Responsible Tourism

While it may be possible to take a hard-nosed commercial attitude when dealing with many tourism products, it isn’t possible to be involved with Africa and not to recognise the huge problems that it suffers.

Thus we believe that it is impossible to be involved in this industry without being conscious of the responsibilities that this imposes, and the contribution that responsible tourism can make.

AfricaAway has identified the following areas as being relevant to this debate, and the following sections are very much our own take on the discussion: you may or may not agree with everything that we have to say. Please feel free to let us have your own thoughts on these important matters.


Benefits to the Local Community

We strongly believe that there is no point in a country earning large amounts of revenue through tourism unless a substantial part of these revenues is used to benefit the community at ground level.

Hence AfricaAway will only deal with those camps and lodges that have shown that they are concerned with supporting the local community, in terms of providing the maximum employment opportunities and also in providing direct aid. Many such camps and lodges directly support a local school project, which is something that is of immediate and vital importance in this environment. Details of some of these projects are given below.

As an example of what we are trying to say: a large South African property development company recently put forward plans to build two new luxury hotels in the rapidly developing Livingstone area, close to Victoria Falls. The proposed site was only three miles upriver from Victoria Falls, and would have run for almost two miles along the banks of the Zambezi river. These plans were initially approved in the face of strong opposition from environmentalists who pointed out that the development would cut vital elephant migration routes in the area, bulldozing a prime wildlife corridor through the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. Indeed Unesco has warned that it could actually jeopardise the World Heritage status of Victoria Falls. Along with several other tourism companies, AfricaAway will NOT be sending guests to stay at either of these hotels!


Supporting Local Schools

A basic education is one of the most precious things that a child can be given. When you hear about children in rural Africa who cannot attend school because they cannot raise the 25p needed to provide the basic essentials of equipment demanded, you cannot just stand aside.

Fortunately many camps and lodges have put specific programmes into place to give support to specific schools in their area, and we encourage guests to try to add their own support to such worthwhile projects. In particular you may be able to pay a visit to the local school if this appeals to you – providing you with memories that may last longer than any game viewing. We appreciate that some people may be reluctant to make a cash donation, since they lack confidence that it will reach its intended recipients. However if you can find space in your luggage for such basics as pens, pencils, erasers and pencil sharpeners, educational posters or books of any kind (although the latter are heavy) then these will be gladly accepted. Just leave them with your camp manager.


Aid to Africa

It is too easy for individuals and governments just to shovel out financial aid to African countries. But this aid needs to be accurately directed and apportioned if it is to be of much value, and many people who would like to help will be conscious of the vast amounts of public money poured into this continent, only to disappear into the back pockets of its rulers and officials. As an aside, we don’t necessarily think that this means that Africa is any more corrupt in this sense than any other country in the world, merely that the inevitable cultural differences affect the actual form that this takes, together with its visibility.

We have already shown how the individual wanting to help out at local level can make his contributions in kind, rather than in cash, if desired, and there is an increasing awareness that this small-scale local level of aid is in fact the key to helping Africa in the future.

In brief, the principle is that of microfinance: making small-scale loans to individuals or groups, who can then use these as a form of business start-up capital, and go on from there. As an example, one lady in Malawi recently borrowed the princely sum of £30 from the London-based Microloan Foundation. She then used this to buy rice, which she sold on door-to-door, eventually building up the business to a level at which she is now supplying rice and other foodstuffs to several schools and other organisations within her region. This principle – of providing opportunity, rather than just a handout – is an example of how a different way of thinking may succeed where conventional massive aid handouts does not.