It’s dawned on many in the travel industry that, unlike with most consumer goods, there is danger that their products may disappear. That includes the destruction or degradation of natural places where flora and fauna thrive. There is even a small group of consumers who are leery of traveling because of its impact on the environment, whether that be emissions from aircraft, overtourism on the ground, cultural damage and other unwanted side effects of tourism.
As a result, most travel companies have taken steps to educate current and potential customers about efforts preserve sights that people are actually traveling to see. It’s a delicate balancing act to position yourself as a company doing good while pursuing profit at the same time .
One company that has made sustainability central to its messaging is African Bush Camps, a network of 17 tented outposts in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana. Since its early days, the African Bush Camps Foundation (ABCF) has worked not only to preserve special places, but to bring back others that had been considered lost.
And recently the company -- whose mission is “profit with purpose” -- became one of the founding members of Africa Change Makers, which is lining up operators like safari companies and travel sellers to contribute $5 per person per night to a fund that is targeted at preventing future crises like the pandemic and dealing with them as they happen. The idea, says African Bush Camps founder Beks Ndlovu, is to give companies a sense of ownership and a feeling of having skin in the game. In fact, he says, those emotional byproducts will make it easier for travel sellers to market their holidays.
And since consumers are barraged with “do good” messages from corporations in every industry, African Bush Camps aims to be creative in its media promotions. One example is something called Active Days (last held in May) where participants run, walk, do yoga or bicycle while donating $10 to Africa Change Makers. Every penny donated, according to the foundation, goes to a worthy cause ranging from education and skill development of local African populations to the improvement of the human-wildlife conflict (minimizing the loss of livestock due to predation by wild animals) throughout Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. Projects include health clinics, schools, female guide training, anti-poaching initiatives and others.
A fun, musical-style video featured Ndlovu himself as well as Koinonia Baloyi, communications and fundraising officer vigorously working out while making the pitch about the foundation. Tickets were sold online and the workouts were held in camps, several other physical locations and virtually. All participants had a chance to win a two-night stay for two guests at an African Bush Camps location.
It’s a tough line to market yourself through your “doing good while doing well” positioning. But if having a positive impact is genuinely intrinsic to your company and the results are meaningful to the communities they impact, then potential customers who care will recognize it.
Car companies will not run out of cars. Restaurants will not run out of food. But travel companies might lose some of the places they sell -- so it’s just as important for them to get that message across as about what they're specifically offering.