The Safari Collective, Pretoria, South Africa
The Safari Collective has been newly established as a co-operative between leading safari and tourism-based organizations that are now working together to help transform the safari industry, one business at a time. We specialise in sustainable, responsible tourism and assist safari camps, lodges and operators to move to more sustainable business practices, both in terms of their business models and in terms of their environmental and cultural footprints.
We would like to join the African Tourism Board as a founder member and, hopefully, as a Board representative, as we feel we have an enormous amount of collective experience in all aspects of tourism in sub-Saharan Africa to offer, enabling us to contribute positively and constructively to the real transformation of tourism across the continent and help to realise the enormous potential it has to change the lives of people and help protect and conserve wilderness areas and the fauna and flora which call them home.
Collectively, we have experience in conservation, business and brand management, tour operation, lodge and camp construction and management, human resources, training and skills development, sustainability and environmental management, as well as running successful tourism businesses in our own rights.
We believe the African Tourism Board has the opportunity to do what no other organisation has and unite the often fragmented and politically charged associations and stakeholders from across the continent in order to achieve a level of synergy not seen before in this industry. This will ensure the Board’s ability to effectively lobby and leverage across the political landscapes of the myriad countries and destinations this continent offers the rest of the world and ensure that legislation encourages sustainable development and economic growth through sustainable tourism practices and proven conservation initiatives.
As an organisation, The Safari Collective wants to be part of this process and contribute meaningfully to what we fully believe to be a firm step in the right direction.
I would like to nominate myself to the board of the African Tourism Board as a leading member of the African travel and tourism community, a leading sustainable tourism expert and consultant to the safari industry, an award-winning African tourism and conservation writer and commentator and a former member of the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association executive committee, as well as former tour operator.
I am also the former marketing manager for Fair Trade Tourism and an experienced marketing and communications expert with a proven track record.
There are currently no women serving on your board, save for the honorable minister from Ghana. And no one properly representing the interests of the entire Southern African region nor the East and Southern African safari industry, which serves as the backbone of the existing sub-Saharan African industry.
Most importantly, the people you have nominated to your board and steering committee have little to no first-hand experience as tourism operators, either from an inbound, regional or domestic tourism perspective. With the exception of Carol Weaving of Thebe Reed, an events company, there really is nobody on your board with a wide, pan-African knowledge base and understanding of the challenges facing the tourism industry at large on this continent from an operational viewpoint.
There are also no tour operators or tourism product owners represented on your board, meaning that there will be little input from the actual private sector in the mandate going forward for the ATB. I would like to fill this void and bring a different dynamic to the ATB with my extensive knowledge of and understanding of the overall tourism playing field, both as a stakeholder and a commentator. It is also essential that you have someone who intrinsically understands the absolute need for the tourism industry on this continent to transform sustainably to a more inclusive industry that properly represents the hopes and aspirations of Africa’s far flung communities who stand to benefit substantially from tourism if conducted in a fair, transparent and sustainable manner. The role tourism plays in conserving Africa’s remaining wilderness areas cannot be understated, and you absolutely need someone who understands this dynamic and who has considerable experience of working in the tourism/conservation space, especially where communities living on the periphery of protected areas and challenges such as human-wildlife conflict are concerned.
Tourism has been shown to be a pioneering empowerment tool across this continent, usually by hard-working and visionary private sector stakeholders and rarely by government or quasi government organisations. The time for political niceties is over if we are to take the future of Africa, her natural assets and her people seriously. It is my firm belief that the ATB should not be allowed to become just another RETOSA or “failed” African organisation that allows its leadership to pontificate without getting their hands dirty. There is too much hot air in this industry as it is, and those of a political persuasion are generally inclined to add to it rather than seek to find practical, workable solutions to creating a better future for Africa. The time is right for action, for doing rather than talking about doing, and for leading by example.
If the ATB is serious about contributing to changing the way tourism is done across this continent, to the benefit of the industry at large rather than the “Big Names” on its board, then I would welcome the opportunity of joining you on this journey and contributing some 35 years’ experience, accumulated knowledge, insight and opinion on this incredible industry we so love. But it requires a deep-seated commitment to do things differently, to not repeat the mistakes of the countless other organisations across this continent that have faded, and continue to fade into obscurity. It is absolutely essential to engage the private sector at every level. They are the beating heart of tourism across this continent and have done the “hard yards”. They are the operators, lodge owners, guides, hoteliers, service providers and visionaries who have put their passion and drive into this continent and to making it better, not just for people but for the incredibly rich and diverse fauna and flora that share it with us. This is what brings tourists to Africa, to share these visions, to experience the place where humanity began and in doing so to regain some of that humanity.
by Sharon Gilbert-Rivet