Wilderness Safaris’ Group Culture Coordinator, Bongani Baloyi, participated in Argentina’s first Natural Summit held in Cordoba last month. Organised by the Argentina Secretariat of Tourism, Aves Argentinas (a BirdLife International member), Agencia Córdoba Turismo (Cordoba Province Tourism Bureau), Federal Tourism Council and the Argentina Chamber of Tourism, Bongani was honoured to be part of the summit and discuss the company’s pioneering ecotourism model.
“Wilderness Safaris holds numerous successful partnerships and joint ventures in its areas of operation, some decades old. Since it began operating in 1983, the company has not just grown substantially, but also been able to use its model to increase its positive impact in biodiversity protection while directly contributing to local economies. We have gained an incredible amount of knowledge over the years, and believe it is important to share this with others so we can collectively help to conserve even more pristine wilderness areas globally”, noted Bongani.
The Argentine Republic identified nature-based tourism as one of the country’s national goals to achieving economic growth. To do this, the state has partnered with conservation NGOs, private land owners and communities to establish national parks in the country. Ecotourism has been identified as the best land-use option to drive this process, and with it being fairly new in Argentina, the federal government recognised Wilderness Safaris as a pioneer of the model in Africa, and wanted to learn about the company’s ecotourism successes.
The summit drew high-profile government officials, including ministers, secretaries of state, governors and prominent nature-based companies and conservation NGOs, amongst others. The audience wanted to see evidence of the sustainability of Wilderness Safaris’ ecotourism model, and Bongani used various case studies to illustrate this. In his discussion, he talked about the company’s local employment initiatives, its community partnerships and annual contributions paid out to these areas in the form of concession fees, park fees, local service providers and other community development initiatives, including its non-profit partner, Children in the Wilderness.
He also shared information on Wilderness Safaris’ conservation efforts, such as the Botswana Rhino Reintroduction Project, initiatives in Namibia that help mitigate human wildlife conflict, anti-poaching projects in Zimbabwe as well as the company’s commitment to operating with a light carbon footprint, through its implementation of an Environmental Management System across the Group.
“The fact that the organisers of the summit singled out Wilderness Safaris, amongst many other companies in the industry, to showcase how we use high-end ecotourism to benefit communities residing in the peripheries of our areas of operation, and help protect fragile ecosystems confirms our commitment to making a positive difference and inspiring positive action,” Bongani said.