approach to harmonise sustainable tourism with the protection of biodiversity in Africa and identified ways of empowering local communities to participate in conservation efforts and benefit from them.

Panelists included:

  • H.E. Arlette Soudan-Nonault, Minister of Tourism and Leisure, Republic of Congo
  • Dr Liya N. Mutale, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism and Arts, Zambia
  • Dr Cosma Wilungula, Director General Congolese Wildlife Authority, Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Leontine van Hooft, Co-founder and Inclusive Investment Strategist, Ubuntu Impact Investment
  • Steven Johnson, Director and Conservation Specialist, Chemonics International
  • Coralie Marti, Senior Consultant, Horwarth HTL

Professor Novelli invited panelists to reflect on the issue of ‘foreign investment at any cost’, which is characterising the approach used by many destinations across Africa.

In her remarks, she highlighted that “to obtain long-term biodiversity conservation within Africa, it is essential to combat unsustainable activities threatening wildlife. These problems cannot be tackled only by governments and it requires a strong will and commitment from all stakeholders at international, national and local level, with the role of communities being of fundamental importance. They must be included in the discussions and decisions being taken for the conservation of the vast biodiversity of the continent to succeed.”

Professor Novelli concluded the panel by encouraging conveners to engage in dialogues aimed at what she defined as “a more responsible business development and investment model that looks beyond tourism and engages sectors and international investors across the board”.

Professor Novelli was also invited to join the judging panel for the 14th UNWTO Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Tourism, an event held annually to celebrate the work of organisations and individuals around the world that have had a positive impact on the tourism sector. This year, there were 128 applicants from 55 countries across four categories: Public Policy and Governance, Research and Technology, Enterprises, and Non-governmental organisations.

Marina Novelli, Professor of Tourism and International Development and Academic Lead for Responsible Futures, said: “It was highly rewarding to be invited to explore key issues of biodiversity and tourism in Africa with so many inspiring panelists and support the forum’s main objective of promoting sustainable tourism as an economic and social development drive for Africa.”

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