Well, we’re nearly there! - the end of one of the most memorable, extraordinary and possibly transformative periods of our lifetimes. As the year closes it feels like there are lights shining on the horizon, and it is so important to believe that, globally, we will build back better.
We'll all be united in our conviction in the inspiration that travel brings, and at Small World Marketing we look forward to continuing to work with our clients on offering exceptional experiences to guests, whilst also enhancing local communities and surrounding environments.
In 2020, without guests and with nothing but uncertainty, we are so proud to have observed that our clients directed their energies towards positive actions. We thought we’d send our Christmas wishes to you with a round-up of some of those creative initiatives: whether leveraging global stakeholder networks to raise funds for hard hit local communities, supporting micro business by establishing new, local food markets, or directing energies towards looking after ecosystems and wildlife.
Here’s to travelling again in 2021; and appreciating our glorious planet and all who dwell on it!
Recognising that the pandemic would put heavy pressure on the already vulnerable communities and economies in which the Group operates, Latitude launched 'Latitude Gratitude’ during the height of the first wave of the pandemic. This re-imagined and formalised Latitude's existing programme of community giving.
Latitude Gratitude kicked off with an ambitious 24hour fundraising swimathon in May. Its global campaign raised over $25,000 which has been channelled into local grass-root organisations and charities in the company’s three areas of operation: Lusaka, Lilongwe and Kampala. A Theory of Change assessment and Impact Analysis was used to ensure funds would be carefully distributed and maximise the benefit to communities facing such hardship.
Furthermore Latitude worked with one of its regular suppliers to produce face-masks which are sold to raise money for the campaign. Re-usable and visually striking in vibrant chitenge fabric, the face masks have also been promoted to the trade and elsewhere via Small World Marketing’s own giving-back initiative, Small World One World, leveraging more support and funds for local African communities.
Co-owner Natalia Niznik arrived in Zanzibar for a regular 3 week visit early in 2020. She has yet to leave! Whilst no one welcomes the reason behind her extended stay, it has given Natalia a unique opportunity to get really engaged with the local community whilst overseeing personally a programme of hotel improvements.
Lockdown also allowed Natalia and her team an opportunity to complete planned hotel upgrades, including sustainable building improvements, such as additional solar panels, new shingle roofs produced in their carpentry, and decking and pathways made from recycled plastic.
Thorough house-keeping enabled Natalia to put redundant hotel stock to important alternative uses. Working with a local doctor on the design, ZWS’s tailor made old linen into masks for the community; they partnered with an NGO to donate towels for conversion to sanitary products; and staple food items have been distributed to the local community. Obviously job protection is the hotel’s number one priority and many of these initiatives have given staff meaningful jobs to do during the hiatus. With international guests already starting to return Natalia and her teams are feeling positive.
Collaborative action has been an inspiring element to the travel sector in these times. With seasonal and local food a long-standing passion for the hotel, Natalia has been instrumental in the formation of a group of like-minded hoteliers on the island who have established 'The Farmers’ Market'. This is a vibrant new monthly market which aims to connect local growers and buyers from the hospitality sector, encouraging local food and fewer food miles. The markets are buzzy, music-filled and sociable. Its long term aim is to support local farmers to go organic and adopt the best sustainable methods. The first market was a great success in October, and enthusiasm for these monthly markets is already strong, powered by all those with a passion for food, music and sustainability.
Whilst also working on a major refurbishment project of the iconic Shinde Camp in the Okavango Delta, MD Fran Hird has been busy extending the ecologically significant Kariba Weed project, which is now underway at all the Delta camps.
Salvinia molesta, commonly known as giant Salvinia or “Kariba Weed” after it infested a large portion of Lake Kariba between Zimbabwe and Zambia, is an aquatic fern, native to south-eastern Brazil. This alien invasive aquatic plant if left unchecked is very damaging to the delicate ecosystem of the Okavango Delta.
Ker & Downey Botswana have established a weevil breeding project whereby the weevils are used as an agent of biological pest control for Salvinia molesta. The female weevil lays over 300 eggs one by one in the lower leaves and rhizomes of the plant. The larva burrows through rhizomes and feeds voraciously on new buds, warping and stunting the plant until it eventually sinks. Adults also feed on the buds and leaves of the plant.
The weevils are bred in holding tanks and the guides then drop the weed into the waters when seen. Whilst the government’s Water Affairs department manage this on the main channels, the private sector ensures a more comprehensive coverage of the entire area.
With 4,500 acres of agricultural and conservation land, Boschendal is well known for its exceptional farm to fork menus, but during Covid, the property redirected all of its fresh produce to local child development centres, schools within the community and underprivileged community soup kitchens.
It has also facilitated the delivery of basic medical supplies to support the local clinics as they become saturated and distributed books for children unable to go to school.
The farm was operational with limited staff during the crisis, thanks to the owners' generous commitment, all staff continued to receive their salary while isolating at home. Boschendal hopes to employ more staff members from local communities to support those in need during this tricky time.
