Ecotourism and the Next Best Practice

August 14, 2012 at 4:30 pm Leave a comment

Ecotourism is an extremely successful business strategy that creates environmentally responsible travel to somewhat remote natural areas in order to appreciate native wildlife and its habitat. In the spirit of promoting conservation, it has  a positive  impact on the areas, and provides beneficial socio-economic support of local peoples. This industry’s influence can be fiscally measured in the hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of dollars. With the growing awareness of environmentally sound business practices and the “green movement” in full swing, it’s is a breath of fresh air to see businesses, regions, and even entire countries making ecotourism a priority! Moreover, there are some businesses that have taken this successful model and strategically added even greater purpose by developing additional operations to expand their impact. One such business, Basecamp Explorer, has a built-in nonprofit arm to ensure they deepen their engagement with the community and its culture while also expanding the focus of their business to ensure true triple bottom-line profitability. Every aspect of their business is evaluated from a true fiscal, social, and environmental perspective.

I recently had the luxury of taking an Ecotourism trip to the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya. Basecamp Explorer donated this African adventure as a live auction item to the Butterfly Pavilion as part of our annual gala, and as good fortune would have it, my brother and I won the trip! It was a wonderful safari adventure, and boy did we see animals. Lots of them!! The great wildebeest migration is truly an indescribable phenomenon. It is beyond staggering and truly awe-inspiring – a bucket list necessity for anyone. As a zoologist, I was in paradise. We experienced a multitude of mammals, birds and reptiles, and of course lots and lots of butterflies. However, beyond the throng of wild animals you see, visitors are privileged to enjoy amazing gourmet food and outstanding luxurious accommodations. It is extremely comfortable and the staff, which is nearly all Masai, are wonderful. And yet, the true wonder and most amazing aspect of this 8-day adventure was not the unbelievable wildlife, but rather the astonishing impact Basecamp Explorer is making in Kenya.

Basecamp Explorer has taken a simple tourism model and turned it on its head by ensuring a significant percentage of the tourism dollars stay in Kenya. Through the nonprofit arm of their business, they have helped to build schools and supported the development of medical clinics. They have played a significant role in expanding the Serengeti Mara wildlife corridor by developing a wildlife conservancy outside Masai Mara National Park. They actually pay local Masai people to live outside the conservancy while they as a people use the land for ecotourism. And use it they do, as Basecamp Explorer has also invested in and helped develop a guide school on the conservancy to train and educate local Masai men and women to be certified interpretive guides in and around the conservancy and National Park system. These individuals go through extensive training for over a year and the employment rate for graduating guides is over 85%!

At the same time, the programs Basecamp Explorer has established completely integrate and inspire cultural traditions while helping to shape future generations. One such program provides women with an opportunity to participate in craft and fine jewelry design. For these women, it is the first time they have a steady income and any living outside of child rearing. The jewelry is amazingly well built, and very attractive. I personally left the Mara with over $250.00 of jewelry and leather goods for my family and friends. Amazingly enough, 75% of my purchases went directly to those designers. It’s the most rewarding $250.00 I ever spent!

Basecamp Explorer has taken an already successful business model like ecotourism and injected compassion, care, and “big-time” vision. They are making an impact that will be measurable for centuries to come and the best part is they have just begun their work. It is my hope that the Butterfly Pavilion can join in  on some of their conservation work and help to positively influence the social and financial health of that region, while helping to educate folks back here in Colorado and around the United States about the incredible value of sustainable business ventures like Basecamp Explorer. Much like the butterfly farming efforts that the Butterfly Pavilion continues to invest in throughout the world, indigenous people around the world benefit greatly when given an opportunity to provide a sustainable product or service that the world can enjoy and truly benefit from. In the process, our natural world becomes the most critical variable in an equation that provides limitless potential and results in a better world for us all.

Patrick Tennyson
President and CEO
Butterfly Pavilion

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