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Botswana’s new gem: eco-friendly tourism

Botswana is one of the most sparsely populated nations in the world, a country the size of France but with just over 2 million people.

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Though its population may be scant, the southern African country has no shortage of wildlife. Home to 40% of Africa’s entire elephant population, the country sees a larger number of tourists coming each year than its entire population.
“The number of visitors we have into Botswana is between 2.6 and 2.7 million, which is more than the population of Botswana,” said Tshedidi Khama, Botswana’s Minister for Environment, Wildlife and Tourism.
In terms of the country’s economy, tourism ranks second in Botswana after the diamond industry. An African success story, Botswana has transformed itself from one of the poorest countries in the world to a middle-income country with a per capita GDP of $17,700 in 2015.
Though it’s still early days, ecotourism in Botswana is said to contribute 4-5% towards the country’s GDP.

Eco focus

“We have made a deliberate decision to grow tourism in this country and become imaginative in the way in which we’re doing that,” said Khama.
In 2002, the country adopted a national ecotourism strategy aimed at conserving Botswana’s natural resources and wildlife, explains Khama.
Conservation started in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, which is often referred to as the “Jewel of the Kalahari” by locals, one of the largest inland deltas in the world.
The Delta springs to life several months each year, when the rains from Angola reach its neck, transforming it into a rich wetland attracting wildlife including zebras, hippos, impalas, lions and leopards.
All the concessioners who operate in the Delta are now encouraged to have solar lighting and to recycle water, said Khama. “I believe we are probably the best destination in the world with ecotourism.”

Luxury with a reduced footprint

Chobe Game Lodge on Botswana’s northern border is one of the country’s luxurious facilities which prides itself on an environmental focus. “We’ve cut down our waste footprint by about 95%,” said Johan Bruwer, general manager of the lodge.
One way of doing this is by using solar-powered boats and electrical vehicles for game viewing. “Our goal is to, in the next 18 months to 24 months, to offer our guests a total emission-free, carbon-free game viewing experience,” said Bruwer.
Another lodge further south in the Okavanga Delta called Sandibe Okavango is proud of its eco-credentials. All water is treated and recycled onsite and 70% of the lodge’s power comes from solar panels.
“Most of the operators run on generators still but everyone is changing over to solar power. It allows us to keep power in the lodge 24 hours a day, and also allows us to greatly reduce our footprint in this area,” said lodge manager Greg Davies-Coleman.
For a small population, the fast-growing economy of Botswana is blessed with wildlife and hopes to capitalize on its mission at being one of the most eco-friendly countries too.

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Source: edition.cnn


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Eco-Tourism: Do We Have A Responsibility To Be Conscious Travellers?

The topic of climate change is at the heart of recent discussions, as world leaders from over 190 countries met in Paris at the UN Conference and an estimated 70,000 people marched in London to raise awareness of global warming. Our carbon emission is no longer a problem, but a serious threat.

The majority of our activity here on earth emits carbon dioxide as well as a range of other greenhouse gases. The gas emission traps the sun’s heat, leading to the increase of global temperature. The stakes are higher than ever before, as the rise of even a few degrees is enough to turn the earth into an unstable environment, unsuitable for humans to flourish. Western societies are responsible for the highest amount of emission; however, the harsh effects of this are felt most by those in vulnerable positions in many developing countries. From life-threatening floods to droughts, humans all over the world who are least responsible are paying the price for our excessive use of resources.

With seasonal holiday travel just around the corner, it’s a good time to question whether we, as much as our own government, have a responsibility to live and travel in a conscious and sustainable manner.

The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) defines ecotourism as responsible travel to countries with a mindset that aims to conserve the environment, minimise impact and improve the well-being of local people.  Eco-travel allows you as a tourist to build environmental and cultural awareness; in effect, providing positive experiences for you, the visitor and your hosts. The two overlapping factors of conscious travel are ecotourism and ethical tourism. The world trade organization reports ecotourism to be the fastest growing sector of the tourism industry worldwide.

The availability of cheap travel means that now more than ever, people seek to go on holiday, even if it’s just for a few days. We often allow ourselves to spend more money and purely enjoy the experience of not having to worry about anything other than eating, drinking and sight-seeing. After all, you’re on holiday! Yet, it’s this kind of mentality that is a part of excessive resource waste that is a huge challenge of mass tourism.

