Honesty – it costs nothing and yet is absent from so much.
When it comes to marketing, it would appear as though ethics and morals go straight out the window with the dregs of your coffee from this morning. Why do I say this? Because I’m constantly hit with lies, blatant lies or misleading facts on social media, main stream media, face-to-face and so much more. If you don’t know something or you’re trying to hide something – just say you don’t know or just don’t say anything at all.
When marketing a SAFARI DESTINATION, it helps if the company and/or agency is truthful. This is because it reflects everyone’s attitude towards marketing and it unbalances the market competition.
If you have a lodge in a GMA – DO NOT SAY IT IS IN A NATIONAL PARK.
Say it is opposite to whatever National Park. Why does this anger me?
- To stay in a National Park, one has to pay fees to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife. You don’t pay these in a GMA.
- As a lodge-owner, it’s less hassle and cheaper to set up shop in a GMA.
- The rules are more relaxed in a GMA.
- GMA’s are set aside for various types of natural resource utilisation, commercial fishing and hunting included. Your guests may become distressed when they hear of a lion hunt happening down the road because you neglected to tell them it was a possibility. Of course this could ruin your business, but then why not secure a spot in the National Park across the river and make your life simpler?
- If you have got a form of title deed on your land in the GMA, it’s probably because the chief stole the land from their community and you knew about it but turned a blind eye because it’s business. Maybe it didn’t happen exactly like that, but you know it’s not possible so you know you did something wrong.
- It’s a blatant lie.
If you have a lodge in a National Park – DO NOT SAY YOUR GUESTS HAVE EXCLUSIVE ACCESS.
Say it’s in a remote area where the likelihood of running into other tourists is very low. Why does this anger me?
- The only exclusivity you can get is a 5km radius buffer around your camp that excludes infrastructure of any kind from anyone but that camp/company.
- National Parks are exactly that – NATIONAL – they are open to the public and the public should not be excluded from certain areas because some wealthy tourists (or lodge owners) don’t want to see other people.
- Sure, there’s zoning within National Parks for what kinds of utilisation are allowed, i.e. permanent infrastructure, fly camps only, nothing but roads, but that’s not the same as offering exclusivity.
NGO’s really need to work on their honesty, in a very general sense of course as there are a few that are open and honest. Not just small conservation NGO’s, the big well known international ones are just as guilty! For example:
- If you’re going to market a volunteer programme, try to keep it a professional thing you can have on a CV and not a holiday destination for people with a guilty conscience because if anyone can do it then it’s not exactly special from a work experience point of view (it also adds a patronising taste to it).
- Saying your main interest is in a certain group of mammals and then refusing to enter into talks with another NGO doing similar work, but in areas where you don’t/can’t operate, isn’t great for professional morale or the mammals of interest.
- Taking donations from well-meaning people overseas only to use it on gigantic staff salaries, benefits (e.g. all housing, international school fees and annual flights home) is not a wise use of funds when your programme could actually achieve something with just half of that amount.
- On your social media posts: name the country in Africa as there are 53 and it might be confusing. Also, why would you even leave out the country in the first place?
- Taking support from the hunting community only to deny any affiliation with it, or even to attack them afterwards, isn’t very nice.
- Hash-tagging SaveTheBigFive on a post that is in an area where rhino were extirpated DECADES ago is very confusing and misleading.
- If the project is in a hunting area and you work with hunters, etc. – do not deny it, admit it and shine a light on how hunters, hunting clients and operators do give a damn. It’ll also show you are objective and only interested in the project, not the petty politics.
I could go on for days about this – it really is unacceptable that lying is considered tolerable just to get the right response or a quick buck. It’s OK because it helps the conservation effort or you’re friends with the lodge owner or whatever. IT IS NEVER OK TO LIE.
And for fuck’s sake STOP SAYING THERE IS PRISTINE WILDERNESS IN ZAMBIA!! It’s ALL had some mode of human transformation and/or use and/or settlement and/or utilisation and it’s perfectly natural for the bush to change with time and respond to whatever pressures (human, climate, wildlife, etc.) it faces.