For many companies, the sustainability agenda is seen as an opportunity to ‘greenwash’ without actually implementing real changes. But for luxury eco-tourism company, Wilderness Safaris, building sustainable conservation economies through tourism has transformed the business. It’s a policy that shares the benefits of tourism with local communities and ensures the protection of these areas for future generations.
Andy Payne, CEO, believes that it is possible to deliver a unique experience for guests, fair returns for shareholders and stakeholders, and still ensure that the continent’s wilderness areas remain sustainably protected.
“The company has a tourism vertical and a conservation vertical, which work inter-dependently and feed off each other,” Payne explains, adding, “Sustainability initiatives embellish and strengthen the tourism product.”
It’s not hard to see why. Conservation efforts such as anti-poaching initiatives safeguard the very asset that attracts Wilderness Safaris’ customers. Similarly, an investment project that strengthens the local community by increasing its self-sufficiency and reducing poverty levels can only bode well for the businesses that operate in those communities.
“Sustainability initiatives are not marketing opportunities, but they can deliver a unique experience to our guests. And guests who have that experience will spread the word,” he adds.
The ethos clearly delivers results. Holding company, Wilderness Holdings, dual-listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange’s Africa Board in April 2010. Smaller tourism start-ups could learn a thing or two about using true sustainability to secure a competitive edge.