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Africa Awards 2023

April 4, 2023
Harold Goodwin
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 WTM Africa Responsible Tourism Awards 2023  

  1. Best for Tackling Plastic Waste 

Plastic waste is one of the major environmental crises impacting the health of our planet. The tourism industry generates waste through single-use plastics. The sector also suffers from plastic waste generated by others, which pollutes water courses and beaches and adds to littering in destinations. Destinations and tourism businesses can address plastic waste by banning single-use plastics, removing plastic from public spaces and nature, and disposing of it safely. Initiatives that upcycle waste plastic and sequester it, generating sufficient revenue to pay for waste plastic to be collected, can take the plastic waste out of our environment at scale. Our oceans require urgent action at scale. The judges are looking for examples where a tourism business or destination has developed ways of removing plastic waste.

Gold: Lemala Camps and Lodges                                                                           Tanzania


Lemala won silver in 2022 for its efforts to sequester plastic waste. Lemala has removed single-use plastic from its camps but guests arrive with waste plastic. The vehicles that bring supplies to Lemala’s camps return to Arusha with waste plastic bottles and lunch boxes collected from the safari vehicles where guests arrive. Their arriving guests expect Lemala to dispose of the waste plastic on their behalf. Working with Dunia Design Lemala has removed over 100 tons of plastic from the parks and produced 75 recycled school desks that have been donated to Chief Lebolo's School and the Nainokanoka Primary School at Ngorongoro.

The waste plastic is a threat to the environment, as they said in their entry for the Awards "Upcycling them into school desks and chairs turned them from a threat to an asset and investment in future generations." Lemala uses 100% biodegradable and plastic-free lunch boxes utilising dried banana leaves collected and assembled by single mothers in a community between Tarangire and Ngoronogoro - allowing them to collect and distribute

 2. Best for Meaningful Connections

Some forms of tourism build relationships between visitors and communities through the experiences they provide, treating visitors as "temporary residents"; they generate repeat 'guests' who will return many times, some yearly. Storytelling plays a role in creating meaningful connections. These benefit both the host and the guest. Where the local community is empowered in shaping the tourism offer, they will, as hosts, encounter tourists who value their place and what it offers. The guests have a great holiday, recommend the place to their friends and relatives and are likely to return.

Gold: Uthando                                                                                  South Africa

They opened their entry with a bold statement of their purpose. "Uthando means Love, and through our experiences of connecting people, we aim to spread seeds of love, kindness and understanding. We strive to be an example of inspirational travel that connects  visitors with communities in an authentic and culturally sensitive way that leaves a lasting positive impact for visitors and locals alike." Since 2008, Uthando has been provided "respectful, life-changing Philanthropic Educational Excursions around Cape Town." They have enabled thousands of Uthando guests annually to experience South Africa's unique spirit of Ubuntu 'I am because we are.'

Uthando creates links between tourism and community development projects by facilitating group visits to development projects. Some visitors become regular donors. For example, a Dutch family that went on an Uthando Excursion in 2009 assisted Uthando in financing the construction of 6 high-quality Early Childhood Development Centres (ECD). The most recent ECD was built from 1700 tyres, plastic bottles, and film set waste bricks, making it the most unique ECD in South Africa. In 2021 Uthando allocated R4 992 060 (280, 529 USD)  to community projects in 2021 and R4 458 833 (250,565 USD) in 2022.

Silver: Happy Soul Adventures                                                         Botswana


As Happy Soul Adventures say on their website, "Africa isn't only safari, people need to visit Africa and connect with the real people. We don't want you to feel like a tourist, we want you to feel like a true local connecting with long-lost friends." They offer meaningful experiences. "Stay with locals in their homesteads, go dancing and singing in local pubs with the locals, go cycling in villages, immerse yourself in their daily way of living and feel like a true local. Visit community projects, learn their crafts and support their local businesses." In November 2018, they launched Mmamontle, which offers shelf space on a monthly rental basis where local producers can sell their own products at their own retail price. 80% of the products sold in the store are locally produced and owned by local entrepreneurs.

