Executive Director for Planning and Research at the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, Sophie Zirebwa visited Brecon Beacons National Park and other green destinations such as Talgarth Mill earlier this month to witness first-hand the green tourism developments and community regeneration taking place across the United Kingdom.
Sophie Zirebwa enjoyed an itinerary developed by the Rural Alliances team at Brecon Beacons National Park Authority and Andrea Nicholas, Managing Director of Green Tourism which included looking at green initiatives which highlight the National Park Authority’s work as a leading green tourism destination – which has come to fruition since the National Park was awarded UK’s Greenest Tourism Destination at the Green Tourism conference in 2013. The visit also included a short tour of the National Park, a visit to the Talgarth Mill and lunch at the Baker’s Table.
The day began at National Park Authority Headquarters where Sophie gave a brief presentation on tourism in Zimbabwe before Richard Tyler Sustainable Tourism Manager for the Brecon Beacons Park Authority gave a presentation on tourism in the National Park and the Rural Alliance project and Andrew Williams Sustainable Tourism Officer gave a presentation on the green projects. The National Park Authority placed particularly emphasis on the work they did supporting tourism businesses in their efforts to gain Green Tourism scheme certification, a series of good business sense workshops, developing a visitor charter, the Greentraveller destination guide, the green specific pages on the Brecon Beacons destination website, the Ambassador Scheme and International Dark Sky Reserve status. Richard Blackman from the Europarc Federation also gave a talk on the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas which the National Park has received.
Sophie Zirebwa from the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority said: “Zimbabwe Tourism Authority is excited and greatly appreciates the knowledge and expertise shared by Brecon Beacons National Park Authority towards sustainable tourism and we are working towards introducing green concepts for tourism businesses in Zimbabwe. The tour and presentations given by the National Park Authority provided so much insight on what Zimbabwe can do to attain green status in the different tourism businesses and the destination at large. I believe the relationship created through our partnership with Green Tourism UK will unlock many other partners and opportunities to work together.”
Andrea Nicholas from Green Tourism UK said: “We are really pleased to be working with Zimbabwe Tourist Board and introduce them to some of the best examples of green tourism initiatives. Brecon Beacons National Park Authority has been very proactive in working with businesses and their communities and have been successful in making the National Park the greenest destination in the UK. I am sure that their experiences will be very useful to help Zimbabwe go green.”
Rural Alliances is a €1million project for the Brecon Beacons. It is 50% funded by the ERDF Interreg IVB North West Europe Programme and in addition the Welsh Government’s Targeted Match Fund has contributed £320,000. Richard Tyler, Sustainable Tourism Manager, for Brecon Beacons National Park Authority said: “We were delighted to welcome Sophie to the Brecon Beacons National Park and feel a great sense of pride that Zimbabwe is looking at the sustainable tourism projects we have developed here as a result of the Rural Alliances project and the former Collabor8 initiative. We hope that they will act as best practice case studies to take back and inspire projects in Zimbabwe. In discussion with Sophie, it was clear that National Parks are a focus for sustainable tourism across the world. A particular highlight of the day for everyone was visiting Talgarth Mill, which is a prime example of a business with green credentials at heart, which we have been pleased to work closely with. They have low food miles, a low impact on the natural environment around them and a great offer for visitors.”
Chairman for Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, Cllr Geraint Hopkins said: “We take tourism incredibly seriously in the National Park and this was a wonderful opportunity to showcase the fantastic work of our green tourism developments and the Rural Alliances project. We are leading the way as quality green destination. I know that our officers welcomed the opportunity to share their knowledge and also to learn from the exciting work being developed by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority.”
Tourism is worth around £217million to the National Park economy and supports over 3800jobs – amounting to some 20% of the working population.