A New Future of Tourism Vision

World Tourism Day has been celebrated on September 26th every year since 1980. This year, the theme is Tourism for Inclusive Growth.

2021 continues to be a challenging year for global tourism. According to a United Nations report on Covid-19 and Tourism, Assessing the Economic Consequences, tourism is one of the sectors most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of international tourist arrivals declined by 84 per cent between March and December 2020 compared with the previous year, according to data observed by UNWTO. Based on a range of tourist arrivals’ projections, the report quantifies the potential economic effects of the contraction in tourism in 2021. The indirect effects are significant. Due to linkages with upstream sectors such as agriculture, a drop in tourist sales leads to a 2.5-fold loss in real GDP, on average, in the absence of any stimulus measures. Based on three scenarios, one optimistic, one pessimistic and one where the asymmetric speed of vaccinations is considered, the economic losses could range between $1.7 trillion and $2.4 trillion in 2021. The results highlight the importance of the vaccine rollout in getting global tourism restarted and other mitigating measures.

Tourism is one of the world’s most important economic sectors, employing one in every ten people on Earth and provides livelihoods to hundreds of millions more. Tourism desperately wants a return to the ‘old normal’, but it would be a disaster. Dr. Susanne Becken, a globally recognised expert in the field of sustainable tourism observed that the disruption of COVID-19 has not been enough to shift the trajectory, nor has it prompted polluting sectors of the economy to reconsider the harm they inflict on the planet. Nowhere is this clearer than in the global tourism sector.

Dr. Becken and others are advocating a vision for the future of tourism that involves great changes and encourages a new connection with nature. This sustainable tourism vision is vastly different to what exists now – travel that is closer to home, slower, and with a positive contribution at its core. In this model, all erosion of natural, cultural and social capital ceases. The focus shifts from growth and profit to “regeneration” – helping to restore the natural world that humans have so badly damaged.

Net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is “too little too late” according to the latest report by the Climate Crisis Advisory Group with world-leading scientists reiterating that net zero carbon emission targets by 2050 is no longer adequate to avoid large-scale global disaster. It follows the August 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) titled ‘The Final Warning Bell’ which it states is the “final warning” for the future of humanity. Exceeding 1.5°C above pre-industrial level will take our world into the dangerous zone of climate change where damage to our natural world will be irreversible.

The new vision of sustainable tourism requires all sectors of the travel industry to step-up to rigorous sustainability with accountability and transparency to regain consumer trust, to leave destinations better than we find it, to support the Global Goals (also known as Sustainable Development Goals) and to reach Net Zero Carbon Emissions OR better – Carbon Positive – before 2030.
It must be NOW!

300 seconds with Georgia, Nina and Sophia Scott

Passionate and spirited British sisters Sophia, Nina and Georgia Scott are the force behind GROUNDTRUTH Global, a stylish, purpose-led lifestyle brand with values embedded in integrity, transparency and innovation. They have lived and worked all over the world and share a lifetime of travel experiences that sparked their drive to create a company that could affect positive, meaningful change.

The Scott sisters founded GROUNDTRUTH to make problem-solving travel bags and expedition equipment which drive positive change and drive the fashion and manufacturing industry forward. Harnessing cutting-edge technologies, the sisters developed their own sustainable materials including a bespoke, recycled premium fabric using plastic waste collected from landfills, waterways and oceans worldwide, and the tags attached are from CO2 emissions. The entire collection is created from 100% premium recycled materials and each RIKR 24L backpack alone reuses 120 discarded plastic bottles. With ‘People, Planet and Performance’ at the heart of its philosophy, the company only uses Bluesign approved manufacturers to ensure the highest standards for their workers and the environment.

Georgia and Sophia also founded GroundTruth Productions and their work have put them in direct contact with a range of extreme environments – from drought in East Africa to conflict in the Middle East in the last decade.

One word that describes each of you? 

Georgia: Determined

Nina: Creative

Sophia: Adventurous

Which is your favorite part of your job and which part do you enjoy the least?

Georgia: I really enjoy coming up with ideas and concepts, and then making a plan to execute them and then to see these ideas come to life and flourish. I probably least enjoy the logistics side of the business and reading through lengthy contracts!

Nina: I love being at the factory in the development room and being hands on with the team. I don’t enjoy being in front of a camera much.

Sophia: I am a real people’s person, so meeting new people and seeing how we can collaborate is a key part of what I love about GROUNDTRUTH. I least enjoy being stuck in an office on my laptop for too long – I get itchy feet!