3. Best for Local Sourcing, Craft and Food

Sense of place contributes to the tourist experience. Local tastes of food and beverages, soft furnishings, and art and craft souvenirs enrich the visitor experience and the local community by creating additional livelihood opportunities. These are complementary products that grow the local tourism economy. The livelihood benefits of tourism for local communities are greater when tourism businesses, tour operators, guides, accommodation providers, restaurants, cafes, bars and tourism authorities and local governments encourage the development of local craft and food production for visitors.

There are two Golds in this category this year

Gold: Mauritius                                                                     Mauritius


Last year Mauritius was recognised in the 'Destinations Building Back Better Post-Covid" category. This year the judges wanted to recognise Mauritius for its work in developing sustainable craft. The Tourism Authority, as the regulator of the tourism sector, has taken responsibility for assisting tourism operators in adopting inclusive tourism principles, supporting local SMEs, sourcing local crafts, and promoting regenerative agriculture. Their vision is to make local sourcing and products labelled Made in Moris the first choice for locals and tourists alike, while shopping and looking out for gifts and souvenirs. Funding from the European Union through the SWITCH Africa Green Programme enabled the development and publication of a Creative Guidebook and Toolbox for SMEs, entrepreneurs, artisans and designers that produce products in Mauritius and for companies that want to sell locally made goods, whether in their business, to tourists of for their own consumption. They use the footprint to describe negative impacts and the handprint to describe the positive value-adding impacts of actions taken by businesses that contribute to local community prosperity, the conservation of culture and nature and authentic tourist experiences.

Gold: Ngwenya Glass                                                                       Eswatini


The judges were impressed by this outstanding craft enterprise which produces "Glassware with purpose, the GLASS is greener on our side." Ngwenya Glass re-purposes old bottles into handmade glass ornaments and tableware. They melt between 600kg and 1 ton of broken bottles daily, in a furnace burning an  85/15 blend of used cooking oil (mainly KFC) and paraffin. All the craft products are mouth-blown or hand sculpted by talented Swazi artisans producing  1500 pieces daily. Fifty-nine employees turn waste glass into "products with a purpose" sold on seven continents. Assessed against the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's measuring tool for a Circular Economy, Ngwenya Glass scored A-, way above the average C. Solar panels provide electricity when the sun shines and use harvested rainwater and recycled paper in their production and packaging.

Ngwenya Glass attracts  50 000 international tourists on guided tours yearly. They accommodate  13 other boutique shops in their indigenous garden, all selling locally produced art and craft, including artisanal chocolate and gin shops. In 2007 Ngwenya Glass started collaborating with other Swazi handcraft producers, also involved in tourism in the Kingdom, resulting in the eSwatini Fair Trade (SWIFT). Ngwenya Glass regularly hosts a design workshop, inviting designers and glassblowers from Europe and South Africa to ensure they stay ahead of the world's design trends and remain a leader in the Southern African art glass community. They also raise considerable sums for local charities each year.

Silver: Artisans                                                                                  Uganda


Artisans is a social enterprise company registered in Uganda, empowering marginalised artisans, supported by Aid for Artisans. They work with local craft workers and food producers at Lake Bunyonyi and around Mgahinga Gorilla and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Parks to raise the quality of their work and improve livelihoods. The judges wanted to recognise their development of Muhabura Cultural Experience and Craft Centre, which involves tourists directly in cultural experiences, including Batwa bushmen trails, coffee roasting agri-tours and community walks followed by opportunities to purchase craft: handcrafted raffia baskets, papyrus woven mats, gorilla walking sticks, carvings, weaving and table placemats. Artisans promotes mountain gorilla conservation by creating economic options for 400 people who would otherwise be involved in illegal hunting.

4. Addressing Climate Change

Each year the impact of climate change becomes more evident and, for many, more extreme. Drought, floods, wildfires, and extreme weather conditions cause devastation for communities and businesses in destinations on all continents. The judges are looking for examples of initiatives which

  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport, accommodation, attractions and tourism services in destinations, and
  • Increase the resilience of tourism businesses and destinations in the face of climate change.

