Tourism and wildlife advocate, Mike Norris, has died after suffering a heart attack following complications in surgery.

After undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous tumour, complications led to a second operation that resulted in a heart attack on the morning of January 16, from which Norris died at Worcester Hospital, despite efforts of the medical team.

Known by many as ‘Chuck the Tourism Chief’, Norris was deeply respected for his passion for tourism, marketing his continent’s wildlife and eco-tourism offerings, and conservation, and poured his heart into his work. With a background in conservation, he joined Timbavati Game Reserve in the late 1970s, where he established and managed Ngala Game Lodge.

In the mid-1980s, he started marketing South African wildlife destinations overseas, and joined Londolozi Game Reserve as Marketing Manager, where he was instrumental in winning the British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Awards in 1991. This was the first time this accolade had been awarded in SA.

In 1994, Norris moved to the Natal Parks Board, where he instituted policies that saw areas like the Drakensberg become accessible to international tour operators for the first time.

Norris had a particular love for responsible tourism, with wildlife and marine tourism being known as his ‘baby’.

He will be deeply missed by all who knew him and had the privilege of working with him and learning from him.