A highlight on the WTM Africa calendar, the WTM Africa Responsible Tourism awards champion the very best work in Responsible Tourism on the African continent. Join us as we celebrate those – sustainability champions, changemakers, movers and shakers – who continue to make a positive impact and lead by example.
The awards aim to “discover, recognise and promote good practice”. These prestigious awards recognise businesses and destinations that make responsible tourism their focus to ensure they are discovered and celebrated, showing how they are cultivating change and pioneering creative projects that revolve around the wellbeing and sustainability of tourism and looking after the people and the landscapes that allow the industry to thrive.
Decarbonising Travel & Tourism
Climate change is with us. It is something we now have to learn to live with. Climate change will have profound consequences for businesses in our sector and people and wildlife in originating markets and destinations. We must also find ways to reduce the amount of carbon that people travelling and on holiday cause to be emitted. We have to change the production and consumption of tourism – travel, accommodation, attractions and activities all need to act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Through the Awards we would like to showcase examples of technologies, management systems and ways of changing consumer behaviour that have demonstrably reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
We are beginning to see much stronger entries in this category, not only in Africa, but globally. The aspiration, of the Responsible Tourism Awards is to inspire change, the judges were impressed by the range of ways in which a relatively small operator like Green Safaris has sought to decarbonise and its positive impact in neighbouring communities. Green Safaris operates properties in Zambia and Malawi using tourism to contribute to conservation and community development and promote engaged tourism. Their lodges are built with earthbags, reducing cement use by 95%, and local materials to reduce embedded carbon footprint and most are fully solar powered, the earthbag construction better regulates the interior temperature naturally. They use solar-charged game-drive e-vehicles, e-boats and e-mountain bikes and they have introduced smart stoves to reduce charcoal burning in neighbouring communities. Through their Conservation Foundation they have established twelve nurseries and planting 2,000 indigenous hardwood and fruit trees, 24,000 per year, providing sustainable firewood and fresh fruit for the villages through a continuous planting cycle. Green Safaris report that they are receiving more and more requests to share their approach with others and the expressed hope that their winning this award would inspire many others.
Grootbos has won several World Responsible Tourism Awards but it has not previously been recognised for its decarbonisation work. Since 2014 Grootbos has been measuring its direct emissions (electricity, fuel, water, waste, gas etc.) to determine its carbon footprint. Recently externally audited against their on-going community, conservation and sustainability initiatives: renewable energy, solid waste recycling and green waste composting. Through this process they have been certified as a carbon negative destination, their conservation and land management practises on their fynbos reserve sequester more carbon than their lodge operations emit on an annual basis. The net greenhouse gas removed by reforestation activities are equivalent to ~0.03 tCO2e/ha/year. Grootbos effectively manages its own carbon sequestration providing a high degree of confidence that greenhouse gases are being removed.
The V&A has been on its carbon emissions reduction journey since 2009 and has managed to reduce its carbon emissions by 47% while increasing the footprint of the V&A by 110,000m² over the last 13 years. Over the same period water consumption was reduced by 61% and waste was diverted from landfill. These are remarkable achievements demonstrating what can be achieved when a large tourism business, a destination, determines to achieve sustainability. The V&A have engaged their whole community – tenants, residents, employees, suppliers, management and millions of guests – encouraging them to choose to recycle their waste, be water-wise and energy efficient and integrate ‘green’ thinking into their daily lives. The V&A shares it experience and knowledge through the Green Building Council of South African and the annual Green Building Convention. The Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre has a 5-star rating, securing reductions in carbon emissions by energy-saving through solar panels and skylights, charging stations for electric cars, energy metered efficient lighting and more efficient management of water achieving a 40% saving in electricity consumption. They are pioneering sea water district cooling in the Silo district with a view to site-wide roll out, where possible and sea water desalination by 2023.
Destinations Building Back Better Post-Covid
In the Awards last year, we saw several destinations which were beginning to rethink the tourist volumes and market segments that they will attract post-Covid and some who were considering demarketing. The apparently inexorable increase in visitor numbers has been halted by the pandemic. Many destinations have had a “breather”. A reminder of what their place was like before the hordes arrived. An opportunity to rethink tourism and perhaps to decide to use tourism rather than be used by it.