The Responsible Tourism Awards aspire to recognise businesses and destinations addressing climate change and to encourage others to adapt and adopt similar initiatives. We must increase our resilience to live with climate change and reduce emissions to avoid making it worse for our children.

There are two Golds in this category this year

Gold: Mauritius                                                                                 Mauritius


Mauritius is a Small Island Developing State (SIDS), highly vulnerable to natural disasters, particularly those caused by climate change. Its commitment to the Paris Agreement is to reach 60% renewable energy by 2030. The Tourism Authority is promoting the greening of Mauritius's pleasure craft and boat sector by advocating a shift towards electric propulsion systems and the use of renewable energy, reducing emissions and protecting vulnerable marine ecosystems. In 2019, more than 30 operators, including boat constructors and operators, developed a vision for a Zero Carbon Lagoon by transitioning to electric boats. All hybrid and electric vehicles are now duty-free in Mauritius. There is a 10% excise duty rebate scheme for individuals' purchase of electric vehicles up to a maximum of MUR 200,000.

Gold: Weeva                                                                          South Africa


"Weeva is a B2B data-driven software that measures sustainability based on the 4 C's of sustainability – namely: conservation, community, commerce and culture." Climate Action is about minimising climate impacts caused by human activities and their related emissions. Weeva users can manage their carbon footprint by measuring and reporting their resource use and scope 1 and 2 emissions providing users with an accurate dashboard on which they can track progress and benchmark themselves against other Weeva users. Scope 3 emissions tracking is under development.

Weeva recognises that businesses will have different starting points, facing different issues in a world diverse in geography, climate and culture, and they have made it easy to begin. Businesses "can get started by entering relevant data into the Weeva system; whether that's the litres of petrol or diesel you've consumed that month, your kilowatt hours of solar energy produced, or your employee engagement survey scores." Weeva enables businesses to choose their own journey using the tools that enable them to tackle the issues that matter to their business, their neighbours and their environment. Weeva takes the raw data inputted by the business and produces a visual dashboard showing what the business is achieving – a combined management and marketing tool.

5. Best for Diversity and Inclusion

Tourism relies on diversity. We travel to experience other peoples' places, climates, built heritage, lived culture and the world's diverse nature. But how diverse and inclusive is our industry?

The judges are looking for examples of inclusive tourism, in employment and in the experiences offered to tourists. The judges are seeking to recognise

  • tourism businesses that avoid gender, ethnic and LGBTQ+ discrimination and which employ the differently abled; and
  • businesses and destinations which have created safe and meaningful visitor experiences for women, the differently abled, LGBTQ+  and travellers from the diaspora, making accessible to all our cultural diversity.

Gold: Birdlife                                                                                    South Africa


Birdlife's Community Bird Guide project trains people from disadvantaged backgrounds and communities to become professional bird guides and promotes their services through their website, social media, magazine, and other channels. They have graduated over 200 people. changing the face of community-led tourism and transforming the industry. Their  South African Names for South African Birds (SANSAB) Project launched in 2022 aims to produce lists of South Africa's birds in local languages previously, these only existed in English and Afrikaans. Birdlife is working with a popular and freely available birding identification app to translate all South African bird accounts to isiZulu, a major milestone for language inclusion in the birding tourism community. They has also organised female-only trips providing resent a safe, accessible, and affordable way for women to travel around South Africa despite the high rates of GBV and femicide.

"The work we have carried out is unique in South Africa. Our community-focused work has created a network of black guides that are highly respected by tourists and sought-after by birders. They operate at a high level and with utmost integrity and passion. Our Project to give vernacular names to all of our birds in entirely transformative, and has been widely applauded by African language speakers and academics, and has been presented at international conferences such as the International Ornithological Congress and the Pan-African Ornithological Congress. This has laid the platform for further transformative action by enabling effective communication, education, and accessible tourism information materials."

