Let us re-define what it is to achieve success in this ‘business’ of eco-tourism? The fact that we are losing the very things that allow our businesses to operate feels like a clear indicator that we are not being successful. It is becoming increasingly clear that we have taken too much and not taken care of and/or invested back into what allows this business to happen in the first place. As eco-tourism providers, and eco-tourists, this is OUR responsibility.
We can always point fingers and place blame, but that’s not often helpful, is it? Instead let us focus, and act, on REAL, genuinely regenerative, solutions. We must minimize energy waste as we are in particularly precarious times. For a long time we were led to believe ‘eco-tourism’ was benefiting everyone. In reality, the impact has been more destructive than regenerative, in many ways. As hard as it can be, acknowledgement of our shortcomings is necessary, as it creates space and empowers us to explore creative possibilities, and act on them!
As consumers, we do have the control, and our choices ultimately determine the outcomes. Specifically, what does this mean when it comes to visiting Africa? Using ethically appropriate tour design is the secret, with the intention of leaving Africa in better shape than we found it after every trip. One re-imagining that could enable this is including fees with trips, perhaps including 10% for conservation — which translates actually into 10% for community support and education surrounding all parks & conservation areas. The ‘motto’ of if you can afford to travel to Africa, you can afford 10% for conservation… simply, is the way forward. The goal is for consumers to leave after a trip knowing that they have made a real difference, and not left a negative footprint. For providers, this, in itself, would be transformational in today’s travel market!
Simply said: 10% for Conservation (Investing in local communities surrounding parks and conservancies with education and long-term community planning) & all trips to Africa must be Carbon PLUS neutral is the ONLY way forward. Dan’s mother used to always tell him when he was leaving to be a guest at someone’s house to leave the rooms you stay in cleaner than they were when you first arrived. This is a simple rule of thumb in hospitality, which being a guest includes. If we are working in, and/or traveling to Africa, or any continent for that matter, we must leave the place in better shape than we find it after every trip — We are ALL guests, and it is our sole responsibility in making sure we do just that!
JUST IMAGINE if 10% of what you pay went into community development, of the BEST design, so we no longer need anti-poaching units, as the communities surrounding all the reserves become the STEWARDS of these resources and protecting them. PERHAPS, they do utilize this resource at times, but in a way where everyone wins, and it is sustainable LONG TERM! IMAGINE if everyone who came to Africa, invested 10% of their tour price into leaving Africa in better shape than they found it — surely, this is the way to secure a more regenerative future?
It surprises me (Dan) that most tourism is non-eco-tourism and that often it is degenerative, rather than regenerative. At the core of this is how people choose to spend their precious ‘free time’. Thinking of this, I remember when I used to enjoy ‘partying’ a lot, whenever I would have a chunk of spare time I would ‘party’ and engage in degenerative excess. Often, I would leave the periods of ‘spare time’ tired, out of money, and with low energy. It seems paradoxical that the energy I was using to earn time/money to have spare time, was spent to de-energize myself. It was a vicious, rather unhealthy, cycle that was not sustainable.
Can you imagine that with our free time we (speaking generally for tourists) go to other people’s countries and cause harm to their natural ecosystems? Both geographically and culturally speaking? I feel that all tourism should be eco-tourism, just out of sheer hospitality, as tourists are guests in the places they visit the same way that we are all guests on Earth.
What if ‘tourist hotspots’ were not designed by and for the ego? Would they then naturally become eco? There were shades of this while in Thailand: traditional cooking classes, learning Thai massage, meditation. But, largely this was not very common. It was more common to see big shopping malls, brothels, bar streets and inauthentic restaurants.
What if tourism nourished and regenerated everyone involved, including the environment? When imagining this, I imagine tourism being rooted in the practices of the everyday and perhaps even being challenging and uncomfortable, but nourishing and rewarding as it is when being welcomed into a new culture.
What would becoming a more eco tourist look like for you? This re-imagination does not need to include exotic beaches or African safaris (although it could!), it could simply be based in your own locality: a trip with your nearby community, a visit to a new walking trail etc. If you are in a position of organizing spaces for Eco-Tourism, like Timothy, what might that omni-win scenario look like, where everyone benefits? Can we have our cake and eat it too? Or, if not cake, what would be a more healthy alternative, and must it be eaten?
Lead Author: Timothy Jackson (first 4 paragraphs):
Timothy concludes by saying: Our innovative NEW model to EMPOWER successful conservation and protection of Africa’s last wild places, and the species that inhabit them, means MOST IMPORTANTLY, looking after the communities surrounding these places, after all, taking good care of them by empowering them, they will become the ambassadors and ultimately will protect these resources for themselves, rather than having to eat out of it to save themselves and perhaps their livestock from going hungry. JUST IMAGINE 10% from every person on every trip, investing in a REAL FUTURE?
Planning to visit Africa one day? Here is a link to our travel guide of what to consider when planning your adventure with the intention of leaving Africa in better shape after every trip!
Anchor Author: Daniel Rudolph
Daniel Rudolph is interested in exploring alternative, experiential learning opportunities for people of all ages. He is passionate about forming community, and building public spaces for meaningful, transformational gathering. Currently he is spending a lot of his time learning juggling and facilitating gatherings. He also enjoys writing and sharing poetry.
Dan, and a small team, are in the process of publishing a series of articles titled ‘Live Human Signposts’ that showcases individuals that have taken alternative paths to higher education and/or are pursuing regenerative livelihoods, which is being commissioned by the Ecoversities Alliance. In March, Dan will begin an apprenticeship in Vermont at the MAPLE Monastic Academy.