Safari Game Changers Share Their Vision

Life post-Covid feels both exposed and inspiring. While climate change and the impacts of Covid have caused draught and significant environmental destruction across sub-Saharan Africa, there has been a shift of focus to innovation and a solution-based future. What does this all mean for safari and travel to Africa? We went to the experts.

Joss Kent (CEO of andBeyond), Jo Bailes (CEO of Singita), Keith Vincent (Ceo of Wilderness Safaris), Dereck and Beverly Joubert (Cofounders of Great Plains Conservation) and Colin Bell (Co-founder of Natural Selections) share answers to these questions—What is your greatest worry and what is your greatest hope?—and more. From concerns about vulnerable wildlife populations to the joys of sharing African modern art and architecture, culture and cuisine, discover why Africa is the front line for the future of travel in a post-Covid world.

Contact us for assistance planning a customized safari. Our team can match you with the destinations, accommodations and activities that are right for you and provide tips for planning a safe, seamless and rewarding experience.

Joss Kent, andBeyond

"My greatest worry is how we turn the immense impact of the population growth and pressure on Africa’s key wildlife and biospheres from a negative into a positive. Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is growing at 2.7 percent a year, which is more than twice as fast as South Asia (1.2 percent) and Latin America (0.9 percent). That means Africa is adding the population of France–or Thailand–every two years.

Most experts agree that, if it continues at its current growth rate, Africa’s population will double by 2050. That would be 2.5 billion people, meaning more than a quarter of the world’s people would be in Africa. Much of the growth is already baked into what demographers term “population momentum”—that is, Africa has so many women of childbearing age that the population would keep expanding, even if most decided to have fewer babies today.

My greatest sign of hope is how the world has dramatically shifted in terms of their views on sustainability. Especially in the younger Millennial/Gen Z demographic, who will account for 75 percent of all luxury travel and luxury goods spending by 2030. Buying decisions are now being made with sustainability as one of the cornerstones of that decision making process. That has to be a great leap forward and a sign of hope!"

Jo Bailes, Singita

"My greatest worry is that there are many vast iconic wilderness areas across Africa that are vulnerable. Rampant poaching, for example, has led to degradation of ecosystems and this is a major concern for me. Singita, together with our conservation partners, actively works in regions where we operate to reverse biodiversity loss and work alongside communities for nature and people to thrive alongside one another.

It worries me that Africa’s challenges are publicized in a way that casts a negative light on the continent.

My greatest hope for the continent is to see rich wilderness biodiversity areas thrive while actively working in partnership with the communities on our doorstep. The success of our conservation work can only be achieved through partnership, and we’re seeing a collective effort more than ever before to achieve goals that impact far beyond our reserves. We have a commitment to playing our part in achieving global climate goals and reducing our impact wherever we can. I am deeply encouraged by the ecotourism industry and the work done to halt biodiversity loss and continue a journey of real, sustainable business practices.

Another sign of hope is the appreciation of modern art, architecture, fashion, food, music and nature—Africa offers all that and more."

Related: Tanzania: 10 Moments We Love

Keith Vincent, Wilderness

"The financial, emotional and physical wellbeing of over 3,000 Wilderness employees across Africa and beyond remains one of our biggest priorities as a business. It’s imperative for us to continue focusing on growing our business and streamlining our operations to ensure that our people and wider communities thrive, and that Wilderness continues to make a positive impact through high-end conservation tourism.

Seeing travelers return to Africa to experience authentic and meaningful experiences has truly motivated our camp teams, who are delighted to welcome guests again and interact with them and do what they love best. This continues to build self-esteem and confidence in our people, which in turn equates to our guests experiencing truly restorative safaris. The healing power of the wilderness (and Wilderness) offers the perfect opportunity for our guests to reconnect with the natural world, themselves and their friends and families, and we are incredibly hopeful this entices more and more guests to choose Africa as their next travel adventure."

