Tourism is the world’s largest industry, growing larger every year. In 2012, for the first time in history, aggregate international tourist arrivals around the world surpassed one billion. In 2011, international tourism receipts exceeded $1 trillion.
Hand in hand with this extraordinary expansion of global tourism is an unprecedented level of interest in responsible travel, coinciding with people’s desire to get away from run-of-the-mill holidays in favour of travel experiences that are unique, authentic and meaningful. In addition, the rise of philanthropic programs and ‘volun-tourism’ indicates that consumers increasingly seek to give back to the communities they visit. These twin desires for unique and ethical experiences have placed increasing pressure on tourism suppliers to improve their social and environmental responsibility.
Of course some businesses have been well ahead of the curve in terms of this trend. A commitment to conservation and responsible tourism has always been an integral part of the construction of Sanctuary Retreats’ properties and its daily operations ever since it opened its first camp in Kenya’s Masai Mara in 1999.
According to Michael McCall, Director of Sales Australia, NZ & Asia, the company has always strived to build long-lasting relationships with rural communities in the areas in which it operates, making a point of identifying and supporting long-term, viable and self-sustaining projects. Says McCall, “Our aim is to ensure that all projects are supported by our staff and guests and we work closely with communities to identify their needs so we can deliver projects that really have an impact.”
The philanthropic projects that Sanctuary Retreats and its guests support are many and varied. Recent initiatives include the relocation of 20 rhino into the Moremi Reserve in Botswana; wetland programs on Kenya’s Mara River, and the launch of the Chipego Bike Shop run by local women in the Zambian village of Nakatindi. The company has also introduced filtered water supply and recyclable water bottles in all of its camps reducing purchased water by approximately 65%.
Sanctuary Retreats’ commitment to environmental principles is most clearly in evidence at Sanctuary Olonana in the heart of Kenya’s most famous game reserve, the Masai Mara. This small and exclusive tented safari camp, the first of Sanctuary’s luxury safari properties, was built along sustainable lines, which, along with its innovative wetlands and tree-planting projects, have earned Sanctuary Olonana a Gold Award from Ecotourism Kenya and also saw it named as Africa’s Leading Eco-Lodge in the 2015 World Travel Awards.