TUI Care Foundation
The TUI Care Foundation connects holidaymakers to good causes, they foster education and the wellbeing of children and youth, the protection of nature and the environment, and the positive impacts of tourism on people and places in destinations worldwide. At the TUI Academy on Zanzibar youths are being trained to become tour guides. Children with limited access to opportunities across the African continent have benefitted from the TUI Junior Academy´s support, for example in communities near Kruger Park and on the islands of Sal and BoaVista on the Cape Verdean archipelago. Through their 100 Helping Hands Initiatives the TUI Care Foundation provided financial support for local NGOs, small charitable organizations and social enterprises to strengthen their crisis relief activities in vulnerable tourism-adjacent communities support for food banks in tourism communities to cover the local population´s basic needs in these times of crisis. The TUI Care Foundation initiated, together with the Berlin-based non-profit enpact eV and the support of the German government and GIZ, the COVID-19 Relief Programme for Tourism and the Tourism Recovery Programme which supported 465 tourism SMMEs in Egypt, Kenya, Indonesia, Jordan, Mexico and South Africa. The programmes consist of a 6-month cycle which includes financial support (provided by the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development), online training and dedicated one-on-one mentoring for the participating businesses by European tourism experts. The judges recognised the TUI Care Foundation’s, COVID-19 Relief Programme for Tourism and the Tourism Recovery Programme as pioneering initiative of international collaboration to provide support for small scale tourism entrepreneurs through the pandemic and enable them to build back better.
Sustainable Island Mauritius
Sustainable Island Mauritius (SIM) is a project funded by the European Union designed to improve value chain sustainability by identifying and scaling-up sustainable tourism innovations by responding to changing consumer demand, introducing sustainable consumption and production practices to the inbound Tour Operators and their suppliers hotels, tour guides, taxi drivers, pleasure boat operators and crafters. The judges recognised that with the funding from the EU, SIM has been able to operate at scale through the pandemic to work with the whole supply chain from tour operators to smallholder farmers and local communities.
One to Watch
Rwanda Development Board
Tourism in one of the sectors that the Rwanda Development Board works with providing market intelligence, practical advice, and business tools to improve local livelihoods and helping the sector to grow. In Rwanda COVID-19 highlighted the risks associated with overreliance on tourism as the country’s top export and the need to diversify and build greater resilience. The judges recognised that this will result in significant positive change in Rwanda over the next few years and hope to see a further application.
One to Watch
When the pandemic hit in 2020 Ultimate Safaris launched the Namibia ‘Conservation First’ Covid Chronicles, is a real-life, conservation travel series reporting the ‘behind the scenes’ life of active conservation in Namibia, and putting “CONSERVATION FIRST”. Sixty five episodes were produced over a six month period, taking followers behind-the-scenes of Namibia’s Conservation engine room ensuring that Namibia remained in the forefront of the minds of potential travellers. The Covid Chronicles engaged with conservation initiatives across the country, helped to maintain morale and provides a resource to enhance the tourism experience post-Covid. The initiative inspired Jens Schneider, to create the Conservation Film Foundation. The judges hope to hear more about the impact of this initiative as tourism returns to Namibia.
Sustaining Employees and Communities through the Pandemic
We recognise that the pandemic is far from over, and as the World Health Organization rightly reminds us, we are not safe until we are all safe. It will take many more months before travel and holiday volumes recover to whatever the “new normal” will be. We are aware that many businesses and organisations in the travel and tourism sector have worked hard to sustain their employees and the communities in which they operate with really positive impacts around the world. Many of these efforts have involved others in their supply chain and consumers. We would like to recognise and draw attention to those who have successfully helped others, employees and neighbours alike, to weather the storm.
Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project
The Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project is a programme of the Kilimanjaro Responsible Trekking Organization, a porter welfare initiative working to improve their working conditions. When Covid arrived they used a phone tree method to provide Covid safety information to 7,000 mountain crew and asked them to share the information with families, friends and neighbours. The phone tree was used to provid expert advice on ways of supporting mountain crew, self-reliant food production (344 participants), alternative livelihoods (1,112 participants) and budgeting (1,957 participants). The Village Savings and Loan methodology was introduced to 76 participants and 15 porters received training as Community-Based Trainers (CBTs) to guide and oversee the savings groups. Four savings groups were created in Moshi, Marangu, Arusha and Rongai. Vaccine awareness classes enable porters to make informed decisions about whether or not to be vaccinated. In 2020 and 2021 $85,900 USD was spent on these activities. With increasing concern about working conditions and greenwashing among consumers KPAP is providing independent third party verification of minimum standard compliance for mountain crew, local companies, and the climbing public. KPAP is “hopeful that this award recognition will create some much-needed awareness within the industry and help facilitate social responsibility on all Kilimanjaro treks.”
We are Victoria Falls
‘We Are Victoria Falls’ (WAVF) is a grassroots organisation representing the tourism community. When Covid struck tourism ceased and the 80% of the community reliant on it were without livelihoods. Their objectives were to build solidarity, inspire their community to support each other, and tell “real, truthful and inspiring stories” to recover as a destination. Building this narrative and encouraging their community to ‘live it’ is an important part of boosting morale and positioning their offer in the market – embodying the concept ‘better places to live are better places to visit’. We wanted to inspire ourselves, inspire other resource-strapped destinations, and future visitors to our unique hometown.” 180 stakeholders joined large, small, formal and informal. WAVF focused ‘on solidarity, community commitment to tourism and health preparedness’. In kind contributions have been made by ~100 different organisations which have sponsored community initiatives, programmes, or volunteered time, resources, transport, or equipment. WAVF engaged 100 local residents to create a week-long event ‘Visit your Backyard’, providing a morale boost and build solidarity with other industry players”. Stakeholders in and around Hwange National Park have subsequently formed the “Association for Tourism Hwange” and Kariba stakeholders have been in discussions about how they can create a similar initiative.
Reducing Plastic Waste in the Environment
The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically increased the amount of single-use plastic, adding to the plastic waste crisis. Plastic waste is now entering the food chain of other species as well as ours. Once plastic enters watercourses, it ends in gyros of garbage in the oceans, on beaches and in the stomachs of fish we then eat. The industry needs to do more to reduce its use of single-use plastics and take responsibility and work with local communities and their governments to capture waste plastic with nets and floating barriers and upcycle it for as cobbles, furniture and crafts.
Operating safaris in Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar through 17 camps and lodges since 2016 Asilia uses stainless steel water bottles. They were early partners of Zanrec in introducing sustainable waste-management and played a part in encouraging 100 other hotels and guesthouses on the east coast of Zanzibar to partner with them and recycle their waste responsibly. In 2020 at Sayari, in the Serengeti, they launched a solar powered micro-brewery using reverse osmosis purified water from a borehole on site. On site they produce beer, soft drinks, iced tea, lemonade, and an elderflower tonic, and sparkling water – all using solar power. They no longer purchase plastic and glass bottles and cans for the camp and save carbon emissions transporting drinks to the lodge. They also supply other camps in the Serengeti and TANAPA staff. Water is transported twice a month from Sayari to the other camps in 1000 litre tanks and 20 litre recycled reusable bottles. TANAPA collects the water as and when they need it. This has resulted in a 45% reduction in plastic waste in the three pre-pandemic years. They hope that the guest experience of recycling and not using plastic water bottles will encourage their guests to take the practice home with them.
Lemala Camps and Lodges
Operating in Tanzania and Uganda Lemala Camps and Lodges removes plastic bottles from inside the national parks and conservation areas and converts them to school desks. They supply plastic waste bins made from recycled plastic and collect waste plastic, each full bin contains enough waste (10-15kg of plastic) to make one school desk and two chairs. Lemala upcycled 7.6 tonnes of plastic bottles to make the main area flooring for Lemala Ngorongoro Tented Camp. Lemala provides their guests with reusable aluminium and 100% biodegradable lunch boxes, where all contents and packaging is plastic free made from banana leaves. By using a 100,000L reverse osmosis water system Lemala saves $15,000 and ~300,000 plastic bottles.
