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. We are dedicated to unifying our industry so that we can reap the rewards for 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. Thankfully, that is changing thanks to a collective realisation that our spectacular habitats and abundant flora and fauna are the country and continent's most precious resources.

Sustainable Tourism requires complete support from government and communities. Unfortunately, little has changed in the travel industry since 1994. Identifying hotels and lodges that are Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) compliant is almost impossible, making it even harder for us to protect and expand our natural resources when there is no buy-in from local government and the private sector.

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

Tourism can have a lasting and positive legacy on the environment in which it operates. It is imperative that important stakeholders in the industry get involved in transformational projects and use their hospitality skills and knowledge to uplift their own staff and communities.

We have been privileged to see some truly great examples of this, such as Thakadu River Camp in Madikwe Game Reserve. It's a lodge built, owned, and operated by the local community. The surrounding lodges ensured Thakadu's success by investing three years of time, energy, skill, and intellectual capital in the project to allow the community to attain a sustainable level of competence which in turn facilitated a genuine understanding of the importance of service delivery.

Matetsi Victoria Falls is another luxury lodge that has dedicated itself to wildlife and wilderness conservation and community impact. With a mission to conserve vast areas of wilderness and create employment, upskilling and opportunities for local communities, the lodge has implemented various initiatives such as supporting Greenline Africa and Pack for a Purpose and establishing their own philanthropic GRACE Foundation and Anti-poaching K9 Team. 

Another example of a truly sustainable eco-tourism operator is Wilderness who partner with communities that own and protect land. Wilderness aids in community upliftment by training and employing local community members.

At Rhino Africa, we are not only dedicated to creating our own conservation and community upliftment initiatives, but we like supporting lodges and portfolios that share our ethos. Wherever possible, we support companies that involve and empower local charities and community programmes in the interests of self-sufficiency. 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 feature in the Spotlight Magazine here.

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