What must happen now to get people to change attitudes and behaviour? 

Georgia: It must be NOW that … people/consumers have to be the ones asking the hard questions!

Nina: It must be NOW that people ask to see what’s behind the scene – Who makes your products? What are they made from? How long will they last? There needs to be investigations into brands that are not transparent and for it to be shown to the customers/ the world.

Sophia: It must be NOW that new global laws come into force that all brands and companies as a whole must follow ethical and sustainable policies. That we all start to recognise and accept that we are intrinsically linked to the natural world and have to act with it rather than against it.

What is your personal favorite place to stay that’s trying hard to be accountable and transparent around sustainability with no greenwash allowed? 

Georgia: Bambu Indah in Bali where I was lucky enough to stay for 2 nights – they grow all their own produce, focus on waste & recycling with no plastic.

Nina: Our mother’s home in Norfolk – she grows her own vegetables and shops only locally.

Sophia: Alladale Wilderness Reserve  … we had the privilege of staying and filming in this beautiful place in Scotland where rewilding and nature underpin every decision.

Who is your greatest influence?

Georgia: I don’t have one greatest influence. I am inspired everyday by courageous stories I hear, see or read from around the world. This week I read about an Afghan teacher, Najibullah Yousefi, who despite huge threats to his life continues to teach his pupils in the Mawoud Academy in Kabul. These kinds of people inspire and influence.

Nina: David Attenborough’s commitment and love for our natural habitats gives me great inspiration. His efforts to protect our planet has had a great influence on me.

Sophia: Rachel Carson who didn’t just call attention to the dangers of indiscriminate use of synthetic pesticides, she also helped launch the modern environmental movement in the early to mid 1900s.

Best advice you have been given?

Georgia: If you don’t dream big you won’t have the possibility of achieving big things.

Nina: Stay true to yourself no matter what.

Sophia: If you set out to do something, do it 100%

Your best advice to the young generations concerned about their future?

Georgia: Learn from every single mistake you make no matter how big or small. If something goes wrong, do not give up.

Nina: Commit yourself to the highest standards, care about yourself, our planet and all that inhabits it.

Sophia: Study hard, be open minded and get an education as well as experience out in the field/on the ground, listen to people.

Any regrets?

Georgia: I have a few but I try not to overthink things. In some ways I regret my university degree, as I don’t feel I was on the right track. However if I hadn’t done that degree, my life path perhaps would have gone a different direction – today I feel like I am where I should be so I wouldn’t want to change anything.

Nina: No regrets, I feel that life is too short and I don’t believe all the emotions that regret can bring are helpful.

Sophia: I really regret not doing an MA in International Security and Diplomacy at SOAS when I had the chance back in 2011.

Georgia Scott has worked in a diverse range of roles spanning the breadth of the creative industry – from project management within a global design consultancy to the production, direction and editing of documentary feature films with GroundTruth Productions. Through these experiences, she has developed a versatile hybrid skill set, an entrepreneurial mentality, and a compassionate, communicative ethos; and her ability to clarify ideas and to convey them with conviction has propelled GROUNDTRUTH and its products forward, from initial concept generation through to production.

What project are you most proud of when it comes to sustainability?

Georgia: The amount of time and effort we have put into building our supply chain is something I think we all feel really proud about. One of the most disheartening things I have witnessed on this journey is when we visited several manufactures across APAC and saw the conditions that people worked in. Our goal from the outset was that every GROUNDTRUTH product should be created in a positive environment for the people who make them but also for our natural environment. To achieve this we needed ultimate transparency and open reporting.

How is GroundTruth giving back to local communities? How is the wider community benefiting from GroundTruth?

Georgia: Our manufacturers in Jakarta train and give work opportunities to the local population and encourage women to take lead roles at the factory, most of our development team are women – which we absolutely love. Our partner recycling plant next to the manufacturers in Jakarta is cleaning up over 2000 tonnes of plastic bottles every week from the local environment. So our bags are helping to clean up some of the plastic crisis Indonesia is experiencing. Another project that we feel passionate about and that we are in the process of setting up is an upcycling program where our customers can give us back their unwanted bags and we upcycle them to local communities that might need backpacks for their school journey or a camera bag that is not affordable. 

How can consumers make the fashion industry more accountable and transparent around sustainability?

