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Sale of Lalibela Heralds New Era

The recent sale of Lalibela Game Reserve, together with substantial parcels of land adjacent to Lalibela, is seen as a major vote of confidence in the Eastern Cape game lodge industry as a whole. By Vernon Wait.

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Land Acquisition

Not only is the “Big 5 area” of Lalibela increasing in size, but the acquisition of an additional