Iain Harris and Michael Letlala from Coffeebeans Routes unpack why responsible tourism will form the backbone of mainstream tourism post COVID-19.
RESPONSIBLE TOURISM IS essential. It’s life or death stuff. And certainly, COVID-19 is giving us a strong perspective on this if we weren’t paying attention before. If we do not use resources responsibly, we will destroy ourselves. And, if feels like an impossible ask. Look at how the planet is recovering with pretty much all international travel grounded. No doubt we should be traveling less, at least until we can travel in less harmful ways. Responsible tourism is about asking really difficult questions about travel and how we do it, about our motivations for travel.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL SHOULD lead us to question the status quo, to act in ways that add value, cultural, spiritually and financially. Responsible travel requires that, as stakeholders in the travel industry, we act in ways that respond to the needs of the destination and not simply the need of the end traveller. Responsible tourism asks us to think very carefully about our relationship with people and planet and self.
COVID-19 HAS SHOWN sustainable travel isn’t possible. Let’s stick with travelling responsibly – it is our relationship with nature as well as with each other, with fellow human beings, that nourishes our time on earth. Traveling responsibly means actively seeking meaningful engagement with fellow human beings in the places we travel to, finding ways to add value to someone else’s life, and to receive value from somebody else. Receiving insight, being open to new ways of being, and being willing to share one’s own experience. This sharing, open-mindedness and willingness is at the heart of responsible travel.
COFFEEBEANS ROUTES IS focused on creating opportunities for people to connect and share and learn from each other, across any real and perceived boundaries. We want people to visit Kigali or Nairobi or Johannesburg or any of the city’s we operate in, and engage with people in ways that shatter our illusions about ourselves and others. To come away with new ways of seeing ourselves in the world, and new insights into what is possible for humanity.
TO EXPERIENCE A DESTINATION, YOU NEED TO walk and cycle more, which means getting out of a vehicle and away from voyeurism, and closer to engagement and participation. This drives a green travel experience – anything that compels the traveller to connect more will tend to be greener, as the connection requires less resources than trying to be exclusive and cocooned. Fear is a driver of unsustainable travel. When we let go of our fears and are willing to learn and be challenged, our travel becomes greener, we make more green choices naturally as we are not scared of participation.
PEOPLE SHOULD VISIT AFRICA BECAUSE Africais inevery sphere of life, Africa in its diversity is where the most interesting innovations are taking place – in music, culture, tech, politics, economics, philosophy… Africa is sophisticated and generous and inclusive. Africa is so excited to share, and that makes it a wonderful continent to visit and spend time. I think that for the open-minded traveller looking to stretch themselves, Africa is the most compelling continent to visit.
THE FUTURE OF AFRICA IS being built around people. Wildlife will continue to thrive, but it will become more and more exclusive and only available to a very wealthy elite from across the planet. Alongside wildlife tourism, cultural and creative tourism, in urban and rural settings, is growing, it’s the fastest growing sector within African tourism. If some 85% of sub Saharan African tourism is wildlife oriented today, within the next 20 years it’s likely to be much closer to 50/50 wildlife safaris and urban cultural travel. Which means that responsible tourism, outside of the ambit of wildlife conservation, will take on even more significance as we seek ways to engage responsibly with diverse cultures, find responsible ways to commodify these experiences, and seek to share our stories without pastiche and without skewed power dynamics. Responsible tourism in this context means addressing ownership structures, creating partnerships, decentralised business centres and more open sourced ways of running businesses.
Coffeebeans Routes won the Silver Benefiting Local People Award at the 2020 Inspirational Africa Responsible Tourism Awards. Read the Judges’ reason here.