Georgia: We believe that consumers’ buying power can be used to better society by providing a market for products derived from rubbish and manufactured ethically and sustainably. I truly believe that the consumer has the power to demand change. If we stop buying items that cost so little, the demand will be removed. I would encourage customers to start asking more questions, and hard questions – what is this product made from? Who is the face behind this item? If a product is labeled as sustainable, what makes it sustainable?

Nina Scott has worked in product development, artisan textiles and creative production management. With an active interest in design and the development of innovative materials, her research-driven approach focuses on pioneering sustainable new products, textiles and ways of working, and on building close collaborations within a wide range of international industries. She takes an active lead in the generation of ideas and the management of those processes, working to finesse the design and functionality of every product. Nina’s research into emerging technologies and sustainability within the textile industry has been a driving force behind the creation of new bespoke materials for GROUNDTRUTH. 

Climate change is a huge issue – what are you doing with this crisis in mind?

Nina: Climate change started when the industrial era started, it’s been around and humans have known about it for a very long time. At GROUNDTRUTH everything we do has our climate in mind. GROUNDTRUTH was founded with the objective to create measurable positive change for people and our planet through carving out a new direction within the fashion industry. We innovate new materials and design technical and contemporary everyday use products that actively help clean up our natural environment. We also make sure to calculate all our emissions and offset this by applying a 3 fold price with our partner Wildlife Works with their Mai Ndomge agro forestry program in the Congo. In 2019, climate change activism sparked the support of millions worldwide, unified in their demand for governments and companies to take urgent action and reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025. 

Has Covid-19 lessened the urgency? 

Nina: I don’t believe it has, if anything I think covid has made people realise how powerful nature can be. We have incredible people all around the world bringing more and more awareness to the urgent climate crisis. Bill Gates gave a great interview on BBC news not long ago – ‘’Fifty-one billion is how many tonnes of greenhouse gases the world typically adds to the atmosphere each year. Net zero is where we need to get to.’’

In coping with the new normal in 2021, are you feeling optimistic, or anxious?

Nina: We feel optimistic. I think having a positive outlook helps on all levels.

We are all about positive solutions but we also recognise there is a huge task at hand and that we can’t do it alone. That’s why for us collaboration is so important – working with like minded people/companies/organisations is essential.

How is GroundTruth delivering on the Global Goals?

Nina: Through rigorous research and strong partnerships we now have an advanced portfolio of recycled materials, biodegrading packaging and an achievable set of environmental KPIs. Working with only Bluesign approved partners with open reporting we ensure the highest standards for our workers and the planet. From travel to production we offset our entire carbon footprint with Wild Life Works in Eastern Congo. We are also working towards 10 SDGs from Responsible Consumption and Production to Life Below Water.

Sophia Scott has been making films since she was 19 in some of the harshest places on earth, working for organisations such as the BBC, CNN and the United Nations. She has worked worldwide as a director, producer and cinematographer, and co-founded GroundTruth Productions with her sister Georgia in 2012; this work, often within difficult situations and with people from diverse backgrounds, has reinforced her belief that collaboration and dialogue can affect meaningful change.  Sophia is now focused on building a vital bridge between the film industry and the business world, connecting people from different sectors with the aim of cultivating a more informed and caring global citizen.

What would you say to fashion industry peers who do not take responsibility for their supply chain … and do little to nothing for the good of communities and the environment?

Sophia: We all must take responsibility for our actions and to help towards the preservation of our planet. It has been proven that you can have an ethical and sustainable supply chain and still be profitable. There is no excuse, make the change to have a greener supply chain, the demand is there and it’s growing. The only future we have is to make conscious decisions today for a healthy tomorrow.

How can we build a more stable and just world after the Covid-19 crisis?

Sophia: This pandemic has made people aware of the fragility of life on earth. If you disrupt one part of nature, the repercussions are felt everywhere. Lockdown has hopefully taught people that exploring your local area can be just as exciting as going abroad. We must take responsibility for our actions and decide to put the planet first. Accountability is key across all sectors, especially in our field of fashion and manufacturing.

What legacy would GROUNDTRUTH like to leave behind from your leadership?

Sophia: That one can run a truly eco friendly business and be profitable. From cleaning up our carbon footprint to cleaning up waste that we produce – we hope to encourage a reduce, reuse, recycle approach to life and business. We would also like to leave behind innovative materials and components and sustainable solutions that create a drive to keep creating, keep asking, challenge yourself and others. We only live once and we only have one planet. Let’s be less greedy and learn to share,  not just with fellow humans, but with the whole of the natural world. We hope to get more people, especially girls and women feeling empowered to make a difference and make ideas happen.

