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How to travel responsibly in Africa: Why it matters and how to travel the right way

There is more to travelling than seeing beautiful landscapes and getting to know new cultures: When exploring other parts of the world, you can directly contribute to a region’s socio-economic development. Tourism creates jobs and contributes to nature conservation. But if you want to make a positive impact on environment, society and economy when you travel, you need to travel responsibly. In this blog, we explain what impact travelling can have and how to travel responsibly.

Three women riding on bicycles along a road in rural Tanzania


How can travelling contribute to a country’s development?

Over the decades, tourism has become one of the fastest-growing economic sectors in the world. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), international tourist arrivals grew an average of 6% in the past two years globally. In 2016, the number of tourists crossing international borders surpassed the 1-billion-a-year mark for the first time. Modern tourism is closely linked to development and has become a key driver for socio-economic progress, bringing much-needed support to job creation and GDP. In South Africa for example, tourism directly contributes 3% to the country’s GDP. Globally, tourism provides one in every 11 jobs (according to the UNWTO). At the same time, tourism is one of the main income sources for many developing countries. Yet, the contribution of tourism to a country’s economic, social and environmental development depends on the sustainability of tourism. While the economic contribution in many countries is crucial, only sustainable tourism can positively impact a country’s development in the long-term. Overtourism has proven a challenge for natural spaces and communities in some regions of the world. Venturing off the beaten track, avoiding hot spots during the high season, and travelling in sync with local conditions help fostering a world of tourism that is not harmful, but instead beneficial.

Hikers follow a guide in the Ngorongoro Highlands


How to travel responsibly in African countries

We believe in a region’s economic and social development through tourism, because tourism done right has the power to transform communities. So how can you do it right and travel responsibly? First, it makes a difference which operator you choose: Nature trips such as safaris and mountain climbs demand increased care and responsibility from the tour operator. Strictly adhering to governmental rules and regulations is only the beginning. Africa-Experience employs local staff and books with small camps, thereby giving back to local communities by creating jobs. We stay at small lodges and guesthouses to get in touch with owners and staff. This way, we learn to better understand the country and its people, learning about positive developments and challenges in wildlife management, nature conservation and what daily life is like. Moreover, we swear by buying local. Because every Cent spent locally, strengthens our community.

Many of our guests come from overseas and long-haul flights to reach our destinations are the rule, not the exception. We try to minimize our carbon output by booking with eco-friendly camps and by staying at the same place for several nights to save fuel and reduce our CO2 emissions. We are transparent with our travellers and offer the opportunity for you to choose your destination. If possible, we also take you to more remote areas to share the economic benefits with remote communities.

A woman selling fruit lined up in buckets on the side of the road in Southern Tanzania

Africa-Experience directly contributes to nature conservation by supporting the Serengeti De-Snaring Project. To be a responsible traveller, you should always follow the rules and not only refrain from off-roading in protected areas, but also engage with local communities in a respectful way.


How can tourism contribute to nature conservation?

Tourism can contribute to nature conservation in various ways. Entrance fees for national parks subsidise the preservation and protection of these areas while, generally speaking, ‘bringing money into the country’ can help aid environmental initiatives by contributing to government revenues. Exploring nature while travelling can help raise awareness towards the conservation of natural and cultural resources, both among travellers and locals. Overall, tourism has actually had a positive impact on nature and wildlife preservation in many parts of Africa. While in an ideal world, natural spaces would be valued for their existential contribution to our ecosystems and thus towards the sustaining of our planet, tourism assigns a direct economic value to these natural spaces. Money generated by tourism can be used to maintain nature by establishing nature reserves, enabling wildlife to flourish and providing local communities with employment and training opportunities, so that all of us can enjoy the world’s fascinating nature and wildlife for many years to come.

A Kudu antelope in the Naukluft Mountains in Namibia


Current challenges for nature conservation in Africa

The Covid-19 outbreak has decimated the tourism industry; tourism across Africa has basically come to a standstill. This does not only negatively affect the tourism industry but also has substantial consequences for local communities and nature conservation. The lack of tourism leads to reduced budgets for nature conservation and many people have lost their source of income which creates vulnerabilities in the communities. Due to the reduced income flow for local communities, we have already seen an increase in poaching in the Serengeti National ParkThis is by far the worst crisis that international tourism has faced since its beginnings in 1950s: Since the beginning of 2020, international tourist arrivals in Africa have declined by 35% (UNWTO, International Tourism and Covid-19).

We are happy that we are now able to welcome travellers to the continent again. Tourism done right plays an important role for many countries, not only in the Global South. Without travellers who travel responsibly, nature conservation efforts cannot be realized the same way.

Do you want to find out more about how to travel responsibly? Speak to one of our travel experts and get advice on how to travel the right way.

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Author: Johanna Höß

Johanna Hoess | Travel Writer Africa-Experience

Born in Germany, Johanna studied Media in Mainz before she visited South Africa for the first time in 2016. One year later, she relocated to Cape Town and has made it her mission to spread her love for Africa. Johanna writes in German and English. Besides writing, she is also passionate about photography. She has always been intrigued by travelling and is constantly looking for the next adventure.

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