By Nkosilathi Sibanda
To operators in the resort areas of Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls and Binga, in Matabeleland North Province, have opted to harness solar energy as well as energy saving lighting to offset incessant power outages that have affected businesses for a long time now.
This comes in the wake of calls for adoption of sustainability and eco-tourism initiatives in the industry.
Load shedding schedule affected by the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), a subsidiary of Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) – the power utility – has forced hotels and lodges to use generators, which is costly and impacts negatively on the environment.
Moreover, part of the reason to switch to solar and energy saving lighting systems is driven by the need to have the local tourism industry achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
This year, tourism businesses in the two resort centres will spearheaded a campaign to encourage industry players to switch to sustainable energy such as solar and use of energy saving lighting systems.
A visit to some hospitality and leisure facilities revealed that work on solar panel installation is underway.
There are facilities that have completely done away with the incandescent lighting system which has been widely condemned as it consumes more power than the highly recommended Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs).
According to the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA), businesses that use LED lights conserve energy by up to 80 percent.
Clive Chinwada, president of the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ), said hoteliers were pooling resources to make sure their facilities move to sustainable energy resources.
“We are pleased with what the tourism industry in Victoria Falls and Binga is doing regarding doing business in the most sustainable way.
“Foremost, there is great encouragement amongst member of HAZ to turn to solar energy to avert impacts of load shedding. Besides being an environmentally friendly initiative, this also sustains the smooth running of business,” he said.
In Binga, while there are some tourism centres that are still relying on the national grid and had remained stuck with incandescent lighting system, a gradual shift to solar energy is taking shape.
Engineer Tobias Mudzingwa, ZERA’s renewable energy expert advised tour operators and lodges in the holiday destinations to compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) and light emitting diode (LED) bulbs to conserve energy and improve livelihoods.
“While we encourage hotels to save energy, the appeal also extends to residents and other industries in these areas. We implore business leaders to take the lead in conserving energy. If businesses save energy it means the whole community benefits. ‘’
Chairman of the Binga Business Association, Pilate Dube who is also a tour operator, said although shifting to solar power is expensive at the beginning, he has planned to save money and have all his businesses installed with rooftop panels by year end.
“It is a real case of sustainable energy practices. I have business premises that have to be lit all day, so I have to use solar at all costs,” he said.
David Muleya who runs a bed and breakfast facility in Binga, called on other businesses outside tourism to follow suit.
“Once one starts using solar panels, no matter how big, they realise that they save money in the end. This is both beneficial to the business and the environment.
“I urge every business entity to turn to the sun. Why worry about power cuts when the sun shines more than 10 hours daily?”
Sikhawuliso Sibanda, a representative of the Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe, said there should be no delays in implementing energy saving mechanisms in the tourism sector.
“Let us all bear in mind that through using solar and other renewable energy systems; we are placing ourselves at the forefront of saving the environment. Tourism strives on the environment, if we are to conserve resources such as electricity; it means in the future there will still be benefits accrued from the sector.”