Transition to local ownership

Ilha Blue has established a sustainable tourism business on Ilha De Mozambique. What is remarkable about this (and the thing we are most proud of) is that the tours are run entirely by local young adults with little or no previous professional tourism experience. Set against the recent history of colonial paternalism and war as well as poverty and poor schooling, this is a major achievement.

The achievement transforms peoples lives and challenges negative assumptions about the ability of local people to take advantage of emerging tourism opportunities. The next stage of this project is to transfer ownership of Ilha Blue away from the ‘Aussies’ that started it and to local people, so that it becomes 100% locally owned and operated. This is expected to take one to two years.

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Our methods

Ilha Blue provides a replicable model for developing responsible tourism by introducing methods trialled in tourism enterprise initiatives in Australian remote Indigenous communities. These methods proved very effective for engaging young adults and developing their work skills.

In the early stage of enterprise development we focused on the needs of workers not market demands. Our methods allow young adults to shape the work environment and this leads to the creation of culturally appropriate and supportive learning spaces. We validate their existing skills, build new skills and consider their needs in relation to health, nutrition, and family commitments.

Our success has been achieved in spite of entrenched negativity, particularly operators of hotels and some other tourism venues. In only a few years we have been able to build collaborations with key tourism operators and local government officials, without whose support business success would not be possible. Moreover we have improved the overall economic outlook by catalysing local entrepreneurial initiatives to create a pathway to economic security, not just for individual employees but also their community.

Ilha Blue is very pleased to be able to employ 8 local young adults on permanent, full-time contracts. All of them and their families enjoy much better health than before and job security has given them the confidence to plan for the future. We also employ casuals and sub-contractors such as boat operators and crew. The economic benefits to the broader business community is huge; thanks to Ilha Blue there is now a greater range and variety of culturally appropriate and affordable tourist activities so tourists visit the island more often and stay longer. The recent addition of cruise ships to our program has brought an extra 7500 visitors this year in what is traditionally the off-season.

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The Future

Over the next two years our aim is to transition Ilha Blue to 100% local ownership. Exactly how this will happen has yet to be agreed, but it will be done in a way that ensures that Ilha Blue receives the on going support it needs to continue to thrive; delivering benefits to workers and the broader community for years to come.

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Help us do this

We are interested in working with others who can help make this transition a success. There’s always a need for more staff training (governance is a new topic for workers to learn about) and deciding on the new business structure- whether it be a Cooperative, Social Enterprise or whatever, also needs very careful consideration. There’s the opportunity for others with an interest in responsible tourism to observe our progress towards this goal and benefit from our experience. Local businesses, social enterprises, academics, NGO’s please contact pete@ilhablue.com or gail@ilhablue.com to share your thoughts and ideas on this.