Community-based eco-tourism where the needs of both the local population and environment are catered for is not an entirely new concept but is one that is gaining momentum in Africa, according to discussions at INDABA 2012.
Where implemented well, the benefits are far reaching for the local communities and the natural areas they serve.
Ngoma Safari Lodge in Chobe, Botswana was opened in May 2011 and is one such place where the community and environment is reaping the rewards of this type of partnership.
Ngoma Safari Lodge is an exclusive luxury safari destination that offers eight suites facing the legendary Chobe River.
The lodge falls within the Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust (CECT), a triangle of land bordered by the Chobe National Park and the Linyanti marsh.
The local community living within the trust benefits directly from tourism and natural resource management in this concession and has an active hand in all decision making.
It has been almost a year since the lodge’s launch and chief executive of leading hospitality group Africa Albida Tourism, Ross Kennedy, said: “The community has responded extremely positively to the idea of wildlife conservation and the benefits to be derived from it.
“We are currently working on an activity programme that will encourage even more interaction between community members and our guests.
“Many guests want to explore, learn and engage with the communities and cultures they interact with.”
A total of 18 of the lodge’s 21 employees are from the community and are involved in all aspects of the lodge from the kitchen, to guiding, to maintenance and management duties and responsibilities.
Occupancy rates have been encouraging with the lodge reporting an average of 42 per cent occupancy for the past ten months since opening.
Kennedy said: “This is very satisfying for a new build and the rest of 2012 shows 60% on the books with more bookings flowing in steadily.”