On the 10th January 2020 – Florence Kagiso (Chobe Game Lodge) and Ernest Chaba & James Wilson (Desert & Delta Safaris) headed for the United States on their first #ResponsibleTravelTour. Their mission was to spread the word about the real positive impact of tourism in Botswana when it comes to the country’s economy, local people and female empowerment.

“We wanted Florence and Ernest to share their amazing stories of ambition and growth through the support of the company ..” explains Marketing Director James Wilson, “…to give real examples to our international tour operator partners and travellers of how their involvement in tourism in Botswana goes beyond Responsible Tourism development – they are actively empowering our country while creating lifelong travel memories and connections.”

During the 2-week trip, they spoke to over 350 people heading from Florida to Colorado and across to New York, Chicago, and Washington DC.

Tour Operators and Travel Specialists as well as past and future travellers came together to meet them and hear their stories.

Florence captured the heart of everyone she met during this trip. We asked her to explain what her talk about discovering Responsible Travel in Botswana was all about.

“Having being brought up by a single mum who was both farming and taking care of my two blind grandmothers – I wanted a career where I could help support her as soon as possible.” said Florence.

She wanted qualifications under her belt but unfortunately, fashion design didn’t lead to employment opportunities and after a brief internship and qualifying as a trainee guide in Northern-Botswana, Florence was accepted as a full-time guide at Chobe Game Lodge in 2004.

“I was the first female guide there. A woman amongst 12 male guides at a time when according to our General Manager there were fewer than 10 female guides in the whole country.”

There is no doubt that Florence is a courageous lady. Her determination paved the way for many females to succeed after her. Just six-years later Chobe Game Lodge became home to the first all-female guiding team in Africa. A team now comprising of 19 female guides.

Florence went from strength to strength and in 2013 was featured in the Conde Naste magazine as one of the top 10 ‘Next Generation’ guides in Africa. Her belief in herself and her achievements not only led her to be a successful guide but also took her on her first overseas trip on this Responsible Travel Tour.

“My talk was all about how Chobe Game Lodge changed what was normal and also how the group tried to employ more local females in senior positions throughout the company. Today, all the Camp managers at Desert & Delta are Batswana and more or less half of the management teams consist of women.”

The impact of this goes beyond empowering these ladies. According to National Geographic Magazine, typically in Africa 35% of wealth generated by men trickles down to the families. With women… they invest 90% of their income into their families. So more of the wealth generated by these senior roles in tourism is uplifting the economy at large.

Ernest Chaba shared his talk about growing up with the tourism industry in Botswana. Having not fully completed his schooling education, his dream was to work in the lodges.

“I started as a groundsman at Savute Safari Lodge in 2007. Having grown up with wild animals in Shorobe I had never seen so much wildlife existing in harmony with people and while we were there we saw some of the most dramatic wildlife encounters like big lion prides hunting elephant” shared Ernest.

Fast forward seven years, Erny had advanced from groundsman, to barmen, to trainee-manager and then finally a lead manager at the beautiful authentic Camp Xakanaxa in 2014.

“Apart from my story developing my career with Desert & Delta we wanted the audience at our talks to understand what makes travelling to our camps in Botswana so authentic.”

“In the camps the guests would tell me we have the best staff they have ever experienced in the world. They would tell me this and I would wonder to myself how this was possible…? This trip to America helped me to understand why. We do not deliver silver-service or claim to have the best wine…but we do have the nicest staff because our teamwork comes from the heart. To be hosted by Batswana in Botswana by a company which genuinely empowers its staff – no amount of money can train this. It has to come from a company culture.Erny’s story is inspiring. He is now the group Management Trainer & Accessor. His job is developing, training and mentoring both the management teams and individuals within the company.

Although guests are coming to Botswana for our wildlife and pristine nature, Erny explains how he figured out that they give their guests an experience that they never knew they were coming for. Making long-lasting friendships, learning about the culture and enriching their souls with the true spirit of Africa.

Erny proudly describes his job. “I explain my role in the company is to connect, protect and empower. Connect with our guests. Protect our nature. Empower our staff!”

James continues to explain “We plan to do more of these trips with our teams. Our aim is to share the story of the true meaning of Responsible Travel in Africa closer to the travellers and the people that bring travellers to our country.”

Desert & Delta Safaris is proud of what they have achieved. From the company’s early stage the directors knew that the most important asset was the local people and empowering them was their responsibility.

“Florence shared a quote by Gloria Vanderbilt at the end of her talk. I’ve always believed that one woman’s success can only help another woman’s success. In Flo’s case this is so true. My hope with these talks going forward is that we can share our success to inspire travellers to come on safari and inspire companies to invest more in their people.

Tourism can empower the local citizens of Africa more than any other industry I have come across.”

Ernest socialising with guests after his presentation.

Florence on her experiences as a guide in the Chobe National Park.

Florence after her presentation.

Ernest on the Responsible Travel Tour

Ernie, Flo and James ready for the afternoon’s presentation

Florence talking about the all-female guiding team at Chobe Game Lodge.

Ernest sharing his story on the Responsible Travel Tour.

Florence telling her storing during the Responsible Travel Tour.