Last updated: 12:03 PM ET, Fri October 09 2015

Traveler's Eye Co-Founder: Tourism Can be a Force for Good

Destination & Tourism | David Cogswell | October 08, 2015

Traveler's Eye Co-Founder: Tourism Can be a Force for Good

Photo courtesy of Vanessa Baldwin

“Tourism is not only about people coming and seeing a beautiful country and beautiful culture and walking away from it,” said Vanessa Baldwin, co-founder of Traveler’s Eye and one of the keynote speakers at  Swahili International Tourism Expo (S!TE), Oct. 1-3 in Dar es Salaam.

“Tourism can be one of the industries that can largely affect society and in the long run (help it) become better,” Baldwin told the audience in a presentation titled “Tourism as a Tool for Poverty Alleviation.”

About 40 percent of Tanzania’s population lives under the poverty line, trying to subsist on a dollar a day, Baldwin said. Tourism must not be oblivious to this reality in environments where the tourists come to play.

Tourism stakeholders must consider the long-term effects of what they do, said Baldwin. “Fifty or 60 years from now, will Tanzania be the same? That’s the most important thing that we tourism stakeholders should have in mind.”

Baldwin and her sister Yvonne, the daughters of two physicians, founded Traveler’s Eye two years ago and have already proven so successful in their efforts to promote sustainable tourism that the government of Tanzania named the organization as the country’s National Sustainable Tourism Driver.

Traveler’s Eye sums up its mission in the tagline “United to Conserve Africa’s Legacy.”

According to its website, “The organization engages with tourism industry stakeholders, authorities and the host communities around tourist attractions locally and regionally to promote the adoptation of sustainable tourism.”

Traveler’s Eye’s works to ensure that tourism is a force for good through environmental protection, respect for local communities and promotion of local culture and history. In summary, it is to make sure that tourism will “positively impact nature, the economy and the community.”

It is not entirely an altruistic effort to try to preserve local environments and cultures. Traveler’s Eye protects the tourism industry by protecting the environments without which there could be no tourism industry.

The association operates in several areas of activity. One is to launch programs to help educate tourism stakeholders on how they can make their companies contribute to sustainable development, to help rather than hurt the country.

The tourism industry needs to educate itself, said Baldwin, to become better agents in the cause of preserving the heritage of the country. Sometimes what is needed is painfully obvious, and yet tourism companies often remain oblivious to it.

Consider the simple matter of water.

“Sustainable tourism must include clean water,” said Baldwin. “Water conservation is a very big part of sustainable tourism. In the tourism industry you find that a lot of the resorts' concern with water only extends to filling their swimming pools and making sure the guests are able to have as many showers as they desire. But how are the local people being affected?

“We find that water is very rare in the villages of the host communities around tourism areas. A lot of times these women walk 40-60 kilometers just to get a little drop of water. Some of the tourism industry is not keen on preserving water. We need to wake up and start making changes. This can only be done if we’re actually practicing sustainable tourism.”

To help encourage the participation of tourism companies in the common effort to preserve Tanzania’s cultural and environmental resources, Traveler’s Eye launched the Tourism for the Future Awards series.

Through the Tourism for the Future Awards, Traveler’s Eye reviews the operations of tourism companies throughout Tanzania and gives awards to those who do the best job meeting the criteria of truly sustainable tourism. In its first two rounds of awards, the program has already made a difference by providing incentive for tourism companies to sharpen their focus and improve their practices regarding sustainable tourism.

Through the Tourism for the Future Awards, said Baldwin, “tourism stakeholders come together and push each other, to support each other in trying to preserve our heritage as African people.”

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