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Zimbabwe eco-tourism turns to Scotland for inspiration

With their differences in climate and natural landscape, it might be difficult to think that Scotland and Zimbabwe would have much in common - but both countries realise the importance of having an eco-friendly tourism industry and Zimbabwe has turned to Scotland for inspiration and expertise.

According to the Scotsman, environmentalists in Zimbabwe are looking to create a sustainable tourism industry for the 21st century, and a pilot project has been launched, which will aim to develop minimum standards. This will help eco-friendly businesses attract visitors, and plans are to use a benchmark scheme - Green Tourism - that was developed in Perth.

The straightforward initiative will potentially have a far-reaching impact, not just on the tourism industry itself but also biodiversity, the local environment, communities and the country as a whole.

About Green Tourism

The Green Tourism accreditation body is already the world's largest for the hospitality industry. It promotes sustainability and has more than 2,500 members in the UK. It has also helped to launch green tourism systems in Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, Italy and Ireland.

Green Tourism aims to help members focus on achieving a net zero carbon impact per room night and zero kWh/square metre. This can be achieved through the use of various sustainable measures, including thermal insulation and other building improvements, as well as green energy supplies, use of renewable fuels, improved awareness and better controls.

Green Tourism was the first initiative of its kind to be independently validated by the International Centre for Responsible Tourism on behalf of Visit England, VisitWales and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. It's also endorsed by VisitScotland and Failte Ireland.

Independent think-tank TotemTourism also ranked Green Tourism as the Best of the Best, based on its ethics and expertise.

Green Tourism in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, the travel and leisure sector plays an increasingly important role in the economy, especially because of the country's high concentration of wildlife. It is hoped that by helping businesses cut costs, reduce waste, increase efficiency and conserve natural resources, it will lead to a stronger and more competitive sector. In turn, this will benefit local communities and reduce poverty.

Commenting on the project, Sophie Sirabwe, executive director of planning, research and development for the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority explained: "We want to be pioneers of sustainable tourism in Africa and we believe that with the help of Green Tourism we will be able to come up with the right guidelines to show the world we are serious about conservation, the environment and combatting climate change."

Chief executive for Environment Africa, Charlene Hewat, explained that the Green Tourism programme was selected after looking at a number of global schemes.

"The Green Tourism initiative for Zimbabwe is practical, straightforward and the potential positive impact on biodiversity, communities and the country as a whole is enormous," she added.

Despite its natural beauty, Zimbabwe currently only has a two per cent share of the tourism market in Africa. South Africa has 29 per cent, while Mauritius has five per cent. At a recent wildlife conference, the minister of tourism, Walter Mzembi, explained that boosting tourism could help to turn around the country and create a £3.3 billion tourism economy by 2020.