Dereck and Beverly Joubert, Great Plains

"Greatest worry

, in a post-covid world… is that we go back to old habits in our really poor relationship with the planet. For a while there we were all hoping to renew our vows with the planet and nature, but we are often too quick to chase normality and the revenues. We have made changes—adjusted our base line on sustainability and giving back, protecting nature and our communities—but I worry that with the very reasonable desire to leave all that was void behind us, we leave the lessons learned as well.

Hope, my hope is not linked to Covid, but comes to us each day from everywhere. Perhaps it is in that everyone appreciates what they lost—that tranquility, the ability to be together as a family, to be outdoors, in nature—and we are seeing guests wanting to travel to us really picking up this desire. It is not just hope for us, but it is that baton of hope for themselves, taking each day on safari as if it is their first, soaking it up. There is nothing like losing something to make you appreciate it more."

Related: Indagare Global Conversations Episode 1.03: Beverly & Dereck Joubert, Filmmakers

Colin Bell, Natural Selection

"And what if flying to Africa is good???

The messages to the world’s leaders post-Covid at Davos, United Nations and other global gatherings are clear: climate change is real, time is not on our side, changes need to be made now and the challenge is immense. The recent heat waves, wildfires and flooding around the world seem to bear this out. One of the recent initiatives to limit climate change has been to "flight shame" in an attempt to reduce global aircraft travel and thus carbon emissions.

Flight shaming may have value if alternatives like trains are available. But, if that boycott is applied to international air travel to Africa (and other nature-based tourism destinations) and visitors stopped traveling to Africa, it would be disastrous for Africa's wildlife, for African people, for global climate change and ultimately, for the overall wellbeing of Earth. Africa is an enormous continent with so much of the world’s remaining pristine savannahs and forests. And it is in these pristine savannahs and forests that a large proportion of the planet’s carbon emissions are absorbed out of the atmosphere and processed, then stored, in African soils, thus helping to reduce global emissions. By preserving Africa’s parks and wild places, the continent is helping the rest of the world combat the negative effects of their carbon missions. Without Africa's vast wildernesses, climate change around the world would be so much more severe.

Governments around the continent seldom have the money needed to pay all the costs to manage and conserve Africa's parks, reserves and wilderness areas. The funding shortfalls to run many of these parks around Africa today are made up by tourism revenues, park entrance fees and concession fees. We learnt the hard lesson through Covid that without safari visitors, Africa’s parks and reserves were under severe threat without the revenues they generate and the jobs they sustain. The parks and wildernesses around Africa need tourism to thrive—and in turn the planet needs tourism to Africa to thrive—so that the planet can reduce the negative impacts of carbon emissions and thus minimize climate change.

It is not often that going on holiday makes a traveler the most effective conservationist, but that is indeed so when people travel to Africa today. Africa needs more tourism—not less! Furthermore, the enormous contribution that the tourism industry makes to job creation, the foreign exchange reserves and the GDP of many African economies is one of the prime incentives for African Governments to keep protecting and supporting their parks and reserves. One in six South Africans relies on tourism to put food on their tables every day! And in many countries around Africa with healthy tourism industries, that ratio is even higher.

There is no question that the world faces a global climate crisis; action is needed and everyone needs to contribute their bit. But shaming people to stop them from flying to Africa could very well have the immediate reverse effect of accelerating climate change and ushering in the rapid loss of many of the Africa’s last remaining wildlife and wild areas. It would indeed be tragic if much of Africa's wildlife was lost because there were not enough tourist arrivals and resultant revenues to pay for the cost to manage and protect Africa's great wildlife sanctuaries. The only way to sustainably generate the funds needed to secure Africa’s great wildlife sanctuaries for future generations is through tourism."

Related: Botswana Insider: Q&A with Safari Legend, Author and Co-Founder of Wilderness Safaris, Colin Bell

Contact us for assistance planning a customized safari. Our team can match you with the destinations, accommodations and activities that are right for you and provide tips for planning a safe, seamless and rewarding experience.

Published onOctober 27, 2023

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