Austin-Lehman Adventures joined together with the World Wildlife Fund and local ranchers, Native American tribal leaders and recreation professionals in Montana to host 14 community and tourism leaders from Namibia, where resource and land conservancy initiatives help people and wildlife thrive. The tour operator has arranged a cross-cultural summit between American and Namibian people, Sept. 6 to 16, to share ideas on how tourism fits into their respective ideologies and their lands. Austin-Lehman Adventures is an active travel company operating on five continents, including Africa.
Delegates will meet with property owners, managers and government officials to explore how they manage wide open spaces and incorporate sustainable adventure tourism activities such as biking, rafting, wildlife viewing and horseback riding. In turn, the international guests will discuss how their land conservancy model works in Namibia and how it might work on reservations and public and private lands. The 10-day tour will wrap up in Bozeman with an American football game as guests of Montana State University.
The Namibian delegation will include 14 Namibian tourism industry representatives, including four conservancy representatives (some of whom are members of the Himba and Herrera tribes). While in the U.S., they will experience a tour of southeastern Montana and Yellowstone National Park. Participants include ALA, Conservancy Development Support Services (CDSS), Namibian Association of Community Based Natural Resource Management Support Organizations (NACSO), including members of the Himba and Herrera tribes, World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), and award-winning safari operator Wilderness Safaris.
The Namibian visitors will learn about adventure tourism, client safety, security, liability and sustainability as practiced by ALA. Along the way they will be exposed to the guiding practices and interpretation techniques that comprise a significant part of the visitor experience while on an adventure travel tour. In Yellowstone National Park they will learn from park officials as well as representatives of Xanterra Corporation, the largest US National Park concessionaire, about how they manage their environmental footprint, including management of such issues as clean water, sewage, solid waste, energy and wildlife. Cross-cultural exchanges between the Namibians and Native American tribal leaders from southeast Montana will delve into how to establish and operate indigenous tourism experiences, while Montana state officials will discuss how to establish and manage a dedicated fund to support small and medium tourism enterprises.
Because of the sheer volume of Namibia’s tourism joint ventures, Dan Austin, ALA’s founder and owner, says Namibia offers a true education into how private and public sectors collaborate with host communities. All the joint ventures in the communal conservancies combined represent 1,356 bed-nights, more than 900 full-time jobs and more than 250 seasonal positions.
“In the process, not only are communities benefitting in ways previously unimaginable, but the national tourism product is being redefined in more equitable and sustainable ways,” said Austin, pointing out that nearly half of the country’s 76 registered conservancies are adjacent to national parks or in key corridors between protected areas. Wildlife-friendly land uses adjacent to and between parks are enhancing the viability of Namibia’s protected area network. The recovery of prey species, combined with an increased tolerance of community, is facilitating the recovery of high-level predators on a landscape level in north-western Namibia.
Namibia is the only country in Africa where black rhinos are being translocated out of a national park to communal conservancy land areas, in stark and dramatic contrast to the poaching taking place in neighboring countries. Its free-roaming lion population is expanding thanks to a dramatic decrease in poaching. As this country repeatedly undertakes the largest road-based wildlife count in the world, its conservation success stories stand out in sharp contrast to most African countries where wildlife populations and habitats are rapidly declining. “Namibia very well may be the greatest African wildlife recovery story ever told,” said Austin.
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