Food for thought on being a responsible traveller by our Marketing Director, James Wilson.
A new term, although a phenomenon that has existed for decades, is that of “Overtourism.” Rising tourist numbers continue to damage vulnerable environments around the world by plundering their resources. Quite often they bring significantly less revenue to the economy of the places they visit than they should, because the infrastructure in place to bring these tourists and cater for them, is often foreign owned. A classic example would be the big cruise ship industry. Renowned for what can only be described as a “dump & go” tactic — as far as both their passengers and emissions into the ocean are concerned. If you haven’t read Overbookedby Elizabeth Becker, you really should. A very sobering insight into the state of global tourism.
Responsible Tourism, on the other hand, aims at using tourism to improve places to live in (for the local community) and make them more appealing places to visit (for the travellers). I’ve had the privilege living in Botswana, Southern Africa, for the last seven-years and can quite confidently say that tourism here is in a great place. If one looks at the positive impact the company I work for, Desert & Delta Safaris, has had and will continue to have on the region, its easy to see that you canbe a Responsible Traveller. To explain why, we need to understand how tourism in Botswana developed.
When Botswana took independence in 1966 it was one of the poorest countries in the world, even by African standards. Colonialism did not reach Botswana, largely due to the lack of resources. Probably a blessing, because ironically, one year after the country declared itself an independent nation from the protectorate (a partially governed and protected nation but not colonised) of Britain they discovered diamonds. In just over 20-years the diamond industry grew to make up over 50% of Botswana’s GDP and became one of the world’s largest diamond producers.
Where did that leave tourism? As the diamond industry was flourishing by 1990, only trophy-hunting was the popular form of tourism for wealthy people from around the world. Hunters would pay thousands of dollars to claim their piece of Africa. Apart from the odd overlander and adventure traveller, in 1990, tourism in Botswana as we know it today was still very much in its infancy. Desert & Delta Safaris, one of the most established tourism companies in the country, was only just born in the mid 1980’s.
Those who did travel to Botswana for a photographic safari (non-consumptive/non-hunting safari) were rewarded with one of the most unique travelling experiences in the world. Pure, untouched wilderness. Untainted by human development with massive areas of migrating wildlife, unique ecosystems and some of the largest concentrations of wildlife on the continent.
Hotels and lodges were being built all over the continent and infrastructure was put in place to bring travellers to help grow the industry. Botswana recognised that racing to claim their piece of the growing industry would compromise the uniqueness of the natural heritage they possessed — the very allure that attracted the first few travellers. As a result, trophy-hunting would eventually be banned and tourism in Botswana would grow in a measured and sustainable manner labelled by the government as a low volume, high revenue approach.
Considering the economy was so young, developing a responsible tourism industry didn’t come without its challenges.
At this stage in 1990, Desert & Delta Safariscomprised of just two properties, Camp Moremi and Camp Okavango. Built by an American investor, skilled labour was outsourced to expatriates and management was foreign run. Our owners recognised at the time that while protecting the natural resources was fundamental to a sustainable tourism industry, developing the human resource of the nation would be the main focus of the company. Why? Simply because without including the local community you wouldn’t have a sustainable industry. The wealth of this high value, low volume tourism approach had to trickle down to the local population. In doing so, only then could Botswana pride itself in both protecting the natural wilderness and developing the economy.
Fast-forward from 1990 to 1997, and under the limited company, Chobe Holdings, Desert & Delta Safaris formed part of the first tourism enterprise to be listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange. A few years later and Desert & Delta Safarisbecame the first company of its kind to be managed entirely by Botswana Citizens.
Not only are these luxury camps run exclusively by Batswana, today the majority of the senior management at these properties comprises of women. Given the current state of female empowerment and local ownership in tourism in Africa, this is a significant benchmark.
What stands out is, along with likeminded colleagues and a sensible government approach, Desert & Delta Safarishas managed to both protect the natural heritage of the country, as well as develop the human potential of the nation in a responsible manner. And without photographic tourism to protect our wilderness areas, they could be under threat from other consumptive industries such as agriculture or mining.
So yes… you can be a Responsible Traveller!If you seek out a company like Desert & Delta Safaris, you are not only being a responsible traveller, you are actively helping to protect the natural heritage of our country while developing the people of our country’s livelihood. And you will do so while enjoying a safari that will leave you with memories of a lifetime and a burning desire to return again!
To have achieved this is largely attributed to the wonderful people of our country and the amazing people that are involved with Desert & Delta Safaris. I would encourage you to watch the below videowhich is dedicated to those people.