Increasing Diversity in Tourism: How Inclusive is our Industry?
We travel to experience other cultures, communities, and places. If everywhere was the same, why travel? Though we seek diversity through travel, we’ve noticed that diversity is not always reflected in the industry that helps others have such experiences. Diversity is a broad term: “identities include, but are not limited to, ability, age, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, immigration status, intellectual differences, national origin, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation.” We do not expect to find an organisation that has made demonstrable progress on all of these in the last few years. For our industry, it is about who we employ at various levels, who we market to, the way we present the destinations we sell, the range of experiences we promote, and the stories we tell.
Bon Hotel Bloemfontein Central
BON Hotel Bloemfontein Central is a three star hotel with115 bedrooms and conference facilities that can accommodate up to 420 guests, owned by three shareholders and the staff. In 2007 they appointed previously disadvantaged staff members to their board of directors and then created a staff share trust. They allocated 51% of the shares in the business to the staff. The initiative is self-funded from the hotel’s profits. The Bon Hotel in Bloemfontein is involved with the Towers of Hope, NGO located across the street from the hotel which works to improve the lives of marginalised citizens in inner-city Bloemfontein. The judges wanted to recognise this unusual example of an initiative designed to empower previously disadvantaged members of their community. The Bon Hotel believes that it is better to upskill their and promote their own staff than to involve outside shareholders. Everyone in the hotel from cleaners to managers has a share in the success of the hotel, the staff have ownership which facilitates staff retention through development and promotion and enhances service delivery. Most of their management team have progressed through the ranks. By engaging with the Towers of Hope they have contributed more widely to improving the lives of these marginalised people of Bloemfontein. As they pointed our in their application “Winning this ward will truly be inspiring for our staff and the people at Towers of Hope, as well as the broader community of Bloemfontein.”
Lemala Camps and Lodges
Lemala recognises that the East African tourism industry is male dominated, and is striving to balance the gender ratio. The empowerment of women is their social responsibility priority. Lemala’s senior management consists of 6 females and 2 males. They annually host a young person’s leadership academy though which they have inspired and recruited two female guides. They hace created an employment opportunity for 32 homeworker mums to make their 100% biodegradable banana leaf lunch boxes. 18% of Lemala’s staff are female. Mary Jovin, Lemala’s First Female Guide, explains: “I am doing this to prove to every girl out there, that we can do whatever men can.” At Lemala’s Ngorongoro Tented Camp they are providing sanitary towels so that girls do not need to lose school days. As Lemala points out in its entry “this is a long journey but a step in the right direction”.
Growing the Local Economic Benefit
There is still a place for CSR1.0 and philanthropy, as is evident from last year’s Sustaining Employees and Communities through the Pandemic category. However, by adapting the way they do business, accommodation providers and tour operators can create additional market opportunities for local communities in their supply chains and create opportunities to sell goods and services directly to tourists. This diversifies the local economy and enriches the destination in both senses, creating additional livelihoods for locals and a richer range of activities, food and drink, and craft and art products for tourists. Destinations can assist these changes by, amongst other things, providing micro-finance, training and mentoring, creating market places and performance spaces and providing marketing assistance.
At Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, Wild Horizons operates four lodges and is the lead provider of activities: whitewater rafting, boat cruises, ground handling, helicopter rides, elephant encounters, and high-wire activities, zip lines, flying fox, and gorge swings. The judges wanted to recognise four of their initiatives, each highly replicable. Their Pay It Forward Initiative, which enables guests to enrich their journey while making a positive impact. From a list of registered charitable organizations, guests select a cause they would like to support, such as the Old Age Home or Orphanage. Armed with a list of ‘wishes’ that the organization provides, a guide-driver takes guests to various markets in the area. The guests connect with local people, discover less-visited parts of town, and immerse themselves in a different style of grocery shopping before delivering their purchases to their chosen charity. Their home-hosted meal activity: staff open their homes to travellers, offering them a seat at their table and the opportunity to celebrate authentic Zimbabwean cuisine and customs. The experience fosters a deeper understanding of local customs for guests and enabling staff to share their heritage and earn additional income.