Last month Fanjove Island had the pleasure of welcoming a group of 70 pupils with their teachers from Songo Songo Primary School for a day at the island. This initiative forms part of the strategic commitment to involve and educate local communities in order to further understanding of the career possibilities arising from tourism. It is also both a passion and responsibility to educate local communities about how tourism can help conserve this unique marine eco-system and why that is so crucial for local livelihoods, such as fishing, as well as environmental benefit.
The well-being of teams is of course a top priority. Severely affected by a loss of income this season the company continues to do all it can to support guides and team members during this crisis, many of whom have multiple families in their community depending on them due to their employment with us. Guides have been working on a rotational basis ensuring that we keep the team as motivated and connected as possible. With the help of Brian Bode, who has worked with our guides for many years, we have used the time to focus on various forms of training, including how to use technology to share stories and experiences via video that can be shared online. For many guides, especially those who haven’t grown up with technology, this can be a daunting task but this will be of great value both to them and the company in the world beyond Covid. We believe this has instilled a sense of pride in our guides, showing them how valued they are and how their stories, knowledge and heritage are appreciated by others around the world.
Santorini launched its new Footprints programme during this time, which brings together their sustainability initiatives under one banner. The intention is to leave a sustainable and positive footprint in the lives and land of this Mozambican coastline. Santorini gives resources (in-kind and financial) and invests staff & management time to its Footprint commitments, which focuses on environmental and education initiatives. It also seeks to engage guests, leveraging additional support through its stakeholder network.
A major new partnership was announced with ParCo, a community development agency based in Vilanculos with a mission to improve wellbeing and environmental conservation through community led, sustainable initiatives. The chosen beneficiary partner is Chigamane Primary School, located in the direct vicinity of the hotel. Santorini is assisting with school meals, teacher transport costs and also selling School Access kits in the Pansy shop, whereby guests can donate a kit including a sturdy backpack, annual tuition fee, uniform, soap, stationary and games. Every night spent by guests at Santorini, a percentage of revenue is donated by Santorini to the Santorini Footprints Projects.
Other initiatives which run under the Footprints banner includes beach clean ups, Pack for a Purpose and a partnership with Luz, another local community initiative.
In 2020, properties under such duress across the world have been consumed with their wider responsibilities - as employers; as corporate citizens existing within beleaguered local communities; and as agents to try to sustain conservation efforts. In a year where one of the core, simple goals of hospitality has been extraordinarily absent - to deliver amazing experiences for people to enjoy - it was a wonderful accolade for Morukuru to receive recognition from such prestigious brands as Condé Nast Traveller and The World Travel Awards.
When travel resumes in 2021 Morukuru can’t wait to get back to doing what they do so well.
On the eve of lockdown Jason Mott, owner of Sausage Tree & Potato Bush Camps in the Lower Zambezi, decided to move his young family from Lusaka to look after their camp and to keep an eye on things in the surrounding bush. Despite the enormous and inevitable stresses and concerns wrought by the abrupt cessation of tourism, this charming home-made film gives a glimpse into one family’s lockdown experience - a different life, in different times, in a world with different rhythms.
At Small World Marketing we have also tried to exert our influence as best we can to help in a very difficult year. These are some of the (non-client) initiatives we ploughed our energies into during this unforgettable year.
Small World-One World is a not-for-profit, giving-back initiative, deeply rooted in our love and knowledge of Africa. Launched as an immediate response to the Coronavirus crisis, it is initially designed to support some of those in Africa hardest hit by the drop in tourism revenues. Our longer-term goal is to form conservation and community partnerships that will benefit from our ongoing fundraising and connections.
Latitude Gratitude Face Masks
In partnership with Latitude Gratitude we are the UK distributor for these wonderful chitenge masks. The masks were made in Lusaka, Zambia and 100% of the profits are donated to Latitude Gratitude’s community fund, benefitting communities local to Kampala, Lilongwe and Lusaka.
The masks continue to sell well as people appreciate their individuality, re-usability and the fact that in buying them others are also benefitting.
Ride 4 Rangers Fundraiser
We were proud to be part of the leadership Committee for Ride 4 Rangers, whereby the Africa Travel industry were invited to come together to embark on a cumulative 30,000km bike ride to raise vital funds to support rangers who are the first line of defence to protect endangered species, where in many places there is no longer the funding for them.
With a total of nearly £400,000 raised going to 62 projects throughout Africa at this time of need, Ride4Rangers was an incredibly positive project to work on with industry friends during a very challenging period for us all.
Open African Travel campaign.
Only too mindful of the catastrophic impact of the continued restrictions on travel between the UK and Africa we have been part of a small cross-industry leadership team lobbying the government to open African travel. The blanket ban is wreaking havoc on UK jobs, eradicating decades of progress on wildlife conservation and risks an African humanitarian crisis. Moreover there is an inconsistency of approach, given the relative safety of many African countries with regards to Covid, when applying the Government’s own criteria. In partnership with Atta, we launched an online petition in October and encouraged people to write to their MPs to press government to take a more nuanced approach.