Over the past few years, travelers have become more aware of responsible & sustainable tourism, of “ecotourism” as well as making a positive impact while travelling, but what does all of this actually mean?
In a nutshell, responsible tourism is how we at Benson Safaris approach our work: by maximizing economic, environmental and social benefits while minimizing the negative impact to the destination in which we travel.
It’s easy to travel responsibly. Simply consider your attitude and choices while abroad – respect the local people, their economy, culture, and of course, the environment in which they live.
Responsible tourism practices are important to Benson Safaris Tanzania and these values are ingrained in the culture of our business, from the way we run our office to the structure of our trips. We also hold our staff and clients accountable and encourage them to uphold principles of responsible travel while they are abroad by encouraging good-will, cross cultural discussion and ensuring that the most vulnerable members of our community – animals, children and women aren’t exploited in any way.
We are often asked, “How much of my trip cost do you donate to charity?”
While we make financial contributions to the community around us there is much more to Responsible Tourism than just donating money to charities. There can be a real danger in giving money to some organizations because at times they are not properly registered, therefore, no one is held accountable for the donations they receive and it can often fall into the wrong hands no matter how good the intention- that is why we only contribute to registered organizations that we believe are making a positive contribution to society. Let us explain…
Most Responsible Tourism practices happen behind the scenes, before you even arrive on the African continent. Responsible Tourism practices happen every day, 365 days of the year.
We practice Responsible Tourism in our office by paying fair wages to our staff, by treating them with integrity and respect, and by investing our time in their continued training, product knowledge and skills.
We offer work experience and paid work to students who are in their final stages of Wildlife and Tour Guide studies at college. They may be employed as transfer drivers (driving you to and from the airport), as drivers of our City Tours (you will also be accompanied by our Training and Development Manager or another member of staff) or they may join your team of Camping Assistants on our full-service camping safaris or mountain treks.
We practice Responsible Tourism in our operations by purchasing from a range of local businesses and suppliers to ensure the economic benefit is spread. We don’t believe in paying the cheapest price as this is not a Responsible Tourism practice. We believe in paying a fair price which benefits everyone.
We practice Responsible Tourism on our trips by paying fair wages to our Safari Drivers, Guides, Chefs, Camping Assistants, Mountain Guides, Mountain Chefs and Porters as well as ensure that they are treated with integrity and respect. We also provide their accommodation, meals and drinks. Unfortunately, some tour operators cut costs by not supplying accommodation, drinking water and adequate meals to their team – this is not a Responsible Tourism practice.
Sir Richard Branson once said, “Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients,”- we couldn’t agree more.
We also manage our water and electricity resources and minimize our plastic waste to avoid a negative impact in the areas in which we travel.
We practice Responsible Tourism within the community by sponsoring a child to go to school. The Benson Safaris Tanzania team are proud to support a girl named Joyce* and have done so for the past 8 years. She is now in her first year of secondary boarding school and thriving academically. Coming from a poor village in the outskirts of Moshi, Joyce’s father abandoned her when she was young and her mother is HIV positive. Her future was bleak but with our continued sponsorship her future is now bright. We are proud that our Responsible Tourism practices are contributing to a better future for Tanzania’s children.
We also make financial and practical contributions to the Maasai villages, the Hadazbe bush people and various other groups we visit while on safari. In addition to local payments made to the Village Chief, we also contribute school books, pens, pencils and women’s personal items such as tampons and sanitary pads.
We often hear, “We want to travel responsibly AND we want the cheapest price,” however traveling sustainably and responsibly bears a small price.
Here’s a basic overview of how your safari or trek money is spent
Licensing Fees to meet Government Rules and Regulations: We understand that booking directly with a local tour operator in Africa can be daunting and unfortunately there are many “companies” offering safaris and treks which do not hold the required Government licenses and permits to carry clients for tourism purposes. When booking direct, it is important to ask questions. For example, ask for paperwork and confirm with the relevant authorities to ensure that you are travelling with a reputable company. Benson Safaris Tanzania is a licensed tour operator with a TALA license (Tourist Agents Licensing Authority), we are a proud TATO member (Tanzanian Association of Tour Operators) as well as a member of the Tanzanian Tourist Board (TTB) and Interpretive Guides Society (IGS) respectively.
National Park Entry Fees and National Park Camping Fees (for those sleeping within the National Park): These fees are set by the government bodies of TANAPA and the Ngorongoro Crater Conversation Area and are non-negotiable.
Accommodation Fees: The accommodation charges are set by the relevant lodge or tented camp each safari season and are also non-negotiable. If you feel the fees are too high we are able to assist you in finding alternate lodging to your liking.
Vehicle Associated Costs: Your safety is our number 1 priority. Our vehicles are serviced at the beginning and end of each trip. Some days a vehicle may require a simple oil change while other days we may need to replace all four tyres. Vehicle maintenance costs are non-negotiable as we are responsible for your safety and we take this responsibility very seriously.
Food and Beverages: Our trips are all-inclusive and we make our purchases from a range of local businesses and suppliers to ensure the economic benefit is spread. We don’t believe in bargaining to receive the cheapest price; we want a fair price which benefits everyone.
Wages: From our office and operations staff to the team on the ground, we believe in paying fair wages. All of our staff have been handpicked by Benson himself and he is proud of his team and the service they deliver to our clients. Unfortunately, some companies underpay their staff to offer clients the cheapest price. We do not condone this behaviour as it is not a Responsible Tourism practice. If we offer you a discount on your holiday you can be assured the money is not coming out of the pockets of our staff!
Community Responsibility: All of our safaris offer an element of culture. We make financial and practical contributions to the Maasai villages, Hadazbe Bush People and various other groups we visit. In addition to local payments made to the Village Chief, we also contribute school books, pens, pencils and women’s personal items such as tampons and sanitary pads.
Operations and Profit: As a small but growing company, our focus is on increasing our business and returning our profits back into the company. By booking with a local tour operator you are taking out the “middle man” which means we can offer very competitive prices on all safaris and treks. Benson’s vision is to build a successful company with a strong emphasis on repeat and referred clients as there is no greater compliment than receiving a referral. As a father of two young children, he hopes to one day ‘pass the reigns’ on to his daughters and make it a family company- that is of course if they choose to work in the tourism industry!
Benson Safaris Tanzania is proud to be a Responsible Tour Operator and we are committed to making a positive contribution wherever possible.