World Travel and Tourism Council challenged over indigenous rights

By agency reporter
13 May 2010

The indigenous rights NGO, Survival International, has urged the World Travel and Tourism Council to withdraw Wilderness Safaris from the list of nominees for its annual awards.

Wilderness Safaris has been nominated for the Council’s annual Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, to be announced on 26 May 2010, in the ‘Global Tourism Business’ category which recognises "best practices in sustainable tourism".

However, in 2009 the tourism company built a safari lodge on the ancestral land of the Bushmen of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana, without consulting the Bushmen or obtaining their consent, says Survival (http://www.survivalinternational.org/).

The lodge, sporting a bar and swimming pool for tourists, is situated on the ancestral territory of the Bushmen, who are also being deprived of water by the Botswana government.

Speaking about Wilderness Safaris’ lodge, Bushman spokesperson, Jumanda Gakelebone told Survival "There is nothing more painful than to see a swimming pool near us in the desert where people can swim while we ourselves don’t have any water."

In 2006, the Bushmen won a landmark court ruling that said they have the right to live on their ancestral lands. However, since the ruling, the government has banned them from accessing a borehole which they rely on for water, forcing them to make up to 300 mile round trips to fetch water.

A leading United Nations expert on indigenous peoples found that the Bushmen "face harsh and dangerous conditions due to a lack of access to water" and condemned the government for falling short of the "relevant international human rights standards", campaigners point out.

The president of Botswana’s lawyer, Parks Tafa, and his nephew, Marcus ter Haar, are both on Wilderness Safaris’ board of directors. Ter Haar recently left Debswana, Botswana’s diamond company, as group business manager.

The Botswana Tourism Board has also been nominated for an award in the ‘Destination Stewardship’ category.

Survival’s director, Stephen Corry, said yesterday: "Awarding a tourism company which has shown no regard for the rights and welfare of indigenous people an accolade such as this is wholly inappropriate."

The CEO of the international movement for tribal peoples declared: "The World Travel and Tourism Council needs to withdraw Wilderness Safaris and send a clear message to the tourism industry that the violation of indigenous peoples’ rights will not be tolerated."

[Ekk/3]

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