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These awards are rare and are used to recognise businesses which achieve in multiple categories and have been recognised by different panels of judges. Africa has three of the five Judges’ Awards which have so far been awarded.
Grootbos is a private nature reserve committed to the conservation of the Cape Flora, one of the six Floral Kingdoms of the world, and the “upliftment of the community” through the work of the Grootbos Foundation. Grootbos conserves over 20 000 hectares of vulnerable biodiversity and develops sustainable livelihoods through enterprise development and education, addressing food insecurity, and sports development for youth. Their extensive programmes with local communities reach over 11,000 beneficiaries per annum. They established the Green Futures College in 2003, a Football Foundation, which is multi-sport, in 2008, the Masakhane Community Farm in 2016 and the Maskhane, Good Hope and Takalane Early Learning Centers
The sports facilities are located in the middle of the three historically segregated communities, making it accessible to all three communities and their youth. The Football Foundation provides soccer, hockey, athletics, rugby and netball training and programmes from Monday to Thursday in the week and a site for matches on the weekend. There are 11 coaches offering “positive reinforcement, encouragement, discipline, friendships and fun.” In 2019 the Foundation reached 9,000 children through sports training, environmental education, canoeing and a learn to swim programme. The initiative started with an astroturf soccer pitch funded by ABSA Spaces for Sport, others supported the activities including the Premier League, the Fifa Legacy Trust, the Overstrand Municipality, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve and the City of Cape Town.
The Grootbos Foundation Careers, Employability and Entrepreneurship programme supports learners in five high schools across the region. Grootbos were early adopters of Responsible Tourism and have grown their engagement year on year. In the 2019 Africa Responsible Tourism Awards, they won in the Habitat & Species Conservation category and were overall winners. In London in 2017 they won Gold in the Best Accommodation category and in 2015 they won Silver in the Poverty Reduction category in London. Grootbos has won multiple Responsible Tourism Awards and is widely acknowledged as a global leader worthy of a judges’ award.
They recognise that supporting others to take responsibility is important. Most recently they helped the Be Your Own Hero Project (BYOH) in the Underberg in Kwazulu Natal. They assisted with support, training and guidance for the local community coaches in establishing sports programmes. Grootbos has always opened its doors to other businesses interested to see what is possible. As Ruth Crichton, Marketing & Communications Manager at the Grootbos Foundation reminds them “ it is not a destination; it is a process. It needn’t be complicated, but it requires commitment.”
Ol Pejeta Conservancy Kenya, (World Awards November 2019)
Ol Pejeta is a 90,000-acre conservancy which employs, directly and indirectly, nearly 1,000 people in tourism, agriculture and ranching. Originally a cattle ranch Ol Pejeta was purchased in 2004 by Fauna &Flora International (FFI), with the financial backing of the Arcus Foundation and converted to a national land trust. Ol Pejeta is the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa with 100 black rhinos, and it is home to two of the world’s last remaining northern white rhino. It is the only place in Kenya to see chimpanzees, in a Sanctuary established to rehabilitate animals rescued from the black market. Ol Pejeta is also home to other endangered species such as Grevy’s zebra and Jackson’s Hartebeest, as well as high numbers of elephant, buffalo and a variety of plains game. The landscape in managed productively to generate employment and taxes and provides a vital corridor for migratory animals connecting them to the broader Laikipia ecosystem and beyond.
Ol Pejeta has demonstrated that it is possible to use tourism and conservation to create a beneficial resource for people and wildlife. Ol Pejeta is a not-for-profit. They regard community benefit and wildlife conservation as of equal importance. Their Community Development Department employs 12 people in permanent jobs and 50 in part-time/volunteer positions within their community, offering support in health, energy, education and community development. They are supported with donations and expertise by partners. In 2019 Ol Pejeta began to pioneer the use of technology in conservation through a dedicated technology lab and hub to create solutions to regionwide conservation, wildlife and environmental challenges.
The conservancy attracts 110,000 visitors each year, many of them for day experiences. In 2018 tourism represented 63% of total income, ranching and farming 22% and donor funding 12%. Ol Pejeta pioneered the use of predator-proof moveable “bomas” (enclosures) to keep their cattle safe from predators at night, these are now used widely across conservation areas across Africa. In 2015, Kenya's Agricultural Development Corporation agreed to set up the Mutara Conservancy on 20,000 acres of land bordering Ol Pejeta Conservancy for integrated wildlife, livestock and tourism operations. Ol Pejeta now manages these operations, working in partnership with the Jambo Mutara Tented Camp. Ol Pejeta has recently played a leading role in establishing the Laikipia Conservancies Association which intends to replicate the success of Ol Pejeta’s model as a means to secure a future for wildlife and people alike.
