At Original Travel we spend a lot of time discussing our part in the great sustainability and tourism debate. Here's a quick summary of our current thinking...
The Big Idea
Conservation should, wherever possible, seek to align the interests of the human race and those of the natural world. While these interests are often at odds, we - travel companies, our clients, lodges, reserves, guides and others - must strive to square this circle.
Conservation is not just limited to animals: it extends to plants, water sources, geology, micro-organisms and - particularly importantly - to the conservation of local communities. The locals are the ones who have the greatest affinity with, and knowledge of, the habitat; they are the logical guardians of these precious areas and they are the ones who should be preserving the natural resources around them. Through education, this should be achievable, BUT the pull of 'city life' is strong, so conservation for conservation's sake in local communities is swiftly dying out. Conservation now needs to make financial sense, which is where tourism comes in...
Tourism and the consequent job opportunities provide economic reasons for locals to stay and help preserve wilderness areas for the benefit of tourists, so allowing the people with the greatest depth of knowledge and sense of place a viable way to make a living and support their families, all the while preserving the areas that they love. Ecotourism also provides levies and funds for specific conservation projects and the conservation management of different areas, i.e. a visitor's money goes directly into the national park's coffers to pay for staff salaries, anti-poaching teams, aircraft to help with animal censuses, the repair of fences and so on.
Original Travel and Sustainable Tourism
We support many different conservation projects in Africa and across the globe. We believe that tourism should be for the good of the area it is centred in, and that area's inhabitants, both human and animal. In terms of conservation, we help promote tourism that benefits the regional economies best placed to preserve the world's precious fauna and flora, and which try to be as sustainable as possible.
The Bottom Line
Tourism and conservation are inextricably linked; one cannot survive without the other. If there is no tourism, human economic and geopolitical needs become too great and will overwhelm dedicated conservationists, meaning the natural world will fall further into decline. If there is no conservation (led by pressure groups, governments and even individuals), then there will be no reason for tourists to come. So, tourism has to have a positive effect on conservation efforts by aiming for ever more sustainable tourism, sponsoring the right projects and sending clients to eco-friendly accommodation. Also, we must explain that one of the biggest benefits of our clients travelling to these key areas is not just their own trip (hugely important though that obviously is), but that their presence is helping to conserve the natural world. This is what Original Travel strives to achieve - sustainable tourism that affects conservation in a positive way.