 

Tourism Desperately Wants a Return to the ‘Old Normal’?

With each passing day, the grave future of our home planet Earth becomes more stark. The disruption of COVID-19 has not been enough to shift the trajectory, nor has it prompted polluting sectors of the economy to reconsider the harm they inflict on the planet.

Figure 1: Summary of major environmental-change categories expressed as a percentage change relative to the baseline given in the text. Red indicates the percentage of the category that is damaged, lost, or otherwise affected, whereas blue indicates the percentage that is intact, remaining, or otherwise unaffected.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the global tourism sector. Before COVID-19, international aviation emissions – already a major contributor to global warming – were forecast to potentially triple between 2015 and 2050. Likewise, emissions from the cruise ship industry were also growing.

The pandemic itself can be traced back to humanity’s relentless damage to nature. And mass global tourism is emblematic of this voracious, growth-at-all-costs mentality.

Tourism brings many economic, social and cultural benefits. But it’s time the industry seriously reconsiders its business model, and overall purpose.

Credit: Markus Spiske
WE CAN’T RETURN TO NORMAL

The United Nations is among many voices urging the global tourism industry to address its many sustainability challenges in the wake of COVID-19.

The UN says it recognises tourism’s important role in providing incomes for millions of people. But in a recent policy brief, it said now is the time to “rethink how the sector impacts our natural resources and ecosystems”.

Unfortunately, there’s little evidence that global tourism is looking to transform. For example, the International Air Transport Association is clearly seeking to return to the “old normal”. Its resources guide to support airlines during the pandemic and beyond examines ways to restart the industry, but makes no mention of environmental sustainability.

Similarly, the World Travel and Tourism Council’s 100 Million Jobs Recovery Plan calls on nations to remove barriers to travel, saying traveller confidence is “critical to the sector’s survival and recovery”. Sustainability rates only a passing mention.

In Australia, the federal government is passing up opportunities to encourage tourism to reconfigure towards a more sustainable model. For example, the Building Better Regions Fund offers A$100 million for tourism-related infrastructure projects that mitigate COVID-19’s economic impact. However, sustainability does not form part of the assessment criteria.

The industry’s immediate focus on recovery is understandable. But the lack of a long-term environmental vision is damaging to both the industry and the planet.

Credit: Appolinary Kalashnikova
A JOB HALF DONE  

Pre-COVID-19, the global tourism and travel industry had begun to address some sustainability challenges.

For example, international aviation is seeking to improve global fuel efficiency by 2% each year until 2050. But this target is “aspirational” and even the International Civil Aviation Authority has conceded it was “unlikely to deliver the level of reduction necessary to stabilize and then reduce aviation’s absolute emissions contribution to climate change”.

Current technological constraints mean decarbonising aviation is challenging. An expected future increase in flight demand will only add to the problem. Globally, 7.8 billion passengers are expected to travel in 2036.

What’s more, tourism’s damage to the environment extends far beyond climate change. It adds to marine plastic pollution, degrades habitat and leads to a loss of wilderness and natural quiet. The industry’s resurgence must address these and other harms.

Credit: Nariman Mesharrafa
A VISION FOR THE FUTURE 

People travelling outside their normal context are open to new experiences and perspectives. In this way, tourism presents an opportunity to encourage a new connection with nature.

So what should the future of tourism look like? I and others are advocating for a more sustainable tourism sector that’s vastly different to what exists now. Travel should be closer to home, slower, and with a positive contribution at its core. In this model, all erosion of natural, cultural and social capital ceases.

Practices under the model (some of which already exist at a small scale) might include:

– More travel to regional and local destinations, involving shorter distances. Under COVID-19, the trend towards such tourism has already begun. However, communities must be empowered to determine what type of tourism they want.

– Travellers paying a conservation-focused levy upon entering a country, such as those imposed in New Zealand and Botswana.

– The donation of time, money or expertise to support environmental restoration as an integral part of the travel experience. For example, the Adventure Scientists initiative shows people with outdoor skills how to collect environmental information as they travel, providing new data for researchers.

– Businesses that “give back” by design. For example, Global Himalayan Expeditions empowers communities by electrifying remote villages in Ladakh, Kashmir. Trekkers co-finance solar panels and carry them as part of their travel experience.

