"Local communities will determine the future of our wildlife. They will either own it in their cooking pots or own it in their reserves" - Deborah Calmeyer, CEO of ROAR AFRICA, tells BRICS conference
Educating local communities to make the right choices about the unique and fragile wildlife surrounding them "by owning them in their reserves, not their cooking pots" is one of a number of vital initiatives for South Africa's tourism economy, ROAR AFRICA CEO, Deborah Calmeyer, told a BRICS international conference in Manhattan. ROAR AFRICA is a New York-based boutique travel service that focuses exclusively on southern and east Africa. The company is led by its Zimbabwe-born founder and CEO, Deborah Calmeyer, a committed eleventh-generation African explorer.
Addressing a major gathering of market experts, academics and public policy influencers at the summit in Manhattan, Ms. Calmeyer also proposed that South Africa and other emerging BRICS economies undertake initiatives that send a clear signal to visitors that they are wanted. "For those of us who understand the appetite visitors have for the country's unique and fragile wildlife, we need more direct flights, lower airport taxes, easier visa processes, more credit card facilities, and more guides who speak the visitors' languages if South African tourism is to thrive," she said.
Ms. Calmeyer stressed the interdependence of local communities and their surrounding wildlife in southern and east Africa. "If the US$80 billion tourism economy of Africa is to be maintained and grown, then the battle being fought by its governments to prevent further decimation of the three main species that sustain that economy – namely elephants, rhinoceros and lions – must not fail," she said.
The ROAR AFRICA CEO painted a stark picture of the vulnerability of the three species. "Elephants are being killed at the rate of five an hours and we have 350,000 left down from more than 1.3 million 50 years ago. Rhinos are being killed at a rate of one every 9 hours, and we have about 18,000 left. Lions are being killed at a rate of 5 a day and we have 20,000 left."
Ms. Calmeyer told the BRICS summit that there is also a need to emphasize what is being done right. "South Africa has much to be proud of. We are the best in the world at providing luxury safaris and are leading the way with our restoration effort with our declaration of Peace parks and Transfrontier parks."
She added, "As Africans, we should also take time to highlight what we are doing right and build on what we can be the best in the world at – delivering wilderness experiences which will only become more valuable as the world gets more populated. This is what we should build on and change our international brand into."
[1\ Further information on ROAR AFRICA and Ms. Calmeyer is available at http://roarafrica.com/index.aspx.
[2\ BRICS is an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.