In the early 1990s, when ecotourism was just gaining its footing, a company called Conservation Corporation Africa decided that it would build its entire business around this form of travel. “We started the company alongside rising international demand for ecotourism and wildlife experiences, and in the belief that through business enterprise, wildlife conservation could be placed on a sustainable economic footing,” shares Joss Kent, CEO of andBeyond. Today, the company may have changed its name to andBeyond, but it continues to promote the profitable and sustainable coexistence of conservation, communities and businesses that its first name clearly represented.
Initially operating in Africa where many of its conservation projects were born, andBeyond has expanded to South America and South Asia where it can provide guests with world-class lodging coupled with life-changing luxury travel experiences. “We have proven our conservation and sustainability model of Care of the Land, Care of the Wildlife, and Care of the People (otherwise called the 3Cs) in Africa across multiple geographies and ecosystems, covering the savannah, desert and marine biospheres. We want to export that model to other areas of the world.” Here, Kent shares more about how andBeyond melds conservation and commerce so effectively.
How has sustainable travel changed in the years since andBeyond started?
Joss Kent (JK): Guests are gradually moving towards our DNA and sense of purpose. They want to understand and get involved in our philosophy and are prioritising the guiding experience over the bells and whistles.
Going forward, sustainability will be at the absolute core of everything. With almost eight billion people on the planet, we must conserve and protect as well as create economic shared values with the communities that depend on these wildlife areas for their livelihood. The game lodge of the future has a light footprint and uses 100 per cent renewable energy. It uses no plastic, has a zero carbon/carbon offset, and a sensitive design with a strong sense of place. It is small and community centred.
How do you maintain the balancing act of development and conservation?
JK: From our greater conservation model down to the tiniest details of the activities that take place in our lodges every day, every decision that we make revolves around our core values, which are part of the reason why our guests find their experiences with us so rewarding.
We believe the best way to preserve the precious environments we operate in is to allow people the opportunity to experience their beauty for themselves. When our guests experience these environments, we encourage them to explore them in a way that minimises the impact on the land and the wildlife. It doesn’t feel like a balancing act, as this preservation is our reason for existence—the reason we have a business at all is because we can offer this superlative guest experience.
How involved can guests be in terms of contributing to conservation?
JK: We have launched a selection of philanthropic itineraries designed to provide the opportunity for guests to gain some first-hand experience in conservation and community initiatives. For instance, in South Africa, the 10-day adventure includes a safari at the andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, as well as the scenic marvels of Cape Town and Hermanus. At the game reserve, travellers participate in a rhino notching conservation experience. They also gain insight into the challenges facing rural communities as they visit education and healthcare projects, as well as local small business initiatives supported by andBeyond.
They then have the opportunity to contrast this with the projects in Cape Town, one of largest urban areas, which include early learning centres, urban agricultural and environmental programmes, and more. Travellers then move on to Hermanus, where they see the work done in an educational training centre as well as an agricultural project, in between enjoying whale watching and exploring the spectacular landscape.
Can travel really change the world?
JK: If every person on this planet has the privilege and opportunity to travel, there would be no wars. We would understand our impact on the world’s resources and honour and protect the beautiful cities, ecosystems, biospheres, flora, fauna, wildlife, customs and communities we see. We would raise our children better with more natural tolerance and understanding of the world around us and our impact on it. What better outcome could one ask for than that from a human activity that in and of itself is such fun?