As Zimbabwe’s tourism industry slowly opens up, operators have emphasised the major impact their product offerings have on conservation and community upliftment.
“In March, tourism basically ground to a halt when the country closed its borders due to COVID-19, resulting in an immediate loss of funding to frontline conservation outfits,” said MD and Founder of Vayeni, Luke Brown, speaking during a recent webinar hosted by the African Travel and Tourism Association.
Sales and Marketing Director of Wild Horizons, Shane White, agreed, adding that the Victoria Falls area was 100% tourism dependent.
As tourism came to a standstill, Brown partnered with other operators in the area close to the Zambezi River and founded the Zambesia Conservation Alliance (ZCA) to raise awareness for those in the field who were tracking poachers and removing snares.
“At Vayeni we’ve recently created ‘In search of the great 7’, which is a bucket-list adventure that includes seeing the Big 5, plus gorillas, and penguins in Antarctica,” said Brown. All the profits made from this experience will be donated to conservation through ZCA.
White briefly listed several ‘products with purpose’ offered by Wild Horizons, through which guests could actively support the communities and conservation efforts, including a village tour where the profits help to feed over 2 000 rural children every day.
At African Bush Camps (ABC), conservation and community support are integrated into the operation of the business, according to the brand’s UK-based Account Manager, Kirstine Vercoe.
“By simply being a guest in one of our camps, your clients are actually making a valuable contribution to our causes,” she said.
As part of any booking with ABC, guests pay a conservation levy to the Conservation Wildlife Fund, which supports the conservation of wildlife in the Hwange area. Bookings also include a community focus donation that supports initiatives of the ABC Foundation.
“A donation is equivalent to 2.5% of the entire booking value. That money is set aside for the use of the Foundation to achieve community and conservation projects,” said Vercoe.
Guests looking for a more meaningful experience can also visit the villages nearest ABC’s camps and actually see some of the initiatives on the ground.