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The Environment Is The Business – And Key To Economic Longevity

Anton Gillis, CEO Kruger Gate Hotel 

Almost every month there is a commemorative or special day that considers the wellbeing of the environment, or some aspect thereof. From World Wildlife Day to Earth Day to International Day for Biological Diversity and even World Ranger Day next month, all these days draw attention to the need to look after the environment. 

And while it’s important that they do, actions speak far louder than words, and those actions need to start around the boardroom table. 

Conservation and sustainability are two important considerations for any business today but even more so in the tourism sector. The promotion and preservation of the environment in general and biodiversity more specifically is essential for business success, and vice versa, as we need to prioritise the delicate balance between successful tourism – and thus viable businesses – and environmental stewardship. 

Ecological consciousness means economic success 

At Kruger Gate Hotel our business model aligns economic success with ecological consciousness. Our location means our success is linked to the health of the Kruger National Park’s ecosystems, so for us conservation and concern for the environment is not an abstract concept but a concrete, business imperative. If we are to survive as a business, the physical environment in which we operate must thrive. 

The tourism industry in South Africa contributes 3.7% to the country’s GDP. Much of what attracts visitors is our natural splendour – the landscape, the oceans, the wildlife, the flora and the fresh air. Consider for example the thousands of tourists who come to experience the Big Five in their natural habitat, which needs to be a healthy habitat for it to be a viable tourist attraction.

2023 survey found that 76% of travellers plan to choose sustainable accommodation in the near future. Corporate clients are increasingly environmentally conscious, often evaluating a hotel’s sustainability practices before choosing them for business purposes. This shift in demand incentivises hotels like ours to showcase their sustainable initiatives in order to stand out in the bidding process.

Revenue generated when the industry thrives can in turn fund conservation projects. Entrance fees, taxes and levies aimed at tourists can provide a steady stream of income for the maintenance and protection of natural parks, wildlife reserves and heritage sites. Local communities, too, can benefit economically from tourism, giving them a vested interest in conserving the attractions that draw visitors. The income generated by community-based conservation efforts and sustainable practices creates a self-perpetuating cycle as preserving natural and cultural heritage sites becomes synonymous with sustaining livelihoods.

And while hotels have an environmental responsibility to honour, we need to work with travellers to ensure our magnificent ecosystems continue to flourish for generations to come. It’s a collective effort that holds the power to preserve and celebrate the wonders of biodiversity in Kruger National Park, setting an inspiring example for the world. 

South Africa’s natural environment supports human and agricultural needs such as pollination, soil health, food and climate regulation. The degradation of these ecosystems not only jeopardises these services but also threatens the tourism industry’s very existence – that’s why business in general, and the hospitality and tourism sector in particular, must work to preserve them in order to secure their own future.

Because Kruger Gate Hotel’s resilience depends on the health of the ecosystems surrounding it, we take a proactive approach to environmental protection. Building sustainability is more than simple corporate responsibility – it’s a strategic business approach. Practices like energy and water conservation, waste management and reduction of single-use plastics are not just environmentally responsible decisions but also financially sound, leading to cost savings and better guest experiences. 

Education, always

As the hotel industry, and indeed the entire tourism sector, moves towards a more sustainable future, businesses that fail to integrate these principles into their operations will be at a disadvantage. 

At the year’s halfway mark, let’s pause and consider how, through our actions more than our words, we can commit to measures, policies and mindsets that nurture and celebrate the symbiotic relationship that’s possible between business success and environmental stewardship.