This year there were joint overall winners Blood Lions and Coffee Shack.
The ambition of the Responsible Tourism Awards is to educate, inspire and challenge. The Blood Lions campaign demonstrates how awareness raising and engagement can achieve change, successfully engaging the industry though its “Born To Live Wild” campaign.
Coffee Shack demonstrates the major positive impact which a small business in a remote rural area can have.
GOLD: Coffee Shack Backpackers, South Africa
Coffee Shack Backpackers is a small establishment with a huge heart and a considerable impact on the Tshezi community living in this remote corner of the Eastern Cape. From the first informal project equipping Pato Junior School in 2002 to bringing on board Tshezi Community Trust shareholders in 2005 to the creation of Sustainable Coffee Bay in 2009, the inclusion of the community in a meaningful manner has been part of the story of Coffee Shack Backpackers from the outset.
Today, Sustainable Coffee Bay runs an Early Childhood Development centre, a high school and tertiary education assistance fund, a project supporting ex-mineworkers to access provident funds, and sponsors the local soccer and netball league, to name but a few.
Coffee Shack Backpackers pays above the minimum wage, encourages reception staff to travel through a travel bonus scheme, and has invested in two local businesses both of which are run by disabled community members and supply services to the backpackers.
As the saying goes “strong medicine comes in small bottles”.
SILVER: The Backpack, South Africa
Set at the edge of Cape Town’s city centre and the foot of Table Mountain, the Backpack could quite easily do very well without doing any good. However, making a difference and creating opportunities for better lives is how the team at The Backpack live and work. The Backpack is commended for the breadth of their approach to fair employment conditions for their staff. Entry salaries of 2.5 times the minimum wage give all staff a solid starting point on which to build higher levels of education, building a home, starting up a small business, all which are financially supported by the business.
Emblematic of fairness in its dealings, products in the community gift shop display both the price charged and the amount paid to the producer. Key deposits, clothing, and time donated by guests are channeled to a bursary scheme and sport (soccer and rope-skipping) project that diverts youth away from gangsterism and drug- and alcohol-use. With bio-degradable cleaning products, solar geysers, photovoltaic panels, colour-coded recycling bins, a worm farm and a ban on plastic bottles, The Backpack also ticks a multitude of responsible tourism boxes.
SILVER: Wilderness Safaris Damaraland Camp, Namibia
The innovative partnership between Wilderness Safaris and the community of Torra Conservancy was a pioneer within the Namibian context at the time of it creation. The people of Torra Conservancy community own 40 per cent of Damaraland Camp located in the remote Kunene region of north-west Namibia.
Over and above the financial benefits of the joint venture, the people in Torra Conservancy have gained the following: improved planning skills; insights and capacity for collaborative action; improved knowledge of their rights; broader vision for their community; and committee members on the Board are empowered to make decisions and are involved in business management. Community empowerment has led to further expansion of the business with the community raising funding to build the adventure camp.
The value of the partnership and the economic impact of the project is on record through independent academic research.
GOLD: Ilha Blue Island Safaris, Mozambique
The judges wanted to recognise the deep and diverse cultural experiences offered by Ilha Blue on the African World Heritage Ilha de Moçambique. Ilha Blue offers an exotic mix of Makhuwa, Swahili, Arabic, Indian, and Portuguese cultures through low impact small group tours by bicycle, sea-kayak and Swahili sailing dhow. The judges particularly valued the diverse local voices presented by Ilha Blue as an alternative to the colonial narrative, the presentation of local indigenous knowledge, with local guides presenting their perspectives and stories through experiences creating entrepreneurial opportunities and ensuring that local people shape and have a stake in tourism to their place.
SILVER: Maboneng Arts, South Africa
Since 2000 the rapper Siphiwe Ngwenya has been turning township homes into exhibition spaces from Johannesburg to Cape Town, believing that the home is the epicentre of all culture. Maboneng Township Arts Experience’s objective is to turn townships into tourism towns by using the art which already exists in the townships to attract domestic and international visitors. This approach enables visitors to meet locals in their own homes, to experience the wealth of their culture, provides market access for emerging artists and additional household income for artists and the Gallery Homes, celebrates cultural diversity and provides opportunities for cultural integration for hosts and guests.
GOLD: All Out Africa, Swaziland
With references from universities in Swaziland and Florida attesting to All Out Africa’s contribution to both research and education on habitats and species the judges were particularly impressed by All Out Africa’s social-entrepreneur approach to solving the problem of insufficient ecological information and capacity to enable successful conservation.
Over the last 12 years All Out Africa has enabled 500 international volunteers to contribute meaningfully to conservation through data collection and supported and trained over 100 local students in field-based conservation and ecological research, With activities in Swaziland, Mozambique and South Africa they have supported the education of 15 local students at MSc level and more than 1000 undergraduate students from both local and international universities.
