Birds at the forefront of transformative tourism in South Africa

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

BirdLife South Africa recently won two awards at the prestigious Responsible Tourism Awards, presented at World Travel Market Africa in Cape Town, for their inclusive and transformative work in the tourism sector. These annual awards are presented to projects and organisations across Africa who are working towards socially and environmentally sustainable travel and tourism. BirdLife South Africa received a gold award in the category for diversity and inclusion and a silver award for nature-positive tourism. These awards recognise the pioneering role that BirdLife South Africa has played for over two decades in transforming tourism and creating local community benefits through birds and conservation.

The gold award for diversity and inclusion centred on BirdLife South Africa’s Community Bird Guide Project, which has graduated over 200 previously disadvantaged people from local communities as professional bird and nature guides, and the South African Names for South African Birds (SANSAB) Project, which is compiling lists of names for South African birds in local languages to facilitate more inclusive approaches.

The silver award for nature-positive tourism recognised BirdLife South Africa’s efforts to link tourism and conservation through the Community Bird Guide Project, the Ingula Partnership (BirdLife South Africa, Middelpunt Wetland Trust, and Eskom Holdings (SOC) Ltd) at Ingula Nature Reserve, and the Wakkerstroom Tourism and Education Centre, which supports environmental education in local schools.

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International representation

Andrew de Blocq, BirdLife South Africa’s avitourism project manager, was in Cape Town to receive the awards. “We do not do our work to receive awards and recognition. However, it is encouraging when our efforts are recognised by our peers in the industry, and we hope that the resulting publicity for our projects will further benefit the community bird guides who derive a living from guiding and inspire others to do similar work.”

At BirdLife South Africa, we believe that tourism and conservation should be inclusive of local communities, as this is the way in which birds, other biodiversity and natural habitats will be protected.” Andrew further stated that Birdlife South Africa will continue to do whatever it can to realise that vision, whether it is breaking down language and cultural barriers or making a difference in tourism and conservation through local guide training and community education and empowerment.

The gold awards from each of the regional World Travel Market events go through to the international awards in London, UK, in November, where responsible tourism projects stand the chance of global recognition. BirdLife South Africa will therefore feature again in the diversity and inclusion category at that event.

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A big thank you to contributors

BirdLife South Africa would like to thank its supporters and sponsors, especially Swarovski Optik, Whylo Distributors, Eskom Holdings (SOC) Ltd, and Nick and Jane Prentice, who all contribute significantly to the Avitourism Project.

We would further like to acknowledge the pioneers of this work, including the late Ben de Boer and Joe Grosel, as well as others including Sue Anderson, Nigel Anderson, Warwick Tarboton, Duncan Pritchard, and Martin Taylor.

Last, but certainly not least, we would like to thank our community bird guides who have been pioneers in the tourism industry and ambassadors for BirdLife South Africa and bird conservation in their communities. – Press release, BirdLife South Africa

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