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Sustainable tourism in the Indian Ocean to combat climate change

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Sustainable tourism in the Indian Ocean to combat climate change

Sustainable tourism is on the rise. This trend, transcending generations, constitutes a genuine international movement.

What are the positive effects of sustainable tourism?

The tourism sector undeniably generates wealth and added value, significantly contributing to several economies worldwide. This industry particularly holds a significant place for the island nations in the Indian Ocean. However, mass tourism harms the fragile ecosystem and rare cultural treasures. The concept of sustainable tourism aims to respect the environment while benefiting local communities more. In other words, sustainable tourism investments contribute to environmental preservation. This concept not only promotes the growth of local economies but also preserves the invaluable indigenous cultures. Generally, the development of sustainable tourism benefits three key areas:

  • Environment and biodiversity

Firstly, sustainable tourism involves promoting ecotourism, nature preservation, and reduced use of natural resources. This means taking measures to preserve flora and fauna, minimize carbon footprint, water wastage, and the use of fossil fuels.

  • Sociocultural elements

Indigenous cultures and customs, often marginalized, are essential for a viable long-term tourism industry in a particular place. Besides conserving local customs, sustainable tourism helps minimize issues of overpopulation or rural exodus.

  • Local economic growth

Sustainable tourism, by encouraging local consumption, benefits the community and the country’s economy. This concept is more profitable than traditional tourism, which focuses solely on exploiting must-see sites. With proper measures, both local small businesses and large multinational organizations can benefit equitably.

Advantages of the Indian Ocean in terms of sustainable tourism

The Indian Ocean has several major attractions to boost sustainable tourism investments:

Exceptional ecosystem and biodiversity

The region houses a wide variety of marine ecosystems, coral reefs, tropical fish, and marine life. This offers unique opportunities for wildlife observation and eco-diving. Its white sandy beaches, turquoise lagoons, isolated islands, and picturesque coastal landscapes attract nature enthusiasts and ecotourism lovers. The region enjoys pleasant weather throughout the year, promoting sustainable tourism by encouraging outdoor activities.

Rich cultural heritage

The Indian Ocean is rich in diverse cultures with traditions and customs. Its vanilla islands offer a range of authentic culinary specialties unique to each region. Furthermore, many sustainable tourism initiatives focus on involving local communities, providing economically profitable investment opportunities for residents.

Strengthened preservation efforts

Environmental preservation efforts and ecological awareness are increasing, enhancing the appeal of sustainable tourism. Many local organizations also contemplate how tourism can be part of a sustainable future. For example, the leaders of Mauritius Conscious, the country’s first sustainable travel agency, testify to the impact of over-tourism. They also raise awareness about the danger of sea level rise for Mauritius and tourism.

Launched in 2015, Mauritius Conscious collaborates with eco-conscious travel tours and local guesthouses. Its leaders testify to the ongoing exploitation of fragile coasts, the degradation of coral reefs, and the gradual depletion of Mauritius’s natural wonders. Fortunately, the government and operators, especially upscale resorts, are increasingly committed to sustainability.

Invest in sustainable tourism in the Indian Ocean

Interest from Europeans in vacationing in the Indian Ocean’s enchanting vanilla islands has recently experienced a remarkable surge. This is due to climate change affecting Europe and popular destinations in the Caribbean and the Maldives. The tropical climate in the Indian Ocean region offers cooler temperatures corresponding to Europe’s vacation period. Additionally, for travelers from colder climates, the warm water of the Indian Ocean holds obvious appeal.

This double-edged preference promotes mass tourism in the Indian Ocean islands. This can harm the fragile ecosystem of countries like the coral reefs in the Seychelles. Seychelles’ economy, in particular, relies on tourism. But it’s not the only one. Like other island nations, the tourism sector in Mauritius contributes 20 % to the country’s GDP. Vanilla islands offer a variety of upscale infrastructure. Together, they host over a hundred must-see tourist sites, including both cultural sites and natural wonders.

However, mass tourism threatens to deplete these riches. Moreover, the sea level has risen by 10 cm over the last 30 years. This rise is currently increasing from 1.5 mm per year to 3.9 mm per year. Sea level rise is accelerating further in the Indian Ocean, threatening beaches, wildlife, and the livelihoods of coastal inhabitants. In Mauritius, this phenomenon threatens to erase half of the island’s white sandy beaches in the next 50 years.

Approach solutions for developing sustainable tourism in Africa

The development of sustainable tourism in Africa relies on three key approaches. Firstly, governments must implement strict measures to preserve the environment. For example, banning single-use plastics and establishing regulations for wastewater treatment. Furthermore, local authorities must develop a plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030, involving commitments from tourist resorts.

Preserving healthy reefs

The government of Mauritius has embraced resort innovation by building volcanic rock barriers to protect certain coastal areas. However, these barriers offer only partial protection against rising tides. Natural coral reefs provide better defenses against high tides. Protecting these reefs not only preserves exceptional marine ecosystems but also mitigates wave strength during storms, thus reducing coastal erosion.

Concept of the « Vanilla Islands » in the Indian Ocean

In the holiday industry, there are more environmentally friendly transport alternatives to reach Indian Ocean destinations. Choosing environmentally friendly modes of transport also minimizes carbon footprint during stays. For instance, cycling, walking, or using public transportation for excursions and sightseeing.

On a larger scale, cruise tourism presents a more sustainable alternative. For example, the Vanilla Islands travel circuit allow travelers to discover the wonders of the Indian Ocean with a reduced environmental impact. Preferable in the off-season, this circuit avoids mass tourism that is detrimental to must-see destinations.

The concept primarily aims to support the economies of the islands by encouraging local consumption wherever possible. This can include culinary adventures as well as shopping in souvenir shops.

The Vanilla Islands offer combined tours with environmentally and culturally respectful itineraries. In other words, travelers leave no trace of their presence in the surroundings and must respect local customs and traditions. Additionally, the hospitality and accommodation sector is turning towards sustainability. The use of green energy and recycling opens new perspectives and highly lucrative investment opportunities.

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