Botswana’s remarkable wildlife has long been a lure for travellers from across the world attracted by its low impact, luxury safaris. Until recently, however, most of the country’s camps and lodges were run by foreigners, who often had more experience with international hospitality and guest needs. In a country of vast distances and few alternative job choices other than mining, this limited the opportunities for economic development for Botswana’s young.
In 2001, Desert & Delta Safaris embarked upon an ambitious programme to train up local people so that they could manage their camps. Its Citizen Management Training Program is a year-long programme comprising a detailed in-house designed curriculum, as well as a variety of courses conducted by external companies. A significant portion of the course focusses on the sustainable management of the company’s lodges.
On completion of the course, participants work in the camps as trainee managers, where they learn the practical skills required from current managers. Successful candidates are then offered full-time management jobs within the company, or alternatively they seek employment with other lodge operators.
So far, the citizen management training programme has trained and developed over 20 local managers, at a cost to Desert and Delta of BWP 100,000.00* per student, since the company covers all the costs to ensure there is no financial barrier to entry. Many of these newly trained managers continue to work at the company, while others have furthered their careers as lodge managers within other organisations in Botswana. As a result, while its goal was to have all its camps managed by Botswana citizens by 2014, Desert and Delta achieved this by the end of 2013.
The programme has been a success with guests too. Since the company started operating camps with only local managers it has seen much more engagement between tourists and locals while on safari. Since the managers are steeped in their country’s culture, they are much more able and eager to share their love and knowledge of it with guests. Furthermore, their commitment to running the camps as sustainably as possible runs far deeper, since the place they are looking after really is home.