Each day, more than three million tourists cross international borders, and every year more than one billion people travel abroad. Simply put, travel and tourism combined are now one of the world’s largest industries. To make sure that the power of travel is harnessed as a positive force for people and the planet, the United Nations has declared 2017 The International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The three key pillars of Sustainable Tourism are:
At Big Five, our longstanding commitment to sustainable tourism runs deep, and we are proud to be the only travel company to have won the prestigious Virtuoso Sustainable Tourism Leadership Award, not once, but twice (2014 and 2016). At Big Five, we know that a wonderful holiday and supporting the pillars of sustainable tourism can go hand in hand. Each month throughout this year, in celebration of the UN International Year of Sustainable Tourism, we are proud to share with you how traveling with Big Five can help to support cultural heritage, protect endangered species, deliver local economic benefits, and further cross-cultural understanding and peace in the world – all wrapped together into the vacation of a lifetime. This month’s blog focuses on travel and the wellbeing of local communities.
In East Africa, we have long supported private wildlife conservancies that include small-scale tented safari camps and authentic ecolodges. These conservancies, owned by local indigenous communities, deliver job and educational opportunities to local people as well as provide important income to the indigenous landowners. The local community directly benefits – with dignity and without charity – through your visit.
Once such conservancy is the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust (MWCT) in Kenya. Not only does Big Five support the conservancy through our responsible travel itineraries to this spectacular wilderness area, covering more than 20,000 acres located in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, but our Spirit of Big Five Foundation also makes donations to support MWCT indigenous community health programs and anti-poaching patrols to protect endangered elephant and rhinos. MWCT operates on land owned by the local Maasai community, which receives income when travelers stay at their flagship lodge, Campi Ya Kanzi, located in the heart of MWCT. The staff and guides are local Maasai, as are the MWCT rangers who work under a partnership with Kenya Wildlife Service. Experience the world of the Maasai during our Precious Journeys® Kenya: Kids, Cats & A Tree House.
For Big Five, supporting local people also translates into empowering women in the workforce and as business owners. Five years ago, the United Nations General Assembly created “UN Women,” the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, to encourage and support the advancement of gender equality on a global scale. Big Five also recognizes the transformative power of women and girls. It is no secret among international development experts, that when you empower women in the workforce, you improve the livelihoods of entire communities, as the economic income among women goes more directly to benefit their families. When more women work, villages, neighborhoods, and communities also prosper. Gender equality in the work place is win-win for everyone. In both Egypt and India, Big Five hires women guides, both for their unique insights into the local culture, as seen through a woman’s eyes, and as powerful way to elevate women into the workforce. We have introduced this in Egypt and India.
In Nicaragua, Big Five guests support the wellbeing of local people by, among other ways, visiting a Hammock Workshop in Granada that works with local residents who are deaf and mute, as well as with inner city children in need. The project employs these individuals to make hammocks from discarded recycled plastic bags, which have been collected by school children in exchange for school supplies. The hammocks are then sold to tourists and locals alike. Explore President’s Pick: Natural Nicaragua.
We believe in the power of travel to make the world a better place. We welcome you to join us on this great journey.