NAIROBI, September 27 – Since 1980, September 27 is celebrated by the World Tourism Organization as World Tourism Day. The day was established at the Third Session of the UNWTO General Assembly in Torremolinos, Spain, in September of 1979.
Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Tourism Rebecca Nabutola says the purpose of this day is to display awareness that tourism is vital to the international community and to show how it affects the social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide.
In Kenya, the week was marked with activities in Malindi and Watamu under the theme “Tourism responding To the Challenges of Climate Change”.
Ms Nabutola said the two venues were chosen because of effects of climate change at the Sabaki River, where due to heavy rains at the mouth of river sabaki, water in the Indian Ocean in Malindi is contaminated, causing a big concern to the ministry.
“You also have to note that Malindi and Watamu are at the coast which according to scientists will be one of the worst hit areas due to climate change," she added.
The phrases ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’ are used to describe dramatic changes in the world’s weather patterns attributed to increases in greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.
The causes of gas emission are mankind induced. Emissions of Carbon Dioxide and other gases to the atmosphere have become much greater than the ability of ‘carbon sinks’ (natural forests) to absorb from the air.
Nabutola observed that a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions has become a global concern necessary to contain the damage done to the environment.
The impact of climate change on Kenyan tourism?
Nabutola observed that tourism is a potential victim of climate change and is likely to face serious challenges.
"The country’s diversity of natural resource base and pleasant weather conditions are its greatest strength in selling holidays and recreational activities."
Notable global warming effects in Kenya include the melting of the snow cap off Mt. Kenya which has led to drying up of 26 rivers and a substantial reduction of the country’s water reservoir that originally stood at 30 percent(Mt Kenya & Aberdare).
In Lake Naivasha the warmer temperatures and shallow depth have resulted in warmer water, which encourages algae and plant growth.
Further, the shrinking in size of Lake Nakuru has led to loss of food and habitat for the millions of pink flamingos hence sudden deaths and migration to alternative habitats while the rising sea water level at the Indian ocean has been cited as the cause for climate change on the Kenyan coastline tourism.
“Just because we were spared from the devastating effects of the tsunami does not mean that we are not in harms way,” the PS noted.
Tourism contribution to Climate Change
Air travel is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions and therefore increases the risk of continued global warming while currently, aviation accounts for around 3 percent of all emissions globally.
The country’s tourism transport system relies heavily on vehicle transport system using diesel and petrol thereby contributing to exhaust emission to the atmosphere.
Furthermore the country is an agricultural economy encouraging activities along river banks leading to land degradation and eventual siltation of rivers, lakes and Indian Ocean waters.
Nabutola is optimistic that by the end of this week the awareness the ministry will have created about climate change will stimulate further efforts by all parties in the industry to deal with the issue.