At its heart responsible tourism ‘creates better places for people to live in, and better places to visit’ and the 2002 Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism in Destinations defines Responsible Tourism as follows:
“Responsible Tourism is tourism which:
a. minimises negative economic, environmental and social impacts
b. generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well being of host communities
c. improves working conditions and access to the industry
d. involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances
e. makes positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage embracing diversity
f. provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues
g. provides access for physically challenged people
h. is culturally sensitive, encourages respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence”
Modern travel, particularly to Africa, demands at least a veneer of responsibility. Safari outfitters make much of their responsible credentials in marketing material, donations are made, communities developed and photographs taken illustrating a commitment to some sort of responsibility.
At its heart tourism is good for Africa and particular, African wildlife. Land will always be utilised by people and with increasing populations the demand for land to have economic value has never been high. Tourism gives land a tangible value that prevents it being used for ranching to the detriment of wildlife and land.
There is very little freehold land in Botswana, what there is, is generally used for commercial agriculture. This ensures that wildlife areas are owned by the government and people of Botswana. This has a variable manifestation at the local level with different types of leases the end result. Safari camps leases are either held through local land boards or communities with the Botswana Tourism Organisation overseeing the process. Sites are tendered for with submissions evaluated on the basis of the financial offer, generally lease fee and resource royalty paid annually, and the technical proposal. Tourism properties within wildlife areas need to demonstrate that they have a negligible impact on the environment and indeed in National Parks and Game Reserves must be temporary structures able to be demolished at the end of the lease.
Ownership of safari companies is just as broad. These range from single man operators to multinational listed companies. All have a part to play in the development of the safari industry. The listed companies, Chobe Holdings and Wilderness Holdings, provided a mechanism for the broad community of the nation to own a stake in the tourism industry. Professionally run they provide returns to the individual investors and funds that have invested in them and allow capital to be accumulated for investment in new enterprises in untried safari destinations such as the Kalahari whilst reducing the overall risk. These companies are also able to accumulate human capital and develop experience in the industry.
Companies of all sizes engage with Community Based Organisations and tribal authorities. These partnerships allow for the development of tourism resources and their wider marketing and operation. Local communities benefit throughout with extensive consultation and involvement in the management of the properties. They gain exposure to the professional skills of the companies and their ability to project the product through effective marketing.
Most safari companies are able to illustrate the very real benefits that they have brought to local communities. Community engagement is fundamental to the development of a successful tourism product and allows establishment of a holistic product.