Our Commitment to Responsible Tourism.
Ilha de Mozambique is a tiny, impoverished island bestowed with world-class tourism assets. Ilha Blue sees engagement with local people and culture as the way to unlock the tourism potential in a way that will give the population a chance to transition out of poverty. Making a commitment to Responsible Tourism is both a moral and strategic decision for Ilha Blue.
While there are many reasons for tourists to visit the island and a nascent industry already existed long before Ilha Blue arrived, it was clear that the direction tourism was heading would largely exclude rather than encourage local participation.
This situation was further complicated by an industry-wide bias that discriminated against local guides in favour of outsiders who, superficially at least, appeared more professional. Under this unspoken arrangement locals got less work and earned significantly lower rates than their non-islander counterparts.
Our most significant achievement so far has been to challenge this status quo and shift the tourism focus away from the privileging of a Portuguese view of history and the promotion of idealised colonial values (domains where well educated outsiders have distinct advantages over locals) and more towards an appreciation of local historical perspectives, culture and lifestyle.
We’ve done this through capacity-building and empowering activities, and collaborations with like-minded people. This has reduced discriminatory and exploitative practices and replaced them with a more equitable alternatives that better value local people and their distinctive culture.
We’ve also addressed the need for better employment by providing meaningful and permanent jobs with well above award conditions. Doing this has helped to raise pay and conditions across the industry
Now local people and their culture are at the centre of Ilha’s tourism offerings. More than ever before, what’s on offer to visitors is the promise of a fair and enriching confluence of visitors and local people. We believe that for a small business like Ilha Blue this is a significant achievement and in 2017 our efforts were formally recognised with a Responsible Tourism Award presented to Ilha Blue at WTM in Cape Town.
Over the next two years we aim to get more women involved in local tourism, its a matter of social justice and the best way to create positive change. Our method will be to establish a dynamic space within our business, a space which the young women can define themselves; it will have a social purpose, a work focus and will be closely linked to Ilha Blue’s operations so providing direct employment and the catalyst for new synergies to form.
This is important because currently tourism on Ilha tourism is mostly done by men, and despite our best efforts we haven’t managed to get many young women into meaningful roles. The reasons are complex, but one thing we know is that while men have lots of opportunity to meet and talk to tourists, women do not. As a consequence, women are less likely to pick up essential English language skills or any tricks to charm the visitors and their knowledge of tourism (and tourism opportunities) is generally much more limited than the men’s. But women do occupy all kinds of positions in Ilha society so there is no social, cultural or other reason why they can’t work with tourists – its just this absence of an identified pathway – and that’s what we hope to fix
Our goal then is to create this pathway and bring an equivalent number of women (6 to 10) into fulltime employment in the tour operations sector.
Our long term Responsible Tourism Goal. Ilha Blue has stated from the outset that our aim is to have the company 100% owned and operated by people local to Ilha, and we are disappointed (but not entirely surprised) that this has still not happened. The reason largely comes down to a skills shortage, but things are changing. With our support 5 employees are undertaking university education in the areas of admin, hospitality management, human resources and tourism/international development, and it is hoped that this will equip them with the skills, knowledge and confidence to take up the challenge of running Ilha Blue.
In the meantime the founders of Ilha Blue have established a new company – Blue Zissou, which will partner with Ilha Blue and support marketing, financial management and other essential services for as long as required.