The pandemic continues to wreak havoc on industries and lives across the globe — with the travel industry being a particularly severe casualty. Though it’s tough running a hotel or resort in this climate, it’s doubly so for safari operators in Africa, who not only have to care for their staff, but also the legions of animals — many endangered — and the local communities whose livelihoods are intrinsically linked with theirs.
Luxe travel company andBeyond runs 29 luxury lodges and camps across Africa, Asia and South America. Some of their properties are set within some of the world’s most stunning and biologically diverse locales in the world; the andBeyond Ngala Private Game Reserve, for instance, is set within South Africa’s largest and most well-known sanctuary, the Kruger National Park. Guests can expect to see a bevy of Big Five mammals — lions, leopards, elephants, Cape buffalos, and both black and white rhinos — alongside a host of other creatures.
Like most other travel companies, they’ve been hard hit by Covid-19 — they rely heavily on tourism revenue to support not only the operation of their lodges, but also numerous conservation and community programmes — but they say they’re not sitting idle just yet.
“It’s difficult not to be overwhelmed with these impacts on such a massive scale,” admits andBeyond’s Chief Marketing Officer Nicole Robinson. “But the silver lining from this crisis is that being in the same storm together is definitely a catalyst for collaboration.”
For one, andBeyond has partnered with the Africa Foundation to lend aid to the 73 communities surrounding its wildlife conservation areas, helping out on projects that ensure rural clinics have adequate medical supplies, as well as initiatives to repair broken boreholes — ensuring that villagers have adequate access to clean water.
And you might have even seen some of their digital initiatives as of late: Since the lockdowns began, andBeyond has launched purchasable virtual experiences such as WildWatch — a livestream of rangers as they carry out their daily tasks on safari — and Protect Our Planet, which functions like an interactive Animal Planet show. The company’s well-versed conservation experts are on hand to deliver fascinating facts and figures, and are often accompanied by some impressive zoological guests.
All funds generated from their digital initiatives will go towards andBeyond’s various community programmes: buying a session of the kid-oriented WildChild stream, for example, will generate proceeds for an education programme for local youths.
“andBeyond has always operated on the premise of caring for the land and the wildlife, as well as the people — and we believe that the three are inextricably intertwined,” says Robinson.
“By ensuring that the people who surround our conservation areas share fairly in our success, we’re able to ensure the survival of the land, as well as the wildlife that make up these conservation areas.”
Robinson says that they’ve “re-prioritised” a number of their projects to better help the locals that reside near andBeyond’s 29 luxury lodges and camps — especially to rural communities that are even more susceptible to the raptures of Covid-19.
They’re concerned about the animals, of course (andBeyond preserves endangered species like rhinos, cheetahs and pangolins through careful translocation and breeding programmes) — but andBeyond is also making sure to care for the locals that live alongside these animals.
The rationale behind it all? Helping out the local communities has the added benefit of helping the animals, too.
“When the communities surrounding wildlife conservation areas receive economic and social benefits from conservation, then they take ownership — it changes their perception of wildlife, from a food source to an economic asset,” says Robinson.
“If we look after these communities, the wildlife will look after themselves.”