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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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Three SA eco-lodges hit elite NatGeo list

Three amazing South African eco-lodges are on National Geographics elite collection of properties that makes up its first-ever travel portfolio.

Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, situated just inland from Gansbaai, and Sabi Sabi’s Earth Lodge near the Kruger National Park and Tswalu Kalahari with the closest town being Upington, are all part of the collection made up of 24 properties on six continents.

“We share and appreciate the values and high quality standards of National Geographic,” said Michael Lutzeyer, part-owner and founder of Grootbos Private Nature Reserve.

Two more African countries are featured. Tanzania has two lodges on the list, while Morroco made it on to the list with one lodge.

Selected through a rigorous evaluation process, each lodge offers an outstanding guest experience while supporting the protection of cultural and natural heritage and embracing sustainable tourism practices.

The initial collection serves as the starting point for National Geographic’s travel portfolio, which includes National Geographic Expeditions, Traveler magazine, travel books, photography courses and the @NatGeoTravel digital and photography community.

National Geographic deployed experts to each site to evaluate operations, meet staff at all levels, scrutinise the lodge’s impact on the local environment and community.

“By creating this carefully curated group of hotels, lodges and retreats that meet internationally recognised sustainable tourism criteria while providing top-notch guest experiences, National Geographic opens a new chapter in the power of travel to protect our planet,” said Costas Christ, a world-renowned sustainable tourism expert and editor at large for National Geographic Traveler magazine, who coordinated an international team to inspect each of the lodges.

“Travellers can feel confident when they stay in one of these lodges that they are helping to safeguard cultural and natural treasures in some of the world’s most incredible places.”

National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World charter members are:

Fogo Island Inn, Canada

Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, South Africa

Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Peru

Kapari Natural Resort, Greece

Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco

Lapa Rios Eco Lodge, Costa Rica

Lizard Island, Australia

Longitude 131°, Australia

Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador

Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, Canada

Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica

Rosalie Bay Resort, Dominica

Rubondo Island Camp, Tanzania

Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, South Africa

Sayari Camp, Tanzania

Southern Ocean Lodge, Australia

Sukau Rainforest Lodge, Malaysian Borneo

The Brando, French Polynesia

The Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana, United States

Three Camel Lodge, Mongolia

Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa, Chile

Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa, Chile

Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa

Zhiwa Ling Hotel, Bhutan

Source: iAfrica

Burundi looks at cultural tourism for community development

TANZANIA (eTN) – Looking forward to identifying strategies and best practice in cultivating sustainable, peaceful, and welcoming communities through tourism, culture, and sports, tourism stakeholders will be meeting in South Africa next month to deliberate on the potential roles of tourism, culture, and sports.

Several African tourism experts and policymakers have been invited to the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism (IIPT) Symposium in South Africa to share positive experiences from their respective countries and communities on the potential roles of tourism in poverty eradication, conflict resolution, and creation of sustainable development through tourism.

Burundi, a small African nation, rich with diversified cultures, stands as a modal example of countries in Africa looking to develop cultural tourism as a lifeline for community development and a catalyst for poverty eradication.

Lacking abundant wildlife resources as compared to other member states of the East African Community (EAC), Burundi is boastful of rich and diversified cultures, making it the leading cultural destination nation in Eastern and Central Africa.

The government of Burundi has been committed to developing the tourism sector known as a pillar of a socio economic growth and a key player in peace consolidation, according to National Tourism Office of Burundi.

A National Strategy for a Sustainable Development of Tourism resulting from a plan of activities has been in place for three years from 2013 to 2016 and is currently being implemented.

In collaboration with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the government of Burundi had committed to develop the Cultural Tourism Program, taking an advantage of the rich cultural diversity in the country.

The program had succeeded to provide local people in various rural areas the opportunity to build sustainable livelihoods from developing and managing cultural tourism enterprises in their communities.

The Cultural Tourism Program is also aimed at giving a bright future for creating understanding and friendships between tourists and local people, offering tourists from across the world the possibility to experience Burundi’s rich and diversified cultural heritage, also creating harmony among local communities through benefit sharing from tourist gains.

The Cultural Tourism Program also allocates a part of the tourist income to community development purposes in the village through improvement and development of primary schools, health centers, a clean water supply, and other social services.

Tourists and tour operators in Burundi had also made voluntary contributions to these development projects, the National Tourism Office of Burundi says.

Burundi has been celebrating World Tourism Day held on September 27 of every year, aiming at strengthening tourism development as an engine for economic growth, highlighting the community dimension as one of the key pillars of sustainable development.

Last year (2014), World Tourism Day was dedicated to community development and was celebrated in Burundi through sensitization of people on the importance of the tourism sector in the country’s development.