Silver: Liveable                                                                                  South Africa


There are estimated to be 1.2bn people living globally with a disability, differently-abled people. Liveable is an access consultancy focusing on Universal Design within the hospitality and tourism industries. The travel arm of the company Able2Travel is a concierge service for the differently abled and elderly markets. It was founded in 2019 Liveable provides services in; access consulting in the built environment, disability sensitivity training, and inclusive marketing. "We help the hospitality industry become truly inclusive." Able2Travel helps guests travelling to SA and those who live here to find accessible accommodations, restaurants and activities for a wide range of physical needs. ". We know that we cannot speak of responsible and equitable tourism if people are still barred access to accommodation, restaurants, jobs and activities because of physical barriers to entry, and because of discriminatory attitudes."

6. Best for Nature-Positive Tourism

Wildlife and the natural environment are important motivations for travel. Nature is essential to our industry, those who transport travellers to wildlife destinations, those who provide accommodation, and the tour operators and guides who market it and make it accessible. The judges are seeking examples of tourism businesses and destinations that reduce negative impacts and positively impact the maintenance of the natural environment and biodiversity.

Gold: Wildlife Act                                                                             South Africa


Under the Wildlife ACT banner sits two operations: a tour operator recruiting ecotourists to join the monitoring work done by the other arm - a registered non-profit Trust that does the actual conservation work on the ground. The Trust also fundraises, applies for grants and has merchandising agreements to fund its conservation work. Wildlife ACT's wildlife volunteer programme is Fair Trade Tourism certified and has welcomed 7,364 volunteers to date. Wildlife ACT specialise in the safe capture, transportation and reintroduction of endangered species into new areas. This requires intensive post-release monitoring. They have assisted WWF South Africa in reintroducing over 200 endangered Black Rhino as part of the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project. Their conservation volunteers,  up to 500 a year,  “get far more than the typical eco-tourism experience by playing an active role in genuine conservation. Activities include daily wildlife monitoring (including training in using equipment), rescuing and treating animals caught in snares, translocating animals to other reserves when necessary and essential data collection to inform management decisions, fighting against wildlife poaching, education and awareness of conservation in Africa and providing the means to support it while getting actively involved.

Too often, the interests of communities living adjacent to areas conserved for wildlife are ignored. To help address these issues, Wildlife ACT has initiated Community Conservation Projects around four game reserves in Zululand where endangered species need protection. This work involves in-school conservation lessons, a Kid’s Bush Camp program, adult conservation seminars, Wildlife Ambassador Clubs and community game drives, much of it focused on Rhino Conservation. Their Human-Wildlife Coexistence Programme (HWCP) reacts rapidly to assist when human-wildlife conflicts arise.


Silver: Birdlife                                                                                   South Africa


BirdLife South Africa's Avitourism runs with a donor-funded organisation and does not need to make a profit. They can work to have a catalytic effect. Their BirdLife South Africa initiative has trained over 200 people from disadvantaged backgrounds and communities to be professional bird guides. At Ingula Nature Reserve, where  BirdLife South Africa has a management agreement with Eskom, pristine grassland sections of the reserve. They have trained guides in this area to service the tourism demand. Tourism justifies keeping the land invested in conservation. Across South Africa, the guides have become conservation ambassadors, passing on their knowledge to young people and inspiring greater awareness and appreciation of the environment in communities that live adjacent to and inside important conservation areas


One to Watch: Cape Vultures                                                                      South Africa


Founded only in 2020 the judges were excited to see this new not-for-profit, privately funded initiative to conserve this unloved species. Cape Vultures is dedicated to the conservation of more than 728 breeding pairs of Cape vultures nesting on the cliffs of the Northern Drakensberg Escarpment that towers above. Cape Vulture Lodge has been developed to support the conservation of our local environment, education of our local community and employment within the local economy.They are removing alien species, employ 150 people and have reduced poaching by employing and training eight local men who now run anti-poaching across the 1800 hectares. 'One to Watch' because we expect to see it grow and prosper and hope that there will be a further application in a couple of years

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