The African Travel and Tourism Association (Atta) recently awarded Colin Bell an Honorary Lifetime Membership of the association for his outstanding contribution to the African tourism industry.
Atta CEO Nigel Vere Nicoll commented: ‘We are delighted that Colin Bell, co-founder of Wilderness Safaris; co-founder of Great Plains Conservation and co-author and publisher of Africa’s Finest has been appointed by the Atta Board of Directors as a Life Member of the Association in recognition of his outstanding contribution to tourism and conservation in Africa.”
Atta awards Honorary Life Membership to individuals whom the association believes have made an outstanding and sustained contribution towards advancing tourism to Africa. Another Life member of the association is Lew Rood, a well-known and respected personality within the local and international tourism industries, who commented on Colin’s appointment: ‘There could not be a finer candidate than Colin – a legend who continues to have insight into this continent, that many can only dream of!’
Atta’s Southern Africa Director and CEO of Africa Albida Tourism Ross Kennedy said: ‘A wonderful tribute to Colin for his unceasing care, concern, conservation and promotion of Africa, and all that is great and good in our industry. As an industry we are certainly blessed to have such energetic professionals as Colin and Lew’.
You could say Colin made his own luck – instead of going into the expected world of finance after completing his economics degree at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1977, he decided his first job would be as a safari guide in Botswana. In those days a cold beer came out of a wet long-sock, tied to the side mirror of his Land Rover and cooled while hanging in the breeze. That was as good it as got. In 1983 Colin co-founded Wilderness Safaris with one of the best guides in southern Africa, Chris McIntyre. The two of them ploughed all their enthusiasm, energies and limited savings (and one second-hand Land Rover) into creating what became one of the most successful specialist safari companies in Africa.
Over the decades it grew to manage camps and lodges across seven countries and employed more than 2,500 people. Many of these lodges gained their “bush cred” through partnerships with local communities: it was through those negotiations and relationships that Colin started to learn – by trial and error – what worked sustainably and what did not. Back then there were no blue-prints to follow or copy – creating safari partnerships with communities was breaking new ground. He sold his shares in Wilderness in 2005 and went on to co-found Great Plains Conservation a year later.
Colin is now completely independent and this freedom has allowed him to immerse himself in the Africa’s Finest book without any vested interests. The lessons learnt, the battle scars and campaign medals earned, from the many models tried and developed over the decades helped to lay the foundations and principals for responsible, sustainable tourism – what he has termed the ‘Green Safari’ model. This, he believes, is the one of the fairest ways to partner with local communities and Governments in order to create viable, long-term partnerships that are a winning scenario for wildlife, wildernesses and people.
For more information on The African Travel and Tourism Association visit www.atta.travel