By embracing conscious travel, you can allow yourself to feel more present and mindful of the whole experience.  Here are some suggestions to help you become a conscious traveller:

Volunteering abroad:

The central focus of ecotourism is the preservation and protection of local environment and culture and, as a result, volunteering in both rural and natural landscapes is commonly associated with ecotourism. Whilst it is a great way to learn new skills and offer hands-on assistance with conservation of coastlines, animals and national parks, it has now become a student phenomenon, where organisations often expect large amounts of money in return for the opportunity to help. Many are dissuaded by the idea of having to pay organisations for such placements when the same money could be used on a fun holiday instead. However, there are a number of animal sanctuaries and national parks all over the world that will openly allow you to volunteer without having to pay a penny! These establishments are much harder to find because they do not advertise placements through other agents and instead will value your time if you approach them yourself.

City Ecotourism:

Ecotourism is not limited to volunteering in nature. You can find opportunities to be a conscious traveller in virtually any city in the world. Sustainability: how you get to a city and find your way around it, is incredibly important. This means you should find creative ways to reach your destination and whilst there, try and support locally owned businesses. Embrace ethical tourism by using public transport systems, staying in hostels and hotels that make an effort to be green. This is more than likely to enhance local economies as well as communities wherever you go.

Examples:

Amsterdam, Netherlands: This city has an incredible commitment to keeping green. Its public transport system is virtually non-existent as everyone loves to cycle everywhere! Why not rent a bike, and head to a locally owned restaurant for lunch?

Reykjavik, Iceland: The capital of Iceland is already powered entirely by hydro-power and geothermal resources. It has a goal of completely eliminating the use of fossil fuels by 2050. Take a trip to hike around the local volcano, bathe in thermal waters and enjoy the spectacular display of the northern lights.

By choosing to be a conscious traveller, you are allowing yourself to be more mindful of your environment as well as offer future generations a chance to see the world how we see it today.

Source: organicconsumers


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Kenya: Tourism Trends – Striking Balance Between the Human Role and Technology

The latest trend in tourism is travel that is rapidly moving past the conventional means in response to a growing market; where in one way or the other, technology will be consumed. This has indeed called industry players to re-invent their business ideals, or risk growing redundant. While the place of soft skills and personalization cannot be entirely replaced by technology, its worth of note that these two aspects have become the inseparable components of the current market mix, for any success story.

A report by the World Travel Monitor® notes that traditional business trips are now highly rivaled by the MICE industry (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences& Exhibitions),forcing operators to step up their products models to meet the growing demand. Where a spacious room with horse-shoe set up of banqueting chairs and a white board sufficed just enough, the era is now replaced by a call for teleconferencing, robust WI-Fi,data and voice connection points, panel displays, and integrated sound system among other aspects. Undoubtedly the decline in traditional business trips is largely impacted by lack of implementation and adaption of technological solutions.

In the same breath, the report also observes a sharp decline in countryside tourism owing to the same (tech) challenges, with travelers seeming to have a renewed and rapidly growing interest in urban tourism.

This as Estelle Verdier, Managing Director for Jovago.com East and Southern Africa explains is very much influenced by new travel habits; “whether on WIFI, DSL, cable or on flight mode, travelers no longer plug out. The very basics of communication stems from technology, and experience sharing has seen another era through the various channels involved”

This may lead one to wonder what exactly the future holds for county tourism; a major product on display in the ongoing Magical Kenya Tourism Expo. The one week experience that has brought together over 100 global exhibitors with quite a number of Kenyan counties showcasing different products in bid to woo new regional and global arrivals their way. As Nafisa Fazal, a participator representing online travel firm, Jovago.com explains, ‘it’s not about being the biggest anymore, but giving the best in terms of both product and experience’ This, she cites is the primary factor in getting tourists to look your way; harness to the best what you have, and garnish it with memorable customer experience. “Do not focus on what you wish to offer, but on what the customer wishes for”

The role of ecotourism

Kenya is well recognized within and beyond the region for spear heading global campaign in support of ecotourism. Embedded on responsible travel and environmental conservation, ecotourism seeks to preserve the natural world while protecting the wellness of the people. In contrast to traditional times where visitors would feel encouraged to carry with them ‘souvenirs and keepsakes’ worth memories of their visits, this form of sustainable tourism only recommends photographs as the acceptable take-away for tourists, and footprints as the commendable leave-in. Other aspects of ecotourism include use of natural and locally available building materials, hiring local guides, charity and donation to local courses and strict adherence to nature’s holding capacity.

Source: allafrica


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Ecotourism now endangers wildlife as visitors scramble for remote experiences: UCLA Report

Swimming with rare sea creatures, exploring a lonely oasis in Egypt or the Nordic tundra: Ecotourism in distant and remote spots around the planet is popular indeed with tourists and tour guides alike. The animals, not so much, perhaps.