Ol Pejeta was awarded Gold for Wildlife Conservation in the Africa Responsible Tourism Awards in 2016 and Highly Commended in 2017. Ol Pejeta is a strong contender in multiple categories, wildlife, community benefit and reporting. The judges recognise that Ol Pejeta is a global leader in balancing benefits for local communities and wildlife conservation and in delivering Responsible Tourism, using tourism to make better places for people to live in and ensuring the conservation of wildlife and habitat.
Transfrontier Parks Destination (TFPD), South Africa (Africa Awards, 2020)
TFPD was founded in 2004 to work with economically poor rural communities to commercialise community-owned lodges and develop local people to run those lodges in the future. Their role is to transform ‘white elephants’ into successful ventures. TFPD has won Gold twice in the Africa Responsible Tourism Awards, in 2015 and 2016. They won silver twice in the World Responsible Tourism Awards in 2016 & 2018 and Gold in 2017. They are widely recognised for their pioneering work in making a success of community-owned lodges, taking them effectively to market, upskilling the communities which own the lodges and training and employing community members.
TFPD seeks to operate in the spirit of Ubuntu referring to the essential ‘humanness’ of the human spirit – to goodwill, generosity, dignity, reconciliation, assuming responsibility for each other’s well-being and the willingness to solve problems together. TFPD works in partnership with the communities which own the lodges recognising the truth of the Shona proverb which states: ‘Chra chimive hachitswane inda’ – a thumb working on its own is worthless. It has to work collectively with the other fingers to get strength and be able to achieve.
TFPD has successfully used tourism to create sustainable livelihoods for community members and to develop viable commercial businesses, owned by local communities. Businesses which are sufficiently commercially viable to make a significant contribution to community funds and which create opportunities through employment and local enterprise. Each lodge provides a focus for sustainable local economic development in rural communities.
TFPD entered !Xaus Lodge for the 2020 Africa Awards, just one of their four lodges, three safari camps and four cultural camps. A land claim filed by the ‡Khomani San Bushmen, settled in 2002, awarded them and the local Mier community each 25,000 hectares in what became the !Ae!Hai Kalahari Heritage Park. !Xaus Lodge was built there. A 12 room, 24-bed community lodge located 30 km from the nearest half-decent road, accessible only by 4X4. The lodge stood empty, decaying until it was repaired, refurbished and opened by TFPD in 2008. There is Joint Management Board for this community-owned business which TFPD manages and markets on behalf of the ‡Khomani San and Mier. The Joint Management Board meets quarterly and reviews the financial statements, management reports and discusses the strategic and logistics issues.
TFPD resisted turning the !Xaus into self-catering accommodation which would have generated little or no employment. !Xaus now employs 30 people from the local communities, over 14,000 people have visited, and ZAR 16 million (684,000 GBP) has been earned by the community in staff remuneration and benefits, and the rental fee paid to the community. The local unemployment rate is 60%. With an average of 6.5 dependants per employee, about 200 people are sustained by the benefit generated by 30 people having jobs at !Xaus Lodge. While !Xaus Lodge was originally seen as a “white elephant’’ by its community owners, today it’s one of their primary assets thanks to their partnership with TFPD.
The judges decided on a Gold and Silver winner in this category: Gold for Uthando and Silver for Coffeebeans Routes.
Gold: Uthando, South Africa
Uthando South Africa “offers authentic, uplifting, fun, inspirational, interactive and meaningful tours” for individual travellers and groups visiting the community projects with which Uthando works and supports. Uthando won Gold in the Africa Awards in 2017 in the Impact in Urban Areas category. The judges commented: “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 Uthando SA is almost endless.” In the year to March 2019 Uthando Social Development Projects (DA) sponsored projects and social entrepreneurs to the tune of just over 5 million ZAR (270,000 USD, 217,000 GBP). This has been achieved by linking Responsible Tourism and travel philanthropy. Uthando has generated and fostered relationships between the local and international tourism industry with a broad range of inspiring and well-managed community development projects and charitable organizations.
