Namibian-Montana Tourism Exchange Sept. 6-16
Billings, MT, Aug. 7, 2012 – A representative of the Wuparo Conservancy in Namibia while visiting in Montana this September will give his blessing to a shipping container of some 300 donated bikes that will travel from Billings to his homeland thanks to Wheels of Change, an international non-profit created by Austin-Lehman Adventures (ALA) dedicated to the simple belief that a bicycle can make a difference.
The conservancy guest will be among 14 delegates participating in a Sept. 6-16 cross-cultural “no borders” exchange between US-based land owners, Native American tribal leaders, government representatives and park conservationists and their counterparts from Namibia who are gathering here to share ideas on how tourism fits into their respective ideologies and onto their lands.
Award-winning tour operator Austin Lehman Adventure Travel, the active travel company setting adventure vacations standards in The Americas, Europe, Africa and the Caribbean, with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and others are organizing their itinerary. http://www.austinadventures.com/about-us/company/namibian-conservancy-tourism-exchange/
WOC partnering with Michael Linke of the Bicycle Empowerment Network Namibia will use the bicycles to create a Bicycle Empowerment Center at the Wuparo Conservancy in the Caprivi region of Namibia. It is a coordinated effort involving Austin-Lehman Adventures, World Wildlife Fund, Catholic Services and Wheels of Change http://www.wocinternational.org/.
An award-winning safari camp in Namibia, Nkasa Lupala Tented Lodge http://nkasalupalalodge.com/, expects to establish a village bike tour using some of the donated bikes. The tour will augment ALA’s safari programming on the wetland paradise known as Mamili or Nkasa Lupala National Park created by the many channels of the Kwando-Linyanti river system. The lodge and the Wuparo Conservancy are part of the successful and award winning Namibian conservancy program that won the 2011 Hospitality Association of Namibia Conservancy Tourism Award.
Wheels of Change, through the donation of new and used bikes, helps the people of Africa gain access to mobility and thus, a better life for all in their communities. As an organization, WOC wants to help form the foundation for positive economic and social change in Africa, driven by the simple belief that a bicycle can make a difference.
Bicycle Empowerment Network http://www.benbikes.org.za/namibia/ has grown since 2006 to more than 28 shops where Namibians can buy or rent affordable bikes and receive repairs thanks to Namibia’s Bicycle Empowerment Centre.
A Bicycle Empowerment Center is achieved after up to 400 bicycles along with tools and spare parts are loaded into one shipping container that itself becomes a village operated bike shop providing a source of employment and revenue. A center provides refurbished bicycles free of charge to, among others, healthcare outreach volunteers and school children. Income from bike-related activities goes to assisting a sustainable business model while creating local jobs. Profits are reinvested in other community projects such as growing food for AIDS orphans, making micro loans to foster small enterprises, purchasing school uniforms, and paying school fees for disadvantaged children.
On the September Namibia/Montana tourism exchange 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, public and private lands. The 10-day tour will wrap up in Bozeman with an American football game as guests of Montana State University. See: www.austinlehman.com/namfam.
The delegation of 14 Namibian tourism industry representatives, including four conservancy representatives (some of whom are members of the Himba and Herrera tribes), 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 Fund (WWF), and award-winning safari operator Wilderness Safaris.
The foreign visitors will learn about adventure tourism, inclusive of such issues as client safety, security and liability, and sustainability as practiced by ALA, an established adventure tour operator conducting business worldwide. 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 meet with 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, over 900-plus full-time jobs and over 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,” notes 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 successfully being translocated out of a national park and into communal conservancy land areas, in stark and dramatic contrast to the poaching taking place in many countries in the region. 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 one of the greatest African wildlife recovery stories to be told,” believes Austin whose company has run multi-sport vacation opportunities here since 2008.
About Austin-Lehman Adventures
Austin-Lehman Adventures, with a 38-year legacy, provides adventure vacations on five continents building an international reputation for small group active travel to destinations in The Americas, Europe, the Pacific Rim and Africa. The company specializes in adult and family multi-sport, hiking, and biking vacations that emphasize history, culture and nature’s charms. Small group trips feature exceptional regional dining, distinctive accommodations and all-inclusive rates and services. In addition to scheduled group departures, ALA offers customized trip planning and a money-back satisfaction guarantee.
In the March 2012 issue of Travel + Leisure, Austin-Lehman Adventures was recipient of the 2012 World’s Best Values Award for Tour Operators. ALA has also received Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Tour Operator Award (a Top 3 finisher) for four consecutive years from 2009 to 2012. In 2011 the company was honored with the Global Vision Award for its Wheels of Change bicycle empowerment initiative. For a comprehensive 2012-2013 catalog, call toll-free 1.800.575.1540, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. To review current trips, schedules and itineraries log onto: http://www.austinlehman.com/.
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