Protected areas around the globe are being inundated – tourists make 8 billion visits a year to fragile sites around the world, says Daniel Blumstein, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology with the University of California, Los Angeles. “This massive amount of nature-based and eco-tourism can be added to the long list of drivers of human-induced rapid environmental change.”

It is a booming industry. “Shark ecotourism” alone in the Caribbean and Australia waters brings in $314 million annually worldwide, according to industry figures. That can come at a price, though. Mr. Blumstein has published a new report in Trends in Ecology & Evolution, an academic journal, suggesting all this coziness in the wild can upset a natural balance.

Animal behavior itself is changing, he says.

“When animals interact in ‘benign’ ways with humans, they may let down their guard,” he says, concluding that the newly friendly beasts could be killed off in an encounter with real predators in nature.

Those who support ecotourism are very clear about their mission, however. The International Ecotourism Society define ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.”

The organization encourages both tourists and tour providers to “minimize physical, social, behavioral, and psychological impacts,” in the pristine or far flung spots they visit.

Mr. Blumstein compares ecotourism to domestication or urbanization, citing the phenomenon of wild animals that become increasingly tame and docile in city environments.

“If individuals selectively habituate to humans – particularly tourists – and if invasive tourism practices enhance this habituation, we might be selecting for or creating traits or syndromes that have unintended consequences, such as increased predation risk. Even a small human-induced perturbation could affect the behavior or population biology of a species and influence the species’ function in its community.” Mr. Blumstein writes in his research.

He adds that it’s essential to figure out what precise conditions put wildlife at risk when humans suddenly show up for a tourism experience.

In his research, Mr. Blumstein’s advises all concerned to find “a new way of thinking about possible long-term effects of nature-based tourism and encourages scientists and reserve managers to take into account these deleterious impacts to assess the sustainability of a type of tourism, which typically aims to enhance, not deplete, biodiversity.”

Source: washingtontimes


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A fresh approach to ecotourism in Africa

When Albert Ndereki first worked at Chobe Game Lodge in 1971, beers were a mere US$ 0.04 cents each and guests were expected to wear formal attire at dinner in the evening. Guests flew directly into Chobe National Park with Botswana Airways (now Air Botswana), landing at Serondela Airstrip by the Chobe River and continued to the lodge on a well-graded road.

Today, he invites us on one of the first Ecotours now offered by Chobe Game Lodge.

From being born in the village of Satau in Northern Botswana to watching Richard Burton serenade Elizabeth Taylor in their private suite after their second wedding, Albert can tell you the stories of how he’s watched Botswana evolve from simple beginnings into the premier destination for safari goers around the world.

Albert talks about how challenging it was to establish Chobe Game Lodge, the first 5-star lodge of its kind in Botswana. “Things were very different then, many of the chefs, waiters, managers and other such people came from places like Zimbabwe, South Africa and overseas because there were no trained Batswana to employ” explains Albert.

“You know for the food waste at the lodge we used to dispose of it in a hole at the back of the lodge which we buried. During the Chobe River sunset cruises we used to tie reeds to fish so the guests could see the fish eagles fly down in front of them and take the floating fish.”

Albert noticed how the African Fish Eagle spent its days watching the boat waiting for its meal and quickly understood that the lodge had a responsibility to the environment and dreamed of changing how things were done.

The lodge now actively works towards benefitting the environment and boosting the local Chobe community. Albert now oversees the ecotourism initiatives at Chobe Game Lodge, inviting guests to explore the lodge on an ecotour and discover what goes on behind the scenes.

During the ecotour, Albert spends time talking about the community, what he calls the most important asset at Chobe Game Lodge, and how the lodge has invested in empowering Batswana from the region. More than 170 local youngsters have been trained and qualified through the Youth Trainee Development Programme initiated by the lodge in 2006.  18 of the graduates took up positions within Chobe Game Lodge while the others went on to further their career in the tourism industry.

“Our company medic ‘Doc B’ visits regularly to give us check-ups and provide any medicine we may need or even counselling and advice.  Every year when the company makes a profit our director calls us together to talk about the year and how we all worked as a team to make it successful. We also receive dividends through the company share scheme. So really for us working at Chobe Game Lodge, it is like being part of a big family community rather than just an employee” says Albert.

On the tour, Albert then introduces us to the ecotourism projects taking place at the lodge. Food waste is now processed in a large biogas plant which produces methane for cooking gas in the staff kitchens. Waste water is treated above ground with new technology that ensures all the grey water is safely recycled into irrigation. In fact, through processes involved in the reduction of rubbish, reusing of materials and recycling initiatives in place, less than 5% of the lodge’s waste ends up in the Kasane refuse facility.

