We have moved past the notion that responsible tourism ‘’leaves no trace’’. At Transfrontier Parks Destinations (TFPD) we focus on leaving the great places we visit better for our engagement. This means that we engage with communities in ways that preserves and enhances dignity while encouraging the sharing of beliefs. It means we work with environmentally sustainable lodges, many of which allow the surrounding beauty to survive. Critically, it means that we support businesses that uplift the local economy. We encourage local enterprise to develop and flourish through prioritising local procurement.
We put economic upliftment at the forefront of our Responsible Tourism journey. This is because when people have access to jobs and incomes, everything else follows. It allows them to engage in a way that they find dignified. It allows them the freedom to care about the environment – it’s difficult not to chop down a tree when your family will freeze if you don’t. Ultimately, economic responsibility bleeds into social responsibility, which encourages environmental responsibility.
The lodges that we visit prioritises local employment. Many lodge employees started with minimum skills, and through on-the-job and specialist training have advanced to join the modern tourism industry. We avoid places that import skills. Beyond giving back to the community, this focus on local employment at all possible levels ensures a deeply engaging guest experience.
Secondly, microenterprise development is critical. For our travellers, we encourage responsible support of local crafters by not bargaining with someone’s dinner-money for a slightly cheaper item or service. It means that we don’t use ‘’made for tourist experiences’’ but rather support the local development of tourist-friendly engagement in local activities. This allows our guests to meet and interact with locals who live the traditions passed to them through generations.
We favour the use of entrepreneurs local to each lodge and experience that keeps all their income in the local area, ensuring that the economic activity generated by the guests is fully cycled into that economy.
Finally, as a group, TFPD track this economic activity and report back to each community where they work, allowing the development of information and knowledge that further enhances local community structures.
When your visit benefits the community, you benefit the environment that surrounds that area. Those that live near National Parks recognise the value for them of these conservation areas, and the tourists they attract. We focus on routes that include beautiful reserves where locals are encouraged to enjoy that environment as much as our guests do. We aspire for responsible tourism to bring the economic benefits that are necessary to encourage sustainable resource management by the local communities who live in those areas.
Many of the properties we visit are in declared conservation areas. Our guests are encouraged to ‘’tread lightly’’ and use the minimum of resources. The properties are chosen for appropriate and comfortable accommodation, never plush or resource-heavy operations. Meals are chosen for comfort and sustenance, using local cooking methods and produce. We are on a journey with our properties to reduce the use of single-use plastics, reduce reliance on fossil fuels and encourage our guests to live and act accordingly -both while travelling with us and for the rest of their lives.
Disentangling social responsibility and economic responsibility is tricky at best. There are various aspects of our social responsibility.
First, we try as far as possible to visit properties that are owned by the communities which surround them. This does a few things. One, the communities benefit directly from the use of the facilities by our guests. Further, though, it provides a sense of dignity and ownership over the space. We do not engage in intrusive tourism. Rather we allow guests to be welcomed and hosted as welcome visitors with warmth and personable engagement.
Secondly, it’s important to emphasise the degree of say the people whose culture we embrace have over the “product” they sell. We don’t believe it’s possible to provide guests with a purely authentic experience, because if you want to see how people lived 200 years ago, you’re 200 years too late. However, because we encourage ongoing engagement with communities, the experiences that guests have are comfortable for today’s expression of that culture. It’s what is currently practised and enjoyed. This means our guests get a well-rounded experience. It means that we develop social cohesion, and it means that those people whose homes and spaces we enter retain control over that space, emotionally, creatively, and culturally.
Finally, 1% of our turnover, as well as 1% of the TFPD properties we stay at, goes towards the TFPD Foundation. This Foundation exists to help fund and implement projects throughout the country. The TFPD Foundation focusses on the improvement of community owned assets at properties managed directly by TFPD, as well as other social upliftment projects focussed mostly on health and education. Further, the TFPD Foundation supports other charitable ventures which invest in the communities local to the Lodges they operate. Guests are all offered an opportunity to contribute to the TFPD Foundation.
Our responsible tourism policy is not just a promise to be better in the future. It’s who we are and where we’ve come from. We believe that our country is beautiful and that it’s worth seeing, but not just for nature. We prioritise responsible engagement with the people whose areas we move through, the cultures which define us, and the sustainable tomorrow that we are part of creating.
We leave more than a trace. When you travel with us you are enriched, and so are the places where you travel.