Village Tours: the fees provide an additional income for the village and enrich their guests experience in Victoria Falls, enabling them to have a meaningful connection to a different culture. The Raincoat Rainforest Initiative: Wild Horizons sources and donates raincoats to an association of independent vendors, who then hire these out to Wild Horizons guests and other guests visiting the Falls, providing them with a livelihood.
andBeyond is a conservation-led, luxury travel company founded in 1991 in South Africa, owning and operating 29 lodges and camps in Africa and South America;they also design personalised journeys, tours and impact-led experiences in 13 African countries and in Asia and South America. The judges recognise the positive impact of their Hustle Economy Programme with this award. In 1992 the Africa Foundation was founded as their implementation partner to uplift, up-skill and empower rural communities living close to the conservation areas in which they operate in 73 rural or peri-urban communities across South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia creating and supporting community-led projects in primary health care, education, livelihoods and enterprise development. Their Hustle Economy Micro-Enterprise Support Programme is working with 200 hustle-preneurs, mostly women, in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga positively impacting the lives of 1,600 individuals adults and children. The programme requires an investment from each hustler, to twice weekly, three-hour, facilitated peer-to-peer workshops in which they are provided with core business skills and a system of financial discipline to transform their enterprises into viable, income-supporting entities. The programme assists micro-entrepreneurs to develop their enterprise skills and grow their businesses to create larger and more reliable incomes for their families; participants in the programme are increasing their incomes by as much as 40%.
The judges were struck by two innovations included by businesses entering the Africa Responsible Tourism Awards this year, innovations generated in response to the pandemic, which are likely to become a permanent part of the travel and tourism sector. There have been many efforts to create virtual travel experiences whether on the internet or through the use of virtual reality. These forms of virtual travel use very significantly less carbon but they also contribute very little to the destination. The two businesses awarded in this category have developed ways in which people from home can engage with people in destinations and contribute much to the destination. Having happened across these virtuous virtual initiatives the judges decided to create this category and recognise them.
people and places creates individually-designed placements which match volunteer skills to local needs in 10 countries worldwide including Eswatini, The Gambia, South Africa, Madagascar and Morocco. People and places responded to the pandemic by creating a comprehensive e-volunteer programme which enables volunteers to make links with local communities, sharing their skills and experiences, to build the capacity of those communities. This has enabled meaningful relationships between volunteers and local communities, just as happened when their volunteers were able to travel. 70+ meaningful online partnerships between volunteers and local people have delivered, IT training PowerPoints, science experiments and gardening videos and storytelling videos to use in English lessons. Longer-term skills-matched placements lasting from 8-16 weeks have delivered oral English practice for Berber high-school girls, training programmes for new curriculum delivery in The Gambia; and introducing the concept of a book club as a method of developing public speaking skills in South Africa. People and places has developed a way of continuing ‘real’ volunteering, even though travel was not possible. Volunteers are able to get to know and interact with local people through regular planned video calls -and some local people have said that they feel they have built up better relationships with volunteers online because they have had longer to get to know them. This form of e-volunteering enables those unable to travel for health or financial reasons to volunteer.
The judges wanted to recognise separately the TUI Care Foundation’s innovative use of virtual mentoring as part of its COVID-19 Relief Programme for Tourism and the Tourism Recovery Programme, also awarded Silver in the 2022 WTM Africa Responsible Tourism Awards. The TUI Care Foundation partnered with Berlin-based non-profit Enpact eV and with the support of the German government and GIZ, provided virtual support package for 465 tourism SMMEs. Nine themed workshops were delivered including “Resilience, Communication & Leadership” and “Sustainability”. The learning was provided through expert videos – workshops in a web-series format, live Q&A sessions between the workshop facilitators and the participants, written assignments (some of them mandatory) and also weekly newsletters with resources and opportunities for further learning. 86% of all businesses reported that they had achieved their business-related goals. The programme also delivered dedicated virtual one-on-one mentoring from 100 European tourism expert mentors for the participating businesses.