Uthando, meaning love in Xhosa, combines Responsible Tourism and Travelling Philanthropy by running a very successful Philanthropic Cultural Tour along Fair Trade guidelines. They create experiences which motivate the tourism industry and travellers to contribute to “inspiring, innovative and deserving community and environmental development projects.” The income from tours is around 22% of their total income, but it more than covers their core operating expenses. As Uthando points out, in their annual report, the tours are the mechanism they use to create awareness of the good work being done by the community projects, which in turn translates into funding and other forms of assistance. Since 2007 Uthando has raised and invested approximately ZAR 26 million (1.128 million GBP; 1.381 million USD) into more than 150 inspiring, innovative and deserving community and environmental development projects.
Uthando is a shining example of how a day tour operator can recruit travellers looking for memorable experiences and raise very significant sums of money for worthy community and environmental projects. Visiting the projects generates income and employment. Many travellers feel inspired to assist further with financial support to the projects they have visited.
Uthando identifies three guidelines for replication:
Uthando has not been replicated, but it is replicable. Uthando works with many tour operators who have been inspired by their model and what they offer, seeing the experiential, and therefore commercial, value of their tours and the social good delivered to communities.
Silver: Coffeebeans Routes.
At the heart of Coffeebeans Routes is the idea that: “People is precisely what has been excluded from tourism in Africa.” Based in Cape Town, Coffeebeans Routes has put people – and their stories – at the heart of African tourism. In their view “the future of tourism in Africa is people, is urban, is narrative-based and is humanising.” They previously won Gold in the Engaging People and Cultures category in the Africa Awards in 2015. The judges recognised then that Coffeebeans Routes creates travel experiences around urban stories, contemporary, African experiences that provide deep insights, and plenty of fun. The judges pointed out that this business “employs tourism as a tool to unlock economic potential and address societal inequalities through exploring cultural diversity and legacy.” In 2015 the judges expressed the opinion that the model could be replicated in other destinations.
Coffeebeans Routes recognised several years ago that there were travellers with a thirst for “slow food, slow wine and deep connection to the earth.” In 2019 they launched The Colour of Wine Safari which tells stories of South Africa’s transition to democracy through the experiences of black winemakers and wine brand owners. A tour created in collaboration with the producers of the documentary film The Colour of Wine, directed by Akin Omotoso, and the publishers of The Colour of Wine book of the same name, by Harriet Perlman. They provide on their website a list of black-owned wineries.
As Iain Harris of Coffeebeans Routes points out
“While the tourism industry and wine travellers have not been campaigning for black focused wine experience, as with much of what we do, there is a latent demand. Once there is a product, and the trade and the end traveller discover it, there is much excitement. The trade is looking for new wine narratives and new ways to explore and sell the winelands. The travellers are looking for narratives that offer more meaning and insight into the destination, and more engagement with the people in the sector. They want more than a tasting – they want a learning journey.”
The trend for more and more travellers to seek out opportunities for meaningful contact with local people creates fertile ground for tours which offer travellers and holidaymakers opportunities to make those connections and to hear their stories. There is a commercial opportunity if it is done well.
There are two outstanding winners in this category: !Khwa ttu has created a destination for people long since displaced from the Cape, and Ilha Blue has from small beginnings transformed a destination. Both are internationally outstanding examples of Responsible Tourism.
!Khwa ttu won the Africa Award Cultural & Heritage Experience in 2019, the judges recognised the contribution which !Khwa ttu has made to empowering and supporting the San across southern Africa through heritage and education initiatives. !Khwa ttu brings together San from across southern Africa restituting and sharing Bushman heritage by training the younger generation in skills and knowledge that might otherwise be lost. Twice a year eight young San arrive from South Africa, Namibia and Botswana to partake in the six-month internship offered by !Khwa ttu. Over the last twelve years, the //Kabbo Academy has graduated 132 young San graduates, each of whom leaves leave equipped with a CV, internship certificate, workplace reference and the know-how to start their own business. To graduate, the interns must demonstrate their ability to design and conduct their own tour and convincingly present their Sustainable Livelihood Business Plan. The Culture and Education Centre is now 60% self-funded from revenue primarily from tourism.
