Celebrating World Tourism Day by Giving Back …
By Marianne Betts
Since Africa Albida Tourism’s beginnings a quarter of a century ago, the Zimbabwean hospitality group has embraced sustainable tourism, striving to ensure that the impact of its operations on the local environment, culture and people is positive.
A key conservation project for Africa Albida Tourism (AAT) has been the protection of wildlife through the establishment of the Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit (VFAPU), which it co-founded along with local safari operator and conservationist Charles Brightman in 1999.
AAT has supported VFAPU, largely through organising and hosting an annual fundraising golf day since 2001, which has raised more than $130,000 for the unit in the past six years alone. The group also pays the salaries of six scouts and contributes to supplies for the unit.
AAT, this year, stepped up its already extensive corporate social responsibility programme by launching a major recycling project in Victoria Falls, which is being spearheaded by well-known conservationist Charlene Hewat.
AAT launched Victoria Falls Recycling in March, an initiative to protect the environment around one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, winning the Environmental Award at the Association of Zimbabwe Travel Agents (AZTA) Awards ceremony earlier this month in recognition of this project.
Hotels, retail outlets and Victoria Falls residents are participating in the initiative, where plastics and papers are being recycled, and in the coming months glass and beverage cans will also be included.
AAT also operates the Vulture Culture Experience at its flagship Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, which is a supplementary feeding program to aid the survival of these remarkable, but endangered birds. It also enables their numbers to be monitored and raises awareness of their plight.
Vulture populations are dwindling due to a variety of human created issues, including electrocution by power lines. Visitors witness the spectacular sight of hundreds of vultures swooping down to feed on leftover meat scraps from the onsite restaurants.
The daily Vulture Culture Experience is educational and appeals to all age groups. AAT works in collaboration with VulPro, a leading vulture conservation program based in South Africa, and the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust on this project. It also raises funds, which go to vulture research and awareness programmes.
In 2016, Victoria Falls Safari Lodge received a silver award from the international organisation Green Tourism, one of the world’s most credible and effective global sustainability programs in tourism.
AAT is also involved in regular Victoria Falls Clean Up campaigns to ensure that visitors to this iconic destination enjoy their stay in clean surrounds, while National Tree Planting Day is observed annually by staff planting indigenous trees at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge estate.
The company supports local schools, clinics, the orphanage and old people’s home by donating goods as required. As part of the global initiative Pack for a Purpose, guests are encouraged to become involved in the development of schools and clinics, with many bringing stationery, sports equipment and clothing, or medical supplies.
In addition, AAT’s Ngoma Safari Lodge, in Botswana, was developed in association with the Chobe Enclave Conservation Trust (CECT) with a view to making a sustainable difference to the local communities and their environment. The local community benefits financially from each booking, and guests are encouraged to support community projects.
AAT’s portfolio of hotels and restaurants also includes Victoria Falls Safari Club, Victoria Falls Safari Suites, Lokuthula Lodges and The Boma – Dinner & Drum Show in Victoria Falls.