Wilderness Safaris Damaraland Camp has won a Silver African Responsible Tourism Award (ARTA) in in the Best Accommodation for Social Inclusion category. The camp is a pioneering example of a successful joint venture between a Namibian community and leading authentic and sustainable ecotourism operator, Wilderness Safaris. This partnership has resulted in increased employment, thriving wildlife – and the hugely successful Torra Conservancy.
"We are extremely proud to have received this prestigious recognition from some of the word’s experts in responsible tourism, especially considering Damaraland Camp was the first joint venture agreement of its kind in Namibia", said Lena Florry, Wilderness Safaris Damaraland Area Manager.
According to Harold Goodwin, Chair of the ARTA judging panel, "The Gold and Silver Award winners should be particularly proud of what they have achieved; they have been recognised as being leaders in a Responsible Tourism movement where more is expected each year."
ARTA Founder and managing director of Better Tourism Africa, Heidi van der Watt, further pinpointed what made the Award winners leaders in responsible tourism in Africa: "Our winners have a vision that extends beyond the commercial – linking business success with the wellbeing of local communities and the longevity of their environments. They want to make profits with principles, communicate balance sheets alongside beliefs, and won’t undermine passion in the pursuit of professionalism. They are resilient, determined, humanising advocates for their destinations. They are the future of tourism in Africa."
Originally signed 20 years ago, Damaraland Camp's joint venture partnership gave the Torra Conservancy an equity share in the camp, as well as capital to participate in the business and build another camp. The majority of camp staff are from the community, with many of the original members having moved on to positions of responsibility elsewhere in Wilderness Safaris and the tourism industry over the years.
Thanks to this partnership and the implementation of a viable ecotourism model, around 350,000 hectares (865,000 acres) of land are under the protection of the Conservancy, wildlife populations have increased and employment is up, benefitting the local economy. There has been a shift in mind-set towards large species like elephant, rhino and lion, which are now viewed as precious resources that can bring in additional money through ecotourism when protected and conserved.
“The success of this venture led to the Torra Conservancy becoming the first self-sustaining community conservancy in Namibia; a model that has since been replicated across the country and elsewhere in Africa. Damaraland Camp and the Torra Conservancy are proof that when ecotourism and local communities join forces, the result is tangible benefit for people, a change in attitudes and an increase in wildlife numbers”, added Florry.