In an age, where we are encouraged more and more to ensure we travel responsibly and embrace sustainable tourism, there is often a misconception that luxury holidays can literally ‘cost the earth’. Consumption of more than a fair share of water, energy and other local resources is typically the accusation made against such holidays. This belief is even stronger where the holidays are taken in developing countries with fragile environments, such as coral reefs and rainforests, and shortage of resources, such as water. The reality is that this is often very far from the truth. In fact it can be the luxury options that in many cases minimise environmental disturbance and offer long lasting employment and training benefits to local people.
It is true that a stay in a large all-inclusive resort with a mostly Western management, imported produce and 24/7 entertainment is not providing many benefits to local communities. More so, in a water-stressed environment, flat screen HD televisions & air-conditioning in each room and a 24 hour lit & heated swimming pools, will have a serious impact on your personal carbon footprint and also the local environment. There is no avoiding this.
However luxury holidays do not have to be about travelling long distances just to use the mod cons you can access at home. Luxury can be more about exclusivity and freedom, staying in wilderness areas, enjoying the solitude, peace and tranquillity that only such unique destinations can provide.
Imagine the scene at sunset on a Serengeti evening as the wildlife lazily drifts across the vast grassy plains. You and just a couple more holidaymakers enjoy a sundowner as the burning African sun sets into the bush. No large hotels, no large crowds, no background noises other than bush sounds, no tarred roads. Your tented lodge is designed to blend into the environment perfectly and the entire site can be dismantled at any time. There are no permanent structures at all and in fact many tented lodges do move to follow the Wildebeest migrating throughout the year. Yes tented accommodation, but extremely comfortable, with proper beds & furniture, en-suite bathrooms, warm water, flush loos, and solar panels providing you with lighting for bedtime reading. Excellent and delicious food prepared by top-chefs in the middle of the Serengeti. Now that is what I would call luxury.
It is also this responsible part of the luxury travel market, who employ local people, provide proper staff training and secure employment contracts. The best wildlife, diving or cultural tours in the world can fall apart very quickly when the guide is exposed as having limited knowledge. Genuine local staff know the environment and grew up with the wildlife around them. Your experience will be all the better for it.
We should not feel guilty for spending time immersed in luxury on our holidays. Pay for quality, pay for luxury, but chose the right options. People, who work with the local communities, who are sensitive to their culture & traditions and people who will give back to that community. People who will also take care of the environment. Only then can you relax in the knowledge that your hard earned tourist pounds, euros or dollars are putting something back into the locations you love to stay in.
To help you make the right choice, we will shortly present a series of the Top 3 Luxury & Green Lodges in a range of Southern and Eastern African destinations. The choice is quite overwhelming, but we stick to our principles and only pick those that fit the follow criteria:
- Sustainability – environment, economics and culture
- Owner managed or with strong owner involvement
- Small (less than 20 rooms)
- Unique location and exclusivity
- Top quality food
- Responsible travel awards & accreditations received
Paul Geiss is a Director at BAOBAB Travel Ltd.