My tribal guru awarded MBE

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Dr. Cheryl Mvula

I can’t believe it is nearly nine years since I travelled to Kenya with Dr. Cheryl Mvula, to write about the extraordinary work that she had been doing with Maasai communities in Kenya’s Masai Mara.  I had only started writing really, following completion of my MSc in Responsible Tourism Management. But the people I met and places I visited on that trip of a lifetime were not only the greatest reward for my studies but also the greatest reminder that giving voice to people who deserve it was what I wanted to do most in the world.

In that article I wrote mostly about the Maasai people themselves who had worked so hard to combat some of the most unethical aspects of tourism in their homelands. Today I want to write about Cheryl who helped facilitate that change for the Maasai people, something that she does with both skill and sensitivity. Cheryl is a responsible tourism consultant with Tribal Voice Communications, a wildlife conservationist, anthropologist and all round feisty woman who doesn’t take no for an answer when it comes to good practice in tourism. And she has also been awarded an MBE in the 2017 Queen’s New Year Honours list, for these services to responsible tourism, community development and conservation in Africa. Over the years, she has worked in partnership with a number of impressive NGO’s such as the  Born Free Foundation, Travel FoundationFederation of Tour Operators (FTO), the Kenya Association of Tour Operators,  Mara Conservancy and the Zambia Wildlife Authority. I am also a huge fan of (but pathetically tiny donor to) her charity, High Five Club through which Cheryl tirelessly offers her time to impoverished African rural communities living in wildlife areas, through a hand up rather than handouts  approach. Do check it out if you want a transparent and transforming charity to support for just a fiver a month that helps reduce poverty in African countries in a sustainable way.

Manny and Cheryl Mvula
Manny and Cheryl Mvula

 I also want to give a mention Manny Mvula, Cheryl’s husband who is Zambian, works alongside Cheryl on many projects, is one Africa’s top safari guides, a wildlife conservationist in his own right and a field trip leader. He regularly makes trips back to Zambia to work on wildlife conservation and community development projects in the Luangwa Valley, the area in which he was born and raised. It was he who proudly contacted me to share the news about Cheryl’s honour. And proud he should be.

One person who would also be rightly proud is  Ben Rramet, one of the Maasai villagers who worked closely with Cheryl in turning their tourism experience from a frustrating into a fulfilling one. I met Ben on my trip there, and was honoured to host him in my home a year later when he came to England for the first time to talk about his work to other tourism operators at a conference. My children were both in awe of him and inspired by him. He came and spoke at their school, and indeed he taught us all so much and left us with so many fond memories. Sadly, he died a young man, just a few years ago, and I am certain that Cheryl will be dedicating this honour to his memory. Because that is the sort of woman she is and pretty much sums up the wonderful way in which she works.

Photo left to right: Ben Longisa, Ben Rhamet and Catherine Mack
Photo left to right: Ben Longisa, Ben Rhamet and Catherine Mack

Tickets on sale today for Britain’s first Travel Lottery

Any of us working in sustainable tourism have heard of the fine work of The Travel Foundation (TF) over the last decade. However, the TF still isn’t known by most travellers. Their Travel Lottery is a genius initiative to get tourists who are passionate to protect the destinations they love waking up to the work of the TF. WhatTF? – you’re brilliant.

Tickets are now on sale for this first ever Travel Lottery in the UK, whereby holiday makers have a chance to win prizes while raising vital funds for carefully monitored, community led sustainable tourism projects.  Tickets cost £2 and the first draw is at the end of March. Each ticket is a chance to win back the cost of their holiday in the form of a cash prize of up to £5,000.  Prize draws are monthly, with a guaranteed cash prize of at least £1,000 given away in each draw.travel lottery

The lottery is the first of its kind for the travel industry, creating a unified way of fundraising that protects and invests in communities and natural environments in popular holiday destinations; from Cyprus to St Lucia and from Turkey to Thailand.  Customers will be able to buy tickets from travel agents and other companies when they book holidays and buy related products and services. Launch partners Midcounties Cooperative Travel and Holiday Extras will sell tickets for the first draw, and many more travel companies are expected to join them in the coming months. The aim is to sell at least 100,000 tickets and raise more than £50,000 for good causes in the first year.

Customers can also buy tickets directly from www.thetravellottery.co.uk, either for a single draw or by signing up to play regularly.  At least 50 pence from each ticket goes to projects run by The Travel Foundation, with a focus on work that will sustain the local environment, wildlife, history and culture. These projects also help to tackle poverty by creating opportunities for local people to benefit from tourism. These projects include: helping beach operators in Kenya earn a better living from tourism and provide hassle-free tours for holidaymakers to enjoy; finding new ways to help local businesses grow and thrive alongside all-inclusive hotels in Cyprus; supporting local communities in Jamaica and Turkey to create great tourism experiences whilst protecting the marine environment; Continuing to develop the business skills of Mayan women in Mexico so they can supply locally-produced honey products to hotels.

I can stand by the projects of The Travel Foundation, as I wrote one of my first travel articles about their superb work to stop the exploitation of the Maasai in Kenya a few years ago. You can read more about that trip here, but watch the progress made by the villages, with the help of The Travel Foundation , since then in the video below. Watching these Massai elders, teacher and children, with whom I spent precious time, now growing their own sustainable tourism products is what gives me faith in this mad maelstrom of mass tourism.

Well done The Travel Foundation for making a new mark on the consumer side of the tourism industry, creating a social media-friendly way to share sustainable tourism stories and carrying the responsible tourism movement forward another good few steps.