Albert shows guests the first silent CO2 emission free electric game-drive vehicles and safari boats operating in Botswana. Travellers can now move silently through the Chobe National Park observing wildlife in their natural environment, undisturbed by the rumble of a diesel motor. A far cry from guests waiting on a boat for the Fish Eagle to be fed!

But it doesn’t stop there. There are so many fascinating initiatives in place that help keep the lodge environment pristine and natural. It’s incredible to see what can be achieved with a committed approach to responsible tourism and the ecotour is certainly a refreshing look into the future of safari lodges in Africa.

Albert tells us, “If I think back to when I was first offered the job at Chobe Game Lodge in 1971 to what we have now, I am extremely proud and happy to be a part of this place – so much care and attention goes into every part and I really enjoy sharing this with our guests.”

What a privileged to have such a passionate individual like Albert on a team.

Source: Travel News


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Wildlife tourism, host communities, and sustainability. Some thoughts.

The support of the local population is essential for the development, successful operation, and sustainability of wildlife tourism. Achieving the goal of favourable community support for the tourism industry requires an understanding of how residents formulate their attitudes toward tourism.

We know that host interaction with wildlife tourism ranges over a broad spectrum and the interest in both wildlife tourism and human dimensions of wildlife tourism has grown considerably in recent years. We also know that the place and role of host communities and their relationship to and interaction with wildlife will have a direct impact upon the sustainability of those resources. This is broad field that holds tremendous importance for all concerned with wildlife tourism attractions.

The host community is a fundamental component of any tourism system. It is one of the three major components (the tourist, the resource, the host) of wildlife tourism. Wildlife tourism activities have many impacts on a host community; therefore, any increase in wildlife tourism as a recreational pursuit will inevitably be accompanied by a growth in numbers of local people affected by tourism.

For the purpose of this blog, hosts are defined as those who live in the vicinity of the tourist attraction and are either directly or indirectly involved with, and/or affected by, the wildlife tourism activities.

Hosts and Sustainability

The host community is an important element to consider in the concept of sustainability. The sustainability of wildlife tourism is dependent, in part, on its support from the areas’ residents. Host satisfaction is related to both the involvement of local community members in wildlife tourism activities, and the benefits and disadvantages of wildlife tourism to host communities.

Social and cultural issues need to be considered because of the importance of host acceptance to the overall sustainability of a wildlife tourism attraction. Determining how to make a wildlife tourism attraction sustainable from the perspective of the host community requires an understanding of the interplay of elements affecting both the perception of, and support for, that tourism.

While some of the issues have been studied in relation to tourism systems in general, to date there have been very few studies specifically related to wildlife tourism.

Impacts and Attitudes

There are many factors that influence host community attitudes toward, and satisfaction with, wildlife tourism attractions. The actual and perceived impacts of wildlife tourism will influence the attitudes of the host community and ultimately have an effect on sustainability.

It is postulated that wildlife tourism will only be sustainable where there are benefits for the host community (these may be social and/or cultural, and environmental and will not necessarily be confined to economic benefits).

The actual and perceived social and cultural impacts of wildlife tourism are numerous. Impacts on the social environment are likely to affect the behaviour of individuals, community groups, lifestyles, value systems and religious or traditional ceremonies. Members of the host community may be introduced to changes and new behaviours or ideas that have the potential to affect their attitudes, values, norms and motivations. The magnitude of the impacts is likely to vary with the number of tourists, the length of stay, the importance of the wildlife to community life before tourism, and its place in cultural history.

Community Involvement

The host population’s acceptance of wildlife tourism is likely to vary depending on the way in which the host community interacts with the tourist and wildlife. A rural community whose lifestyle has incorporated consumptive/destructive activities (for example, shooting for food, sport and trophy hunting, destruction of habitat) may be introduced to a new understanding of wildlife. The establishment of an ecotourism venture based on wildlife or an enclosure venture may broaden world views of local residents.

Some concluding thoughts

Host participation is not a proven solution to all problems. If hosts resent the intrusion and attention of outsiders, for whatever reason, then it is reasonable to assume that they might also resent the existence of a wildlife tourism attraction.

Community involvement in wildlife tourism attractions varies widely from region to region and from one attraction to another within a region. For example, there exist wildlife tourism attractions that have a high level of community involvement as well as attractions that have little, or no, involvement from the local community.

The attitudes of host community members will also vary from region to region and from one individual to another within a region. For example, attitudes towards activities such as hunting and fishing will vary from one host community to another and also between members of a host community.

Source: Tourismplanningprofessionals.com