The enhancement of sustainable tourism education and training to primary school level and rural communities in Zimbabwe
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The travel industry in Zimbabwe today, is the third largest foreign currency earner after agricultural produce, mainly tobacco exports and mining products. Tourism and hospitality makes an important and significant contribution to Zimbabwe’s economy in terms of employment creation, contribution to the balance of payments support and as a stimulator of capital for investments in both urban and rural areas. Tourism development is, however, grounded on the country’s unique cultural and natural heritage which is made up of sensitive ecosystems, encompassing national parks and wildlife. The increasing investments in tourism may cause adverse long term effects of developments in biodiversity and loss of wildlife. It is therefore, vital that communities living next to tourist attractions be educated so that they practice eco-tourism or sustainable tourism as a matter of priority. The focus of this study is to identify a curriculum for the education of primary school learners in Zimbabwe and for the training of rural communities living within or neighbouring tourism resorts and attractions. Such a curriculum should equip primary school learners and communities with the requisite knowledge to preserve and protect their environment effectively. Introducing tourism and hospitality education at primary school and community level enhances the implementation of eco- and cultural tourism to the maximum economic benefits of school learners and rural communities. In a bid to come up with a primary school curriculum incorporating tourism and hospitality education, some 145 out of a population of 250 respondents were interviewed in and around the tourist resort areas of Nyanga, Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls. The study tendered a realistic and practical framework for the development of a primary school curriculum incorporating “Tourism and Hospitality” as a subject, which can also be used as an education or training guideline by communities next to resort areas and tourist attractions. Challenges facing rural communities regarding the implementation of eco- and cultural tourism were identified and strategies for the preservation and protection of the environment were proposed. Partnerships derived from best practices in environmental management and eco-tourism benefiting schools and communities, were also identified.