ATW Connect chats to Richard Vigne, Managing Director of Ol Pejeta Conservancy to learn more about responsible tourism.
Why do you think responsible tourism is important? Tourism must not come with social and environmental cost if it is to continue to grow as a global industry. As such it will become increasingly important for tourism organisations to ensure the social and environmental sustainability of their products, as customers become ever more discerning. Irresponsible tourism operators will likely disappear in the medium to long term.
What is the one thing you always highlight, when someone asks you why they should travel sustainably? Travel is an enriching experience that broadens the mind and strengthens our understanding and tolerance of different cultures. In the hands of increasingly discerning and demanding customers, it can be an real force for good – holding government to account, making sure that environmental and social standards are met and withholding business where countries fail to meet the standards that are increasingly required. Travellers have the power to heavily and positively influence a globe that is increasingly reliant upon tourism incomes and they should use this power.
How do you experience green travel in Africa? Much of Africa travel is already quite green, being dependent upon wildlife and wilderness areas. However, it is important to seek out those organisations that truly operate in a way that sustains wilderness areas. Not those companies which seek to exploit places such as the Masai Mara for short term gain, and to the long-term environmental detriment of the area.
What makes Ol Pejeta Conservancy a responsible tourism destination? At heart we are conservationists. To achieve conservation, we understand that we need to provide tangible social benefit and economic opportunity to those who live around us. For our tourism product to succeed we must be a business that adheres to the hight possible standards of environmental and social stewardship. Thus, we are home to the largest population of black rhinos in East and Central Africa, including the last two Northern white rhinos, and we support the livelihoods of an estimated 30 000 living around our boundaries.
Why should people visit Africa? It’s amazing, diverse, fully of incredible wildlife, warm, friendly, exciting and an experience like no other. Most people become transfixed after a visit to our continent. More than ever we need travellers to Africa. It is these travellers that pay for the costs of looking after conservation space. Postpone don’t cancel.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy received a Judges’ Award at the World Tourism Awards. The Judges’ Awards are given by the judges of any of the World Responsible Tourism Awards. These awards are rare and are used to recognise businesses which achieve in multiple categories and have been recognised by different panels of judges.
The Judges’ reasons can be found here.