With the complementary to the on-going ST-EP Project in Burundi, the UNWTO volunteer on the ground collaborated with the Burundi Ministry of Tourism and organized a two-day “Open Doors” event at the National Tourism Office in Bujumbura from September 26-27, 2014.

The two-day event gathered some 300 visitors who enjoyed traditional performances while mingling with more than 35 exhibition booths, representing local artisans, public tourism institutions, tourism training institutes, tour operators, and the other tourism enterprises.

The event also provided the opportunity for the formal presentation of training certificates to a group of waiters and receptionists who participated in the training carried out from June to August 2014 as part of the activities of the ST-EP project in Burundi.

The ST-EP project in Burundi also focuses on supporting tourism Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs) to help generate additional local employment for women and youth in Bujumbura and at Lake Tanganyika resources.

Several workshops were held during World Tourism Day, aimed at sensitization of people on community and sustainable tourism development.

Attracting international experts in community development, community tourism, sports, culture, and peace, the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism (IIPT) Symposium will be held from February 16 to 20 in Johannesburg to honor the legacies of former South African majority President Nelson Mandela, former Prime minister of India Mahatma Ghandi, and the former US Civil Rights champion, Martin Luther King, Jr.

The symposium is as well, aimed at building bridges of tourism, friendship, and peace between South Africa, India, the United States, and other regions of the world.

Source: eTurbo News

 

Spotlight On The Hotel That Claims To Be Africa’s Greenest: Hotel Verde

There are not a lot of hotels near Cape Town International Airport. Most business and leisure travellers are in a hurry to get to Cape Town, or reluctant to leave, and understandably so, given the city’s many attractions.

That’s why the 145-room Hotel Verde, located about a three-minute drive to Cape Town International Airport, feels like such a game changer. I stayed there my last night of a recent trip to Cape Town and it felt like a glimpse into the future of the hotel industry.

Hotel Verde claims to be Africa’s greenest hotel, built from the ground up according to eco-friendly principles. Staying there, you are practicing conscious, sustainable tourism. It’s the first hotel in Africa to offer a carbon-neutral stay, meaning you know exactly how much or how little your stay impacted the environment, and that makes it an amazingly feel-good experience.

Being accountable for its footprint is the guiding principle behind this hotel, which opened in August, 2013. South Africa’s green building certification wasn’t sophisticated enough for Hotel Verde, said General Manager Samantha Annandale, so they applied for — and got – LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Annandale reckons the hotel got about 30 million rand (2.57 million USD) in free publicity just for being green.

Pulling up to the hotel, I knew it was going to be unlike anything I’d ever experienced when I saw the massive wind turbines spinning in the parking lot. But as big as they appear to be, they aren’t big enough, Annandale said. Though these are the most visible signs of green technology at the hotel, the wind turbines turned out to be probably its least productive investment.

“Return on investment (of wind turbines) is 20 years,” Annandale said. “We’d need to build (the wind turbines) bigger to make it worth it. We’ve learned from our mistakes. But they make a huge statement.”

Eco Pool

Annandale spent a lot more time talking to me about the hotel’s eco pool, which uses plants and natural soil filtration to balance bacteria without chlorine. Water is clean and clear, but nothing like the hotel swimming pool international guests are used to, and some find it a bit weird, Annandale said.

Getting used to it requires a new mindset. “We cannot build hotels the way we used to build them,” she said.

Hotel Verde owners Mario and Annemarie Delicio have a 10-year lease on the wetland adjacent to the hotel where they built the eco pool. They took what amounted to a rat-infested swamp and turned it into an outdoor gym, with plants that attract birds and bees, owl houses and beehives that the hotel harvests. Kids staying at the hotel can go on a treasure hunt there.

Born in Italy and raised in Germany, Mario is a longtime South African resident and the shareholder in another hotel in Ethiopia.

One of Mario’s goals at Hotel Verde was to have zero waste to landfill. “We wanted to revolutionize that,” Annandale said. So far, the hotel manages to divert an 91-to-94 percent of waste from the landfill and they do that by recycling. The hotel has a composting room. Packaging is returned to suppliers. “One thing you can never control is what guests bring in,” Annandale said.

About 30 percent of the hotel staff’s time is spent educating school children, guests, tours and site inspectors.

Hotel Verde construction cost about 240 million rand ($20.5 million) and building it green cost about 20 million rand ($1.7 million) more than an ordinary hotel would have cost, Annandale estimates. It will take three to five years to see a return on the investment, she said.

Annandale is particularly proud of the room where gray water from guest showers is recycled. It’s fed into tanks, filtered by ultraviolet light, and then piped back up into the building to flush guest toilets.

The hotel also has a 40,000-liter rainwater harvesting tank for car washing, irrigation and cleaning.

To save energy on water heating, a geothermal loop system 90 feet beneath the surface of the hotel taps into the natural water in the earth, acting as a heat sink for the hotel water.

