Sustainable consumption and production practices in the hospitality industry in Lilongwe -Malawi

Khonje, Lameck Zetu
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This study centrally argues that despite the numerous investments that Malawian accommodation sector has undergone, especially in the post-1994 period, a majority of them are not able to embrace sustainable environmental innovations in order to promote sustainable tourism development in Malawi. However, previous scholars have focused on the socioeconomic aspects of sustainable tourism development from the 1970s and 1990s when tourism sector was earmarked as another viable sector for economic development of the country. This comprehensive study plays a complementary and supplementary role by focusing on the sustainable consumption and production practices within the accommodation sector from the 1990s onwards where academic research in Malawi is still in its infancy. The study employed the Rogers Diffusion of Innovation Theory through a critical analysis of secondary and archival sources and in-depth key informant interviews. In this regard, through a Grounded Theory methodological approach interviews involving respondents from the public sector and the private sector (accommodation units) in Lilongwe, the Capital City of Malawi, the study unveils the dynamics (nature, dimensions, and patterns) of environmental sustainability innovation within the accommodation units in Lilongwe. Through this approach, the study allows the informants to tell their own story and experiences within the tourism sector and the accommodation units in particular. The study makes a contribution to the sustainable tourism development historiography of Malawi and sub – Saharan Africa. The study shows that the introduction of the multiparty system of government in Malawi brought abought a number of policy changes from the 1994 and to date, which have induced development in the tourism industry especially the accommodation sector to inform of small-scale and medium enterprises which have accelerated ecological catastrophes currently being experienced in Malawi. The study argues that the increase in a number of accommodation units was not only as a result of the new policy direction from the 1970s, but also the changes in the political and socio-economic environments of Malawi, and the entire SADC region. The study also argues that despite government enactment of the environmental sustainability law the tourism industry at large does not abide by this legal framework. During this period, most of these accommodation units are engaged in the unsustainable consumption of natural resources and produce environmental pollutants which are not well managed. These accommodation units also lack environmental sustainability institutional legal frameworks to foster sustainable consumption and production practices. The study highlights challenges that the public sector and accommodation units faced in Malawi. These challenges include a lack of political will, lack of appropriate policing tools, selective policy enforcement practices, and lack of universal investment incentives. The study also observed that some of the accommodation units devised environmental sustainability innovation to reduce their operating costs and support the local community socioeconomically. In addition, some accommodation units resorted to the use of compost manure and broken glass bottles on their premises. Through these measures, these accommodation units recycle their solid waste instead of dumping them into the environment. The study has used the Roger Diffusion of Innovation perspective, to show that the accommodation units in Lilongwe fall within the Laggards category. For instance, in the face of the ecological challenges in Malawi, they continue to rely on and use the limited natural resource and grow their businesses. Through this, they have managed to maximize their savings, expand their business geographical horizon to other cities in Malawi (e.g. Cross Roads Hotels now opening another unit in Blantyre). The study also attempted to assess the impact of the available environmental institutional and legal framework in promoting sustainable consumption and production practices in the accommodation sector. There is inefficient flow of the provisions of this institutional and legal framework between the two key government departments (Department of Tourism and Department of Environmental Affairs) as a result of this inefficiency accommodation units are left wondering which one of these departments are demanding the rightful action from them as such there is a slow adoption of sustainable environmental innovations within the secto
Submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of the Witwatersrand