Sustainable Tourism

Ensuring the long term future of African tourism

Sustainable tourism is not just about being green - it's about ensuring a long-term future for African tourism based on partnerships and community benefit. Unifying as an industry so that we can reap the rewards in years to come rather than decimate our natural resources and habitats for short-term gain.

As a nation, South Africa is undoubtedly behind the curve in terms of environmentally sustainable tourism, but that is changing with a collective realisation that our spectacular habitats and our abundant flora and fauna are our most precious resources.

Sustainable tourism requires complete buy-in from government and communities, but unfortunately in the travel industry, little has changed since Nelson Mandela took charge in 1994. Identifying hotels and lodges that are Black Economic Empowerment compliant is almost impossible and this goes some way to explaining why it is so difficult to preach the gospel of protecting and expanding our natural resources when there is no buy-in from local government and the private sector.

Tourism certainly offers employment, but unless the communities have ownership and tourism pays its way, there is no incentive for these marginal communities to support or protect it. Try explaining to a hungry local subsistence farmer and his family why they shouldn't kill and eat game that has co-existed in that area for millennia, when existing tourism resources deliver no direct return to him or his family.

The beauty of the tourism industry is that it offers employment opportunities which are not necessarily highly skilled. Skill development is relatively easy and inexpensive.

The legacy of tourists can have meaning. The utopia we should strive for is one where tourism stakeholders get involved in transformational projects and use their hospitality skills and knowledge to uplift their own staff and communities into product ownership.

We have been privileged to see some truly great examples of this such as Thakadu River Lodge in Madikwe Game Reserve. It's a lodge built, owned and operated by the local community - but instead of just handing it over and setting them up for failure the surrounding lodges spent three years investing time, energy, skill and intellectual capital in the project to allow the community to attain a sustainable level of competence and to facilitate a genuine understanding of the importance of service delivery.

Another example of a truly sustainable eco-tourism operator is Wilderness Safaris who partner with communities that own and protect the land. Wilderness then continue to uplift the area by training and employing local community members. This is why Rhino Africa, as well as creating our own initiatives, is a big supporter of the Wilderness Safaris brand. Wherever possible, we support companies that involve and empower local charities and community programmes in the interests of self-sufficiency. For us, it is of paramount importance that tourism companies invest in the local community instead of bringing in hired help from elsewhere.

While we believe in supporting the initiatives of our partner companies, Rhino Africa also has its own fund raising initiative, Challenge4ACause. Read our recent feature in the Spotlight Magazine here.

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