Engineers from the University of Cape Town visit the hotel, which serves as a model for the Stellenbosch municipality.

Art designed by local school children and South African artists is used to decorate the hotel. School children in the nearby townships don’t get art education, according to Annandale. Mario agreed to fund an art education project on condition the children learn about sustainability. In return, they created the designs for stunning tapestries that decorate the common areas on the floor I my room was on.

Using Recycled Products

One wall in the lobby was textured with recycled glass. The hotel’s carpet runners are made of recycled plastic. On the outside of the hotel, a five-story mosaic art installation was designed by Svenja, Mario’s youngest daughter.

There is free unlimited Wi-Fi and sensor lighting throughout Hotel Verde, and my room was paperless, in that all hotel information was on the TV.

One of my favorite places in the hotel was in the basement garage, where graffiti artists had been invited to come in and paint. This turned out to be a moneymaker for the hotel. Guests loved the basement art and some have paid to have banquets there, Annandale said.

But you probably want to hear about the rooms. I loved that the butter cookies I found on the coffee tray in my room were made by a local woman in Mitchell’s Plain, one of South Africa’s largest townships.

“We helped her become compliant in food preparation and now she employs two people,” Annandale said.

When you check out of Hotel Verde, you have the option to offset your carbon footprint and you can track where and how it was offset. Just knowing that made me feel good.

Source: AFK Insider

Africa Travel Association recognizes Tanzania National Parks

Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) received the 2014 “Development of Responsible Tourism within the Continent” Award from the Africa Travel Association (ATA) at the 39th Annual ATA World Congress, Kampala, Uganda, November 12-16. The distinguished award was presented by Her Excellency Janet Museveni, First Lady of the Republic of Uganda, and Edward Bergman, ATA Executive Director. Ibrahim Mussa, Director of Tourism and Marketing, Tanzania National Parks accepted the award on behalf of TANAPA.

Allan Kijazi, Director General, Tanzania National Parks, in thanking ATA for the Award, said: “Tanzania National Parks is honored to be recognized for our commitment to conservation and sustainable tourism development. TANAPA will continue to preserve the beauty and natural resources of Tanzania’s 16 National Parks to share with future generations of visitors from Africa and around the globe.”

Established in 1959 with Serengeti National Park as Tanzania’s first national park, Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) has expanded to 16 national parks. Conservation of eco-systems in all areas designated as national parks is the core business of the organization. Tanzania National Parks manages and regulates the use of areas designated as National Parks to preserve the country’s heritage, encompassing natural and cultural resources, both tangible and intangible resource values, including the fauna and flora, wildlife habitat, natural processes, wilderness quality and scenery therein and to provide for human benefit and enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for future generations.

TANAPA is a member of The Africa Travel Association, the leading global trade association promoting travel and tourism to Africa and strengthening intra-Africa partnerships. Established in 1975, ATA serves both the public and private sectors of the international travel and tourism industry.

ATA’s annual events in the USA and across Africa bring together industry leaders to shape Africa’s tourism agenda and to stay up-to-date on Africa’s latest tourism trends, issues and products.

Source: eTurbo News

SA lauded at World Responsible Tourism Awards

South African tourism shone under the global spotlight during the World Responsible Tourism Awards held in London on Wednesday.

Hotel Verde in Cape Town won Gold in the Best City Hotel for Responsible Tourism category, the V&A Waterfront walked away with Gold for Best Destination for Responsible Tourism and South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance received Gold for being the Best Global Animal Welfare Initiative. Mdumbi Backpackers was a finalist in the Best for Poverty Reduction category.

Every year there is also a winner of winners – a Gold winner amongst the Gold winners. The South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance won this Overall Winner category award

Now in their 11th year, the awards aim to develop quality tourism products that promote cultural integrity and environmental protection.

“These awards are significant for the entire Tourism industry in South Africa. It shows that South Africa is taking its place as a world leader in responsible tourism,” said Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom.

“Many travellers are now making decisions based on fair trade, community benefits and sustainable development practices. In response to this, more of our destinations are implementing sustainable principles like recycling greywater and reducing energy use.  These establishments are an inspiration to others to follow suit.”

The need for tourism businesses to look after the environmental, economic and social elements of their enterprise is a key pillar in the recently revised Tourism Act of 2014.

South Africa has become the second country in the world, after Brazil, to develop National Minimum Standards for Responsible Tourism.

“I believe we can do more to educate and activate travel consumers to support responsible tourism. This will accelerate the implementation of responsible tourism principles by destination operators even further,” Hanekom said, adding that they will be looking at ways to incentivise the retrofitting of tourism attractions and accommodation facilities to make them for energy saving, water efficiency and accessibility for travellers with physical limitations.