February 2017 – Wilderness Safaris was proud to be represented at the Peace Tourism Forum during the 16th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Bogotá, Colombia, which took place earlier this month. Dr Sue Snyman, Wilderness Safaris Group Community Development and Culture Manager and Children in the Wilderness Regional Programme Director, was invited by Colombia’s Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism, Maria Claudia Lacouture, to join the esteemed line-up of panellists as a result of her expertise and leadership in the ecotourism industry.
“It was a tremendous honour to speak alongside some of the most inspiring and recognisable advocates of peace and sustainable tourism. This included Leymah Gbowee, a Nobel Laureate from Liberia, Cordula Wohlmuther from UNWTO and Megan Epler-Wood from Cornell University and Harvard Extension School, as well as the panel host and Vice President of ProColombia, Julian Guerrero Orozco”, said Snyman.
The panel discussion focused on the ways in which peace-sensitive tourism can contribute to reconciliation, community development, sustainability and economic growth, and was heard by an audience comprising Nobel Laureates, along with various government dignitaries, academics, tourism operators and members of the media.
“The Forum and subsequent meetings also provided Wilderness Safaris and Children in the Wilderness with a platform to engage with government leaders to discuss our joint-venture model, which over the years has been successfully replicated across Africa”, explains Snyman.
Wilderness Safaris was the first safari operator to create an equity joint venture with a rural Namibian community – the Torra Conservancy – for Damaraland Camp. The result has been increased employment and wildlife, proving that when ecotourism and local communities join forces, the result is a tangible benefit for people, a change in attitudes and an increase in wildlife numbers.
“We believe it’s important to extend this deep level of community involvement in conservation and ecotourism to the children – Africa’s future leaders – who we reach through our non-profit organisation, Children in the Wilderness. This life skills and environmental educational programme involves supporting weekly school-based Eco-Clubs in rural schools, providing scholarship programmes and hosting children on annual camps in Wilderness Safaris and partner camps. It has positively impacted the lives of more than 10 000 children in six African countries over the past 16 years”, adds Snyman.
To read more about the story of Torra Conservancy in Namibia, click here and to watch a short clip on Children in the Wilderness, click here.