– Ambitious industry standards, which ramp up over time, for sustainable management of environmental, cultural and human resources.

The UN Sustainable Development Group has suggested other changes, including:

– A frequent flyer levy

– Incentives for domestic tourism

– Restrictions on flight advertising

– No more airport expansions in high-income countries

– Better transport alternatives to aviation.

Credit: Mitsuo Komoriya
BOUNCING BACK DIFFERENTLY 

The above vision for tourism involves great changes. The industry’s focus must shift from growth and profit to “regeneration” – helping to restore the natural world that humans have so badly damaged.

And the transition must happen gradually, to allow tourism-dependent economies and businesses to adjust.

The global tourism industry will persist after COVID-19. But it must be reimagined as, first and foremost, a public good rather than a commercial activity.

And the goal of ecosystem restoration must be at the industry’s core. Planetary health is inextricably linked to our own well-being – and that of the tourism industry. After all, there’s no tourism on a dead planet.

Note from NOW Founder

Dr. Susanne Becken is a Professor of Sustainable Tourism at Griffith University, Australia, and an Adjunct Professor at Lincoln University, New Zealand. She is a globally recognised expert in the field of sustainable tourism, in particular climate change, resource management, resilience, and environmental behaviour. Her research, which is published in more than 100 journal papers, reports and books, is widely cited by academics around the world, and has also influenced government policy and industry practice.

Dr. Susanne Becken is also on the Advisory Board of  itmustbeNOW.com. View these other articles:

Is Regenerative Tourism Better and Smarter?

Overtourism: The Canary in the Coal Mine

The Power of Music

Music is a unique and powerful art form in every human culture, a universal language that can express the deepest of emotions. Music can entertain us, boost wellbeing, help us work through our emotions, soothe and unstress us, enhance our mood and trigger feelings of joy, melancholy, and happiness.  

Vlademir Kornéev’s music has this power.  This summer, he captivated a private audience in a concert performance under a grand gloriette pavilion, in the middle of a lush vineyard at Coquillade Provence Resort & Spa. His repertoire about love and longing in French, Russian and English, self-composed and written German Chansons, as well as his versions of the Kurt Weill songbook enthralled his audience and touched hearts as he gave insight to his personal experiences and inspirations. Experienced in nature around sunset, it was magical.

Vladimir is passionate about transforming lives through the art and music that transformed him, as well as healed the trauma he experienced as a child refugee. His inspiring story is one of action and grit, gratefulness and resilience, transformation and strength. Against many odds, he said YES to life and transformed himself.

Credit: Reto Guntli

Born to Georgian-Russian parents in 1987, his mother was a teacher of Russian language and literature, and his father was in the Georgian military. His grandmother took care of him at 3 years old and his favorite game was to turn on the radio and sing, and she would clap after every song. At 4 1/2, his parents took him to a concert and were surprised that he ran up to the stage and sang in the arms of the Russian chanson singer, already knowing the lyrics by heart.

Credit: Reto Guntli

Vladimir moved to Germany with his parents at 6 years, leaving behind their homeland Georgia during the war for Abkhazia in 1992–1993. He did not know that they were going away forever, and he did not know that he would never see his grandmother again. He knew something was wrong and remembered that his mother only packed a small bag with photos and clothes, and she was very, very sad. In the waiting hall of the train station, he remembered there was an old piano with a soldier playing romantic soothing music and he was hypnotised, knowing then that he had to learn to play the piano. After arriving in Berlin, the family was granted political asylum in Augsburg and moved from one refugee camp to another and lived with 15 families or more on one floor with a shared kitchen.  Everybody was stressed and aggressive, and the young Korneev was so overwhelmed, he withdrew, lost his voice, then started to stutter very badly.  He saw war and violence everywhere and stuttered horribly until he was 17 years.

Credit: Clark Young

Vladimir started his education as a pianist at the age of 9, and completed his primary and secondary education in Augsburg, He played every classical piece – Mozart, Beethoven, and adored Chopin. He loved being on stage because he did not have to speak, and everybody was quiet. To him, every music piece was a story and he focused with impact, playing from the heart.

His first visit to a theatre was an amazing OMG moment at 16 years.  He joined the theatre club and everyone laughed at him because he could not speak. The drama teacher recognized his energy and passion to act and taught him to play roles where he learned to be a different character with their own conflicts. When he acted, he was so deeply into character that he did not stutter.  He was given the main role in their final play and during the premier applause, he shook all over and started to cry, and in this moment his stuttering stopped.   From this moment on, he decided to be an actor.  