!Khwa ttu is a replicable example of how tourism can be used to celebrate and grow cultures in the contemporary world. They do this by developing intensive residential, educational activity and bridging courses to: pave the way for young San to enter the world of study and work, to secure access to bridging courses and undergraduate education in humanities, and the creation of a community curator network and “satellites” community cultural hubs. The San Culture and Education Centre opened in September 2018 and in its first year attracted 19,000 visitors. Their influence grows rapidly. The Iziko National Museum convenes at !Khwa ttu for their team building and museum conferences. The Goedgedacht Trust is helping to build resilient, rural communities in the Swartland areas; it routinely takes groups there to experience food and medicinal herb production and meet other interns on a similar pathway. !Khwa ttu is working with the IRDNC in Bwabwata National Park in the Zambezi region to develop a traditional knowledge project for the Kyaramacan Association, to retain their existing knowledge and generate sustainable incomes.
Silver: Ilha Blue Island Safaris, Ilha de Moçambique
As they win this Award, Ilha Blue is reorganising to address Coronavirus
Ilha Blue won Gold in the Africa Awards, Engaging People & Culture category in 2017. The judges recognised 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 with diverse local voices.
Ilha Blue is a rare example of a business which has recognised the importance of localhood, of focussing on local people with respect. Through their approach to developing local experiences for tourists, they have enriched the tourists’ experience of local cultures and lifestyles and created sustainable livelihoods. Under-educated locals struggled to benefit from tourism; now they have opportunities as guides and storytellers to tell a complete story, there is more to the history and culture of the Ilha de Moçambique than its colonial past. Ilha Blue played a leading role in initiating the annual Welcome the Whales Festival a community festival which celebrates the humpback whales birthing site. The inaugural festival brought together a broad cross-section of the community in active participation. From ‘escolinhas’ (preschools), primary and secondary schools to university students; local fishermen and the Port Authority; local government and non-government agencies; arts practitioners including visual arts, film, music, dance and theatre performances; local cooks; private and public sector, BCI bank, World Cetacean Alliance; hotels; international volunteers. Responsible whale watching education workshops included local government staff and entrepreneurs. Dhow safety and licensing has been implemented and maintained by the Port Authority. This annual event is a community festival which welcomes guests.
Local guiding has become a profession which now carries respect in the local community, and the tourism industry and the guiding community now include young women, two of whom have expressed interest in becoming snorkelling guides. Ilha Blue has provided free tourism training for scores of individuals, many of whom have benefited from the university courses now available on the island. Ilha Blue’s manager was head-hunted by the university to lecture and co-ordinate the course. Two Ilha Blue guides have established tourism businesses.
In this category, the judges were looking for businesses which have taken responsibility to make tourism better across their business, where a range of issues are addressed, many of which are replicable by other companies. While some of their initiatives may appear small scale, cumulatively they make a big difference and remember many businesses are still do nothing or very little.
Spier is one of South Africa’s oldest wine farms, a day visit attraction with a hotel and a conference facility. Spier won Gold in the Accommodation for Responsible Employment category in the Africa Awards 2016. The judges recognised them for their “ the transparent reporting and the breadth of their approach to improving the employment conditions of their staff ranging from addressing the issue of safety on public transport to their provision of Individual Learning Spend budgets to support the development of skills and knowledge, for personal development and innovation for the employee and their family for example by using it to pay school fees.
Since 2016 Spier has expanded its commitment to doing good through learning, investing in Growing for Good, a range of learning initiatives that empower communities to make positive social and environmental change, making a difference through learning.
Silver: Chobe, Botswana
Chobe Game Lodge won Gold in 2015 for refurbishing and retrofitting a 40-year-old lodge making it more eco-friendly and for innovating with the use of all-electric game drive vehicles and electric game viewing boats and in 2017 for their efforts at carbon reduction.
The wildlife and habitats categories in the Africa and the World Responsible Tourism Awards have always been fiercely contested. In the last five years, there have been powerful contenders for recognition in this year’s Inspirational Africa Responsible Tourism Awards. Blood Lions won Gold in the Africa Awards 2017 for the Best Responsible Tourism Campaign. The Campaign Against Canned Hunting (CACH), won Gold in the Animal Welfare category of the World Awards in 2015. This year’s Inspirational Africa Awards have focused on businesses which can report their impacts, going beyond describing their outputs. The judges identified two very different Gold winners in this category: Great Plains Conservation and Marine Dynamics.
