It has been just over a year since I committed to staying in contact with impressions and notes from Africa to you, our Great Plains followers. What a ride it has been!
For many, it has been a time of reflection, questioning values, making changes. The first flurry of reactions to lockdowns was that our carbon footprint suddenly dropped, the air was cleaner, and wildlife enjoyed traffic-free highway crossings and unpolluted waterways.
Some of these reports, like dolphins in Venice, were, of course, untrue. But many accounts, such as the drop in incidents of whales being hit by cargo ships in shipping lanes and the sudden reduction in undersea noise pollution, were true.
This has led to deep introspection on travel.
I use this graphic to connect what we are all going through to the ‘original sin’ in my opinion. It shows the interface between humans and captive animals and where we come in contact with zoonotic diseases like Mad Cow, Lung disease, SARS, Ebola, and so many other pandemics of the past.
This latest pandemic will not be the last one unless we redraw our relationship with nature. We can do that by breaking the cycle.
Wildlife trade is clearly the culprit. Consuming wildlife is an archaic and barbaric practice that many would think is frowned on by everyone but is, in fact, sanctioned by conservation bodies like CITES.
Like most activities, travel has two faces. Mass tourism of clustered people to view iconic cities or check off a bucket list is one face. Another is vitally important, and that is the side we are involved in and are encouraging.
In 2019, safari-based tourism as a whole generated about $50 billion, which came to a dead stop during 2020.
So one way we can disrupt that cycle above is to stimulate tourism again. Tourism leads to jobs, jobs to food security that decreases poverty and dependency on international aid. Responsible tourism ensures less xenophobia and racism and achieves a massive positive knock-on effect beyond just tourism revenues.
Over the past few years, the Great Plains Foundation was able to pass on over $2.8million to communities and some additional conservation efforts. Our Rhinos Without Borders has raised over $6million since its inception. In the past year alone, over $1million has been allocated to Project Ranger. $3million has been raised for Big Cats, and in between other solar projects and tree planting initiatives, the positive impact our Foundation has made over the years totals over $15million.
What is more important is that our guests, and tourism partners, raised this valued financial support. It also does not even factor in the annual tourism revenues each country generates via tourism.
The impact of tourism is enormous, and we have all heard that tourism hires one in ten people in Africa at least. A point that is all too often forgotten is that these additional travel revenues directly impact improved lives. For many of you, justifying travel to your business clients and friends encourages them to stay at our camps. Thank you.
Our small company’s charitable record is an excellent example of why travel for good is essential. Travel will be increasingly important as communities and conservation aim for recovery.