SILVER: Wildlife ACT, South Africa
Both of this year’s winners in this category have demonstrated that volunteering tourists can when professionally managed. As one of Wildlife Act’s referees wrote: “They have set and maintained the highest levels of integrity in an industry that is often characterised by unscrupulous operators that abuse the goodwill and naivety of volunteers.” The judges were impressed by the range of habitat and species conservation work that Wildlife Act had contributed to by working with partners from Ethiopia to South Africa.
GOLD: Isibindi African Lodges, South Africa
The judges were looking for true partnerships that truly whittle away poverty in local areas. At Isibindi Africa Lodges, partnerships extend way beyond run-of-the-mill charitable giving (although there is plenty of that too). Rental for community-owned land and tourism lodges, employment of local people, purchases of vegetables, crafts, and laundry and recycling services from local small producers, create sustainable income for four communities and hundreds of people in deep rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal.
To widen the spread of the benefits of tourism, Isibindi recently launched a special mechanism ITHUBA (“opportunity”) – a dedicated community engagement programme – to establish greater partnerships with communities and replace individual lodge efforts with a structure that allows resource sharing. Next up, a training facility focussing on lodge hospitality offering internships and a career path at Isibindi lodges for successful graduates.
SILVER: Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge, Kenya
A partnership with Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge, International Labour Organisation, African Pro-Poor Tourism Development Centre, and Tech for Trade has given a new lease on life for the women of Kimana’s Women’s Group. This group of HIV+ infected and socially affected small-scale women farmers has become the main supplier of fresh vegetables and herbs to the lodge. Ownership of their own land, working capital to bridge credit periods and strengthened business skills and quality assurance ensure consistency and quality of supply, and have won the women additional clients. Serena Hotels plan to replicate this supply chain model in Tsavo and Mara Parks, which will expand the empowering benefits of long-run income, food security and improved health and nutrition to more households.
GOLD: MTN Bushfire, Swaziland
A three-day festival held annually in the scenic Malkerns Valleys of Swaziland attracting 25,000 participants from across the globe (in 2016 from 62 countries) to enjoy and experience a rich texture of arts, cultures, crafts, food markets. Over the last 10 years the festival has grown in international recognition and used its cultural and economic success, the festival creates employment for 1200 Swazis making a significant contribution to the local economy.
The festival’s call to action #BRINGYOURFIRE, has stimulated a personal and collective commitment to social programmes: the Schools Festival (2000 Swazi students and teachers annually), the Arts Round Table (that brings together international and local artists) funding for Young Heroes (an Aids Orphan support programme) and BoMake Rural Projects which benefits rural Swazi women.
Bushfire sparked the FireFest Route, which now involves Azgo (Mozambique), Zakifo (Durban, SA) Africa Day (Johannesburg, SA) and Sakifo (Mother festival to Zakifo, held in Reunion Island.)
SILVER: Tour de Tuli in Botswana, South Africa & Zimbabwe
The Nedbank Tour de Tuli is an annual four-day mountain bike tour that takes 350 participants through 250km of protected wilderness in Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa with the primary aim of raising funds for Children in the Wilderness (CITW). The judges recognised the skill and commitment which has created a signature event raising, in 2016, R4 million (US$295 700up from 2015’s total of R2.5 million (US$185 800), largely due to additional sponsorship raised by cyclists, amounting to some R1.5 million (US$110 900). Wilderness Safaris’ CITW is an environmental and life skills educational programme, some of which funds activities in their camps, focused on developing a generation of rural decision makers inspired to conserve wildlife.
GOLD: Blood Lions, South Africa
The judges were looking for a campaign with a clear target, able to report its impact and to demonstrate that it had contributed to making tourism more responsible.
From its launch in 2015 there was a clear focus “to stop lions being bred for the bullet.” With a powerful documentary film at the heart of a campaign which used social and traditional media to engage the industry, voluntourism, the public, government (local, national and international), professional hunters and the scientific and conservation community with a simple and compelling message: “THINK before you VISIT, CUDDLE, WALK, VOLUNTEER or SHOOT.” Otherwise, you might unwittingly be contributing to canned hunting.
The campaign is able to report with clear metrics on the traction it has gained and the impact it has had.
GOLD: Uthando, South Africa
Urban community farms and two recipe books, educare centres, music and dance academies, domestic animal care, senior centres and a book that tell the stories of elders, arts and crafts hubs – the list of initiatives in Cape Town’s townships touched by UthandoSA is almost endless. UthandoSA’s urban philantrophic tours and partnership with the Belmont Mount Nelson Hotel capture the hearts, imagination and support of guest and the tourism industry, generating funds for a diverse array of projects. In the 2016 / 2017 fiscal year, Uthando is set to exceed R3 million transferred to 45 community projects – a remarkable impact for a tour operator with only 2 permanent employees.