Credit: Zac Durant

After his A levels, he moved to Munich to complete his civil year as an assistant to the Theatre Director and he worked with everyone and learned to respect every department. He was one of ten accepted annually at the University of Arts in Munich Theatre Academy where he studied acting and singing for 4 years.  This is where he met his vocal coach and mentor – Melanie Percu – who inspired this baritone to sing chanson and taught him the technique to open himself so profoundly that his vocal cords sing for him.

Vladimir Kornéev has received many awards as a Chanson singer and became a distinctive member of the ”Bavarian Academy Of Fine Arts“ as the youngest recipient in the department of performing arts in 2020, one of the highest honours for an artist in Germany. He has performed extensively as a guest of symphonic orchestras and his own concerts in Germany, and he is a renowned actor for movie and television.

Today, Vladimir lives in Berlin.  He is dismayed about what humanity has done to the planet in the last 50 years which will impact future generations, and he tries his best not to leave a huge footprint and fly less.  He is concerned that it’s very late and know that our bold actions or climate inaction now will decide if humanity will survive, yet he does not think that humanity understands this.  He is conscious about health and chose to be vegan and prefers to use organic, non-toxic products.  He believes that we have to think about social injustice and human rights abusesconsumerism and the negative impact of the meat industry on global warming, deforestation and our oceans; and we should be aware of the toxic effects of chemicals on our health and the environment.  He believes in the need for a collective mind change and that art and music can help to communicate and transform. In Vienna, he was involved in the refugee project MigrArt which promotes community rehabilitation and antifragility approaches, and pursues empowerment and social organization in which art is a work tool that allows the youth to communicate the transformations that emerge in their lives.

Meet the passionate Vlademir Kornéev HERE.

Message from NOW Founder

While in Provence this summer, my husband and I had the privilege to attend the private concert by Vlademir Kornéev, and was inspired by his story. 

Against many odds and due to the love of his parents, Vladimir is among the less than 1% of displaced people that thrive today.

Less than 1% of all refugees are ever able to resettle and find a new life in safety and security.  Half of the world’s refugees are children.  According to Save the Children, our world is now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record, and by the end of 2019, around 26 million men, women, and children have been forced to flee their home countries due to conflict and persecution—more than at any time in history.  

Each individual can make a huge difference. View what you can do HERE.

 

The Refugee and Migrant Conundrum

In CLIMATE INACTION … GUILTY OR NOT GUILTY, we wrote about the recent IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change) Report which the UN declared as a ”code red for humanity” and the urgent need to be carbon positive by this decade.  We cited the recent IEP (Institute for Economic & Peace) prediction that at least 1.2 billion people could be displaced by climate-related events by 2050. This terrifying number goes way beyond the staggering 1990 IPCC estimate of 200 million climate migrants by 2050, a call to action then that fell on deaf ears since little was done to mitigate carbon emissions in the last 30 years.

Today, these refugees are called the “forgotten victims of climate change” until they can be classified in the UNHCR statute to protect them. This is happening at a time of marked reluctance to open doors to more refugee victims of war and political turmoil, when many countries are grappling with what to do with Afghans who assisted them over the past 20 years and many more that want a better life.

Refugees struggle, have endured so much, and still do. They are different, the outsider, the misunderstood who try hard to fit in but often the one who doesn’t fit in. They are in a foreign country where many are made to feel less, the one who barely spoke the local language and was made fun of for their accent, their skin color, the thing on their head. They have been traumatized, and meet resistance in almost every corner of their lives.  

Credit: Mitchel Lensink

Many countries have genuine concerns about refugees and migrants, about who these people are and the risk of bringing them within their borders, but most refugees are not looking for trouble or want to cause violence, and many are fleeing exactly that from their war-torn homes. Unfortunately for many in need, the political climate worldwide is cautious, hesitant or less than hospitable to their plight.  

At least 400,000 Afghans have been forced from their homes in 2021 by fighting and are displaced within their own country, according to the UN’s refugee agency. Some countries offered refuge, but others closed their borders or had no plans announced.

– Of the countries bordering Afghanistan, Iran sets up emergency tents, but urges repatriation if and when safe, Tajikistan is preparing to accept up to 100,000 refugees, Pakistan is sealing its borders having resettled an estimated  three million Afghan refugees, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan closed its borders, and China closed its borders decades ago to refugees, especially Muslims.