Gold: Great Plains Conservation, South Africa
Great Plains Conservation has created private concessions in critical wildlife areas in Botswana, Kenya and Zimbabwe. They adopted a comprehensive approach to their conservation work, including the monitoring and protection of fauna and flora, re-population and augmentation, the reversal of negative environmental damage, and community empowerment. Great Plains are most famous for Rhinos without Borders their joint initiative with andBeyond translocating rhinos to Botswana with support from a wide range of sponsors and donors. Great Plains has demonstrated how hunting areas can be successfully transformed into photographic safari areas generating employment and resource for conservation.
For example, Selinda Reserve in Botswana, has been transformed from a hunting concession into a wilderness area that hosts over 18 000 elephants as they move between the Linyanti/Savute and Okavango Delta water systems. Populations of wild dog, predators and antelope continue to grow and thrive with Selinda now being recognised as one of these most pristine wildlife areas in Botswana. Selinda has generated a nett 2,500% increase in financial value to Botswana and the communities that count on tourism there. At Donyo Lodge, Great Plains was one of the founding members and on-going sponsors of the Maasai Olympics which celebrates Maasai culture, providing an alternative way for young Maasai to demonstrate their prowess in traditional warrior skills, without killing a lion; in that corner of Kenya, the killing of lions has reduced from over forty a year to just an isolated few.
Great Plains has created around 700 jobs in remote rural areas without formal employment opportunities. In addition to those employed in the camps and in wildlife conservation, they have created bush boutiques and craft sales opportunities and a community Life with Elephants Tour. Guest donations have funded 500 solar lanterns in Botswana. The Great Plains Academy’s Solar Mama Programme has funded 9 women from 5 villages to embark on a five-month course in India to learn solar power technology and basic business skills.
Great Plains have demonstrated that the right formula of conservation, communities and commerce can make a lasting, sustainable difference to the world’s iconic wildlife and wilderness areas. Asked whether their model is replicable, they reply “Our practices may require a change of heart for some companies – but humankind is capable of great compassion. Our model takes stressed, threatened environments, surrounds them with compassionate protection and intelligent, sustainable management, and funds them with sensitive, low-volume, low-impact, tourism.”
Marine Dynamics is the tourism operation and funding platform for the Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT) which manages marine projects addressing the conservation of the endangered African penguin; whale, dolphin, seal and white shark research; marine animal rescue; environmental education with local schools; and efforts to reduce marine pollution. DICT is a registered non-profit founded in 2006. Volkswagen SA is a corporate sponsor and donations also come from American and UK charities. Marine Dynamics is a business using tourism for the conservation of marine life. Marine Dynamics employs 120 people with over 900 dependants.
This tourism business exists for the conservation of marine species; that is Marine Dynamics’ raison d’etre. Wilfred Chivell of Marine Dynamics & Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT) pushed hard for the African penguin to be recognised and listed as endangered, a status achieved in 2010. Since 2006, DICT has developed, tested and placed over 2000 nest boxes to provide protection from predation and improve fledgeling success. In 2015 DICT opened the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary (APSS), a custom-designed and built marine bird rehabilitation centre in the Overstrand area, providing temporary care to diseased, displaced, injured, oiled and abandoned birds with a particular focus on the endangered African penguin. The Sanctuary releases rehabilitated birds to the wild and provides an education and awareness programme for locals and visitors to Gansbaai. In the last five years, DICT has rescued, rehabilitated and released 462 African penguins. Over the last five years, the sanctuary has had over 95,000 local, domestic and international visitors.
Marine Dynamics provides marine wildlife experiences for 40,000 day visitors each year all of whom have an experience of the species in their natural environment with a strong conservation education as part of it. DICT has an educational, DEEP, programme working with disadvantaged youngsters. Over 200 people walked, waddled or ran in the annual 5km fun walk March for the Penguins held at the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary organised by DICT for locals and visitors to Gansbaai. The event creates awareness about the endangered status of the African penguin and raises funds for the rehabilitation efforts of the APSS. Adults, children, dogs, friends and families enjoy the fun community event. Marine Dynamics has partnered with the Overstrand Municipality in Project Storm which has netted storm drains to catch waste before it enters the ocean and placed stencils on the drains in town with a message of “Don’t Litter. The Sea Starts Here.”
Locally more operators now employ marine biologists adding to the guest experience and the educational impact of tours. Marine Dynamics and DICT’s published reports record many academic studies based on their conservation and tourism work. Marine Dynamics has a motto – Your Choice Makes a Difference. They point out that: Any business can look at how they can better protect the environment they rely on for a living, even if it is as simple as arranging regular beach clean-ups.