Farai Chimba: Involving the Community in Sustainability
Mark Bibby Jackson talks with Farai Chimba, President of Climate Friendly Travel Registry (CFTR) member, the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe about sustainable travel.
“Sustainability is about how you involve the local community,” says Farai Chimba, President of the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ). “It is about seeking partnerships.”
Farai is currently half way through his two-year stint as President of the 71-year-old trade association that represents hotels, restaurants, clubs and related establishments throughout the African state. Previously he had served as its Vice-President and before that he was the Chair of the Victoria Falls chapter. He is also the General Manager of The Victoria Falls Hotel, one of the most prestigious hotels in Zimbabwe.
I managed to catch up with Farai on his visit to London promoting the HAZ at the recent World Trade Mart.
“It’s all part of a wheel; you need all the clogs in place to make the wheel go forwards,” Farai continues. His message is that environmental sustainability in isolation is not feasible, it has to be interlaced with social and economic sustainability.
He sees the travel and tourism sector as playing a crucial role in this, especially in his home country of Zimbabwe. Farai believes that, despite the advent of virtual tours, it is most important to maintain the “physical visitation” element of travel if we are to “sustain the local community”.
Traveller trends are changing with more people asking hotels such as The Victoria Falls how they offset their carbon footprint. However, he believes that as people are considering travelling less frequently to minimise their own carbon footprint, they should also ensure that their travel has a greater positive impact upon both community and the environment.
“It’s more about how you travel,” Farai reflects, adding that tourism helps to maintain the natural environment. He cites the example of Covid during which he saw an increase in poaching as tourism disappeared.
It also encourages people to be more innovative. “To see how well nature is preserved in places like Zimbabwe can be inspirational,” he says.
Joining the CFTR
Recently, the HAZ joined the CFTR. The membership of the trade association ranges from big hotel chains to restaurant owners, although the majority of the membership comes from lodges and hotels. It has more than 200 active members.
Farai hopes that by joining the CFTR he will “bring exposure to our membership and the country to the best practices internationally.”
He encourages members to contact SUNx directly – and to join the CFTR individually – “to better enhance the industry, and to transfer skills and knowledge.”
Putting Words into Action
The Victoria Falls Hotel, built in 1904, is the oldest luxury hotel in Zimbabwe and member of the Leading Hotels of the World. In this role as General Manager he is putting his words into action.
The hotel has implemented sustainability practices to give it a positive operational carbon footprint, through recycling, reducing and reusing. It also has created a centre of excellence to train peers and the community. Some 10 sustainability projects have resulted from training sessions held at the centre.
Their flagship waste separation project produces organic compost. They have also invited the local community to realise the importance of waste separation, assisted with creating sustainability gardens and other income generating projects for communities based on recycling and organic farming methods,,as well as working closely with local schools.
In 2020, The Victoria Falls Hotel converted to 100% non-plastic water bottles, as well as introducing LED lighting, and replacing their plastic laundry bags with old linen pillow cases. They have also used technology to reduce their carbon footprint, for instance turning off air conditioning units when guests are not in their rooms, and reduced the amount of produce they import.
So far the hotel has not assessed its carbon footprint, but Farai would be interested in exploring the possibility of doing this with one of SUNx Malta’s SDG-17 partners. He would also be interested in examining how The Victoria Falls Hotel could receive carbon credits in recognition for the work they have carried out so far.
The Way Forward
Farai believes that this cooperative approach is the way forward for the sector.
“There are many ways to grow tourism sustainably,” he says. “We have to look beyond borders to be able to leave something for the next generation.” Becoming part of the Climate Friendly Travel community creates a pathway to achieving this.
Article originally published on eXist, the Climate Friendly Travel Newsletter, re-published here with permission from SunX Malta.