Credit: Markus Spiske

– Offering refuge, USA will resettle up to 125,000 refugees in the 2022 fiscal year. UK will accept 5,000 in 2021 and resettle a total of  20,000 over several years. Canada will resettle 20,000, prioritising minorities including LGBTQ Afghans. Mexico accepted a group of 124 Afghan media workers and their families last week. Australia has pledged to take in 3,000 Afghan refugees.

– At US request, the following countries agreed to temporarily host Afghans seeking visas to enter the US: North Macedonia (450), Albania (300), Qatar (6000), Uganda (2,000) Kosovo also agreed, but with no number committed. 

– Hesitant or refusing refuge to migrants and refugees are the EU member states, Turkey and Russia. With elections looming in Germany and France, politicians are determined to avoid the populist backlash that followed the 2015 refugee crisis. Most EU governments have expressed willingness to accept Afghans who worked alongside American forces or international aid groups but they are wary of committing to the many hundreds of thousands more who are  seeking to leave to avoid life under the Taliban. Germany indicated that some will be accepted with no number committed. Austria refuses refugees and favours deportation centres. Switzerland refuses to accept large groups and will review on a case by case basis. The President of France said Europe must protect itself from a wave of Afghan migrants. European Union member states have now floated a plan to spend 300 million euros ($355 million) to resettle about 30,000 refugees inside the bloc. 

– Turkey steps up border wall construction since there are already 182, 000 registered Afghan migrants and 120,000 unregistered according to Reuters. 

– Russia refuses and does not want militants entering the country disguised as refugees.

– Australia says ‘no plans’.  

Credit: Atlas Green

According to the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, there are over 79.5 million forcibly displaced people around the world with more than half under the age of 18. Afghans represent the second largest refugee population in the world after Syrians, with a staggering 2.6 million registered refugees out of a global total of 26.4 million as of the end of 2020.

There is a growing hostility towards refugees and migrants perceived as threatening to one’s way of life, job availability and pay, to safety with the increase in crimes and the creation of ghettos, and to the potential rise of racist and right-wing views. Many host nations are already failing to provide homes, jobs, medical care and basic necessities for their own people, and there is an altruistic threat that these host nations will also fail to provide needed support for refugees and migrants.

In a world with a huge crisis of trust and an ongoing covid pandemic that has devastated many countries, we cannot allow a kind of moral numbness to set in when it comes to humanitarian emergencies, especially since more than half are children.  Surely, we can exercise our muscles for compassion and empathy, unlock the best features of our humanity and rethink decisions made outside the reach of decency to help suffering human beings.

Credit: Ra Dragon

What can we do to help as individuals? 

The Centre for High Impact Philanthropy recommends four things we can do to support refugees: 

1. Support the majority of refugees where they are with critical humanitarian aid. There are a number of organizations providing critical relief on the ground, such as: Médecins Sans Frontières, Mercy Corps, Oxfam International, Save the Children, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR),  and World Food Programme.

2. Support a flexible fund to respond to the situation as it evolves. The Global Refugee Crisis Fund benefits from the expertise of both disaster relief and area experts.

3. Help shift local laws and provide legal counsel: Governments historically bar refugees from working, starting businesses, and supporting themselves. Therefore, the amount of humanitarian aid needed is greater because countries taking in refugees often do little to help refugees rebuild their lives. Support organisations working to change laws and broaden opportunities to increase self-sufficiency and longer-term stability for refugees.

4. Support refugees who have gained entrance to your country. Refugees who have been admitted have already gone through an extensive vetting process which includes in-person interviews, fingerprinting, health screenings and background checks by various security agencies, a process that can take a few years.

Conservancy Guardians

We fell in love in Africa. Then we fell in love with Africa. 

Africa’s vast open spaces and her enormous diversity of life hold a value and splendour that go far beyond our understanding.  Her wildlife and her people changed and enriched our lives in ways we couldn’t have possibly imagined. We gained meaning, purpose, peace and happiness by immersing ourselves in the most unlikely locations and experiences. We could never fully repay the debt that we owe for its impact on us.

A safari should enliven all of the senses. It should be a riot of colour, flavour, scent and shivers down the spine. We have made so many new friends by inviting people to spend time in the wonderful places we discover together: letting them feel, letting them be, and giving them time to explore for themselves. On these adventures, nature offers just a little of her magic. After all, to be magic is to transform, to delight, to bring to life.

Beyond this magic, Africa also has many challenges. Population growth, in combination with significant climate change, has created new challenges for Africa’s ecosystems and increased the conflict between humans and wildlife.

Africa’s National Parks are often well known, but there is a significant wildlife population that exists outside of Government National Parks and Game Reserves, which are vital to those countries and their environments. (For example, 65% of Kenya’s wildlife is outside of National Parks and Reserves).

The traditional National Parks and Conservation models have long been based on keeping local people out – both physically and in terms of decision making and gaining benefit. This has created a mistrust, and in some cases resentment, of conservation and its long-term goals.

One of our personal projects with In The Wild is Conservancy Guardians – a registered charity focusing on community owned ecosystems, with the goal of helping them fulfil their self-sustaining potential. 

A new model of engaging with the community and allowing ownership within protected ecosystems is starting to gather momentum, and we want to support this evolution.

Through visionary partnerships formed between the Maasai Landowners and some of the continent’s most innovative eco-tourism businesses, the habitat surrounding the Maasai Mara has been rescued from the brink of devastation.

Together they have created and protected a growing cultural landscape in which key populations of Africa’s most iconic and endangered species can expand and thrive.

In The Wild creates tailored adventures that take you deep into the African wilderness with a personal guide. When you embark on an adventure with us you will also go on a journey of discovery to learn and to nurture the places you visit. Each safari is created to directly benefit the region or area that we are travelling to.

There is a built-in, project specific donation and a carbon offsetting, region specific payment included in all safaris. Once at our destination, there are so many ways we can engage as a family or group with local projects and initiatives.

One fantastic example is the funding and building of predator proof bomas (livestock corral) for, and with, the Maasai families that live north of the Mara alongside populations of Lion, Spotted Hyena and Leopard. It is several days of immersive work and has a huge impact on all involved.

We also feel very lucky to have met and connected with so many local and international experts during our time in Africa.

We have a wonderful network within the conservation and research community who give their time and insight to our guests, going deeper into the challenges the wildlife and region may be facing at this specific time.

We’ve hosted dinner with the Gorilla Doctors (the vets that monitor, take care and treat the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda and DRC) and joined experts from the Serengeti Cheetah researchers, rhinoceros guards and Big Life Foundation Rangers. There are always stunning stories told, and plenty of questions asked and answered.

We remain optimistic that the mindset of fencing local communities out of conservation is changing, with an enlightened version emerging, engaging with the people who live along the borders and within key wildlife areas.

As safari planners and private guides we understand our role in supporting these efforts and take it incredibly seriously.

Our decisions, advice and itineraries have a huge impact on places and people, and this is where our on the ground experience has allowed us to engage with our clients to create an incredible expedition with a lasting positive impact.

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Note from NOW Founder:

African safaris has been hit hard by Covid-19 and its full impact is yet to be seen on an industry valued at US$12.4 billion before the pandemic. There are signs that interest in African safaris is returning slowly, but the August 2021 survey report run by SafariBookings.com revealed a significant trend of decline in new bookings and large-scale cancellations of existing bookings.  In addition to big-game conservation programmes, wildlife projects and rangers that rely on income from the sector, there are countless workers in local communities that survive on tourism. The restrictions spell trouble for Africa’s people and animals, and many are still in a holding pattern, at the mercy of things they cannot control.

Nik and Jana Kershaw founded In The Wild prior to the pandemic and they do more than offer travellers in-depth knowledge, expertise and personal guidance for tailored adventures and bespoke safari experiences in some of Africa’s most magical and remote destinations. To offer a safari that makes a positive difference to local communities, they founded Conservancy Guardians in May 2020, a non-profit charity dedicated to protecting community-led conservation.   As part of your adventure with them, travellers will have the opportunity to engage in local initiatives and learn more about the organisations that protect and develop the beautiful landscapes and wildlife that you will encounter.   Become a Guardian.  Get in touch: https://inthewildsafaris.com/our-heart/ 

View a curious traveller’s diary entry of her private safari trip guided by Jana in Rwanda and Uganda to visit the gorillas HERE.

At NOW, we believe that we need to travel responsively and make a difference by leaving places better than we found it.  Regenerative tourism seeks to balance the economics of tourism with the well-being of its natural resources and communities.  We believe that protecting nature is our first, best, and most cost-effective line of defense against future pandemics and climate emergencies. We believe that we must save nature to save ourselves. It must be NOW!