The African Responsible Tourism Awards were established in 2014 to celebrate and inspire change in the African tourism industry.
The Awards rest on simple principles – that all types of tourism, from niche to mainstream, can and should be organised in a way that preserves, respects and benefits destinations and local people.
Swaziland is a country recognised internationally for its efforts in responsible tourism, so it’s no surprise that they managed to win not once, but twice, at the 2017 African Responsible Tourism Awards.
Reasons for winning: With references from universities in Swaziland and Florida attesting to All Out Africa’s contribution to both research and education on habitats and species the judges were particularly impressed by All Out Africa’s social-entrepreneur approach to solving the problem of insufficient ecological information and capacity to enable successful conservation.
Over the last 12 years All Out Africa has enabled 500 international volunteers to contribute meaningfully to conservation through data collection and supported and trained over 100 local students in field-based conservation and ecological research.
They have supported the education of 15 local students at MSc level and more than 1000 undergraduate students from both local and international universities.
Reasons for winning: A three-day festival held annually in the scenic Malkerns Valleys of Swaziland attracting 25,000 participants from across the globe (in 2016 from 62 countries) to enjoy and experience a rich texture of arts, cultures, crafts, and food markets.
Over the last 10 years the festival has grown in international recognition and used its cultural and economic success, the festival creates employment for 1200 Swazis making a significant contribution to the local economy.
The festival’s call to action #BRINGYOURFIRE, has stimulated a personal and collective commitment to social programmes: the Schools Festival (2000 Swazi students and teachers annually), the Arts Round Table (that brings together international and local artists) funding for Young Heroes (an Aids Orphan support programme) and BoMake Rural Projects which benefits rural Swazi women.
Bushfire sparked the FireFest Route, which now involves Azgo (Mozambique), Zakifo (Durban, SA) Africa Day (Johannesburg, SA) and Sakifo (Mother festival to Zakifo, held in Reunion Island.)
Yet more evidence that despite its small size, Swaziland's diverse and extensive tourism operations and activities are leading the way in Responsible tourism in Africa.
Meanwhile,A group of journalists from the UK, writing for a number of top newspapers and websites, arrived in Swaziland today courtesy of leading UK adventure tour operator Explore!, for a jam-packed tour of this amazing and little discovered Kingdom.
Swaziland may be small, at around half the size of Belgium, but it has a big heart, friendly people and an amazing variety of rich culture, thrilling safaris and stunning scenery.
‘Africa-in-a-Nutshell’, it’s small, safe, welcoming and easy to travel around, offering a genuine experience of real Africa.
A rich culture of unique and ancient traditions is carefully guarded and faithfully celebrated. Beautiful and varied landscapes can be easily explored and Swaziland’s parks and reserves are home to the Big 5 and offer exciting safaris by a variety of methods – on foot, by bike, on horseback or in a 4x4.
The choice of activities is vast, from rhino-tracking to tree top canopy tours, via white-water rafting and endless hiking possibilities.
With its wide range of activities and experiences, Swaziland has recently been establishing itself as a stand-alone destination, a position that this media trip is sure to cement.
When, in 2015, Explore! became the first UK adventure operator to offer a Swaziland-only trip, it quickly became their best selling new long-haul trip of that year! Building on that momentum Explore! are taking a select group of UK media out to Swaziland to share what they have discovered for themselves.
With representatives from the London Evening Standard, the Mail on Sunday, the Irish Independent and Lonely Planet joining the trip, Swaziland's secret will soon be well and truly out!