Kate Webb, Co-Founder and Managing Director at The Responsible Safari Company, talks with Travindy about how tourism generated income empowers sustainable development of villages in Malawi.
Jeremy: What are the challenges The Responsible Safari Company is trying to address?
Kate: We are using educational travel to find sustainable solutions to village development.
We want to encourage local economic development and a reduction in the reliance of aid. By supporting local community based organisations to run income generating activities we aim to provide them with an income to support the development activities they are doing within their communities: environmental, education, healthcare etc. We are also trying to encourage and support entrepreneurship.
With the above aims we hope to inspire future generations of young people to become active global citizens through their experience and immersion in our Malawian programmes and initiatives.
Jeremy: What is the impact you are trying to achieve?
Kate: Our main goal is sustainable community development through tourism generated income activities.
We also want to inspire future generations of young people to become active global citizens through their experience and immersion in our Malawian programmes and initiatives.
Jeremy: What’s special about your approach to meeting these challenges?
Kate: Formally, we are not a charity but a limited company registered in UK and Malawi. We decided not to start any community organisation or charity on our own. We work with already established Community Based Organisations and NGO’s to support the work they are doing by offering tourism generating income. It is a business to business model. The community hosts visitors and earns income per visitor. We’ve worked with 3 communities for the last 6 years.
We run a number of global development workshops in the villages, which provide an immersive learning experience to our clients. We also offer additional support to the communities we work with.
We conduct needs and impact assessments of our work every 3 months.
Jeremy: What’s the most exciting your company has achieved so far?
Kate: We are most proud of our staff and their passion to see the company grow. Each employee has unique set of skills and brings impact across different areas of our operations. The accountant is our “political eyes and ears” in Malawi. Our head guide is also our company fixer. The sales assistant is committed to wildlife conservation. Our general manager runs her own inspiring website. The list goes on… We believe in nurturing these skills. We feel that the ethos and company growth comes from surrounding ourselves with exceptional staff.
Another exciting thing is when communities we work with send us their first invoice for tourist groups they have worked with. Every business invoice represents the real experience delivered, not just a donation or good will. Each transaction makes us proud of our work and also, hopefully, boosts community’s self-esteem.
Last but not least, we are extremely excited about the fact that we created the first Malawian homestay programme.
Jeremy: What do you need to help you be more successful?
Kate: We need more bums on seats! We need to encourage people to make that journey to travel a bit further and take that leap of faith to choose Malawi as their destination. For this we need people to spread the word about The Responsible Safari Company and our vision for sustainable tourism. We need to help dispel the idea of voyeuristic village visits and see what a huge impact insightful behind the scenes travel can have on both the visitor and the community if handled properly. We need visitors to book directly with local operators like RSC who are properly monitoring their impact. Brand Ambassadors, Journalists, Filmographers- who can travel to Malawi and see what we are doing.
Jeremy: What does that success look like? Share your dream with us.
Kate: I want to get to the point where apart from running our usual educational travel groups, we will be able to run special trips for students and young people from less privileged backgrounds. People, who can be partly funded to join our trips to Malawi and learn about global issues such as the Sustainable Development Goals. I want them to be inspired and start acting as global citizens.
My dream for the Community Based Organisations we work with to earn enough from income generating activities that they do not have to rely on aid. My ultimate dream would be for the government to take more responsibility for village rural development. But let’s start with the first dream first!
Jeremy: If you could connect with one person, company or organisation in responsible tourism, who would it be, and why?
Kate: I really want Future Earth to look at the work we are doing. They are committed to merging the fields of academia and research to come up with sustainable global solutions to climate change and find a way to meet The Sustainable Development Goals. We are trying to showcase Malawian communities as a key example of adaptable development and how entrepreneurship can really inspire and promote sustainable change and local economic empowerment. They should come and see the work we are doing and support students and academics to do pieces of research away from their desks. Get out into the field and come to Malawi!
Jeremy: Which other person, company or organisation would you most like to recommend to be interviewed for this series, and why?
Kate: James Borrell. We met last month and now are trying to work together to bring a group of 16-18 year olds out to Malawi on a conservation trip. He is so inspiring and has an incredible vision and belief in the need to educate the younger generation on key environmental issues.