Guest post by Glen Stephen, Director of Liquid Giraffe
For many people living in Botswana, access to some of the country’s most iconic locations like the Okavango Delta and Moremi Game Reserve have often been out of reach. Many cannot afford the high dollar rates of the Botswana safari camps and lodges, especially during the current traditional safari high season.
With the absence of international tourists or even tourists from neighbouring countries due to locked borders, opening a camp for the domestic market is vital. However, an open camp on highly reduced resident rates – in some cases 15% of the normal high season rate – makes no money for the owners.
So, why open, you ask?
- A company like Desert & Delta Safaris, for example, has a total of over 400 staff members to support. Many staff members support a larger family and the closed borders have kept them in their homes on very reduced salaries or unpaid leave. Bringing staff back into an open camp means that wage levels can be adjusted and the wider community can benefit.
- From housekeeping staff to chefs and guides, all the staff in these safari camps get to retain their skill levels and, importantly, their morale.
- Nearly all the properties are built of sustainable materials like canvas and wood, which mean these structures wear away relatively fast and need to be maintained. Empty camps need to be protected from animals like elephant who may wander into the quiet camp seeking easy water from water pipes.
- After months of lock-down, animals in the wild have become used to a much quieter home and have ventured more out of hiding places. So game-viewing for those guests visiting after the lock-down has been phenomenal.
- Suppliers of fresh produce and other food goods benefit from the new orders.
- Similarly, air charter companies and pilots benefit from operating at a time when they were least expecting contracts to be honoured.
- Above all, the presence of people and game vehicles (even in small numbers) in the wilderness areas helps to deter poachers. Every guest becomes an agent in supporting anti-poaching.
Running a handful of the Botswana safari camps at the extremely low rates is our gesture of goodwill – and some might say – responsibility to the nation. Tourism in Botswana is far more than simply hosting travellers; it is about generating careers for citizens and supporting the conservation and protection of the land. For Desert & Delta, the goal is simply to make sure costs are covered, staff are employed, and the country’s pristine wilderness areas are maintained.
The COVID-19 pandemic is creating new ways of looking at travel and tourism, allowing tour operators and camps the chance to transform the industry. This has already begun with the opening of tourism initially to Botswana’s domestic market, which Desert & Delta believe will stay in place in the future.
You might be interested in finding out what we think the future for travel in Africa might be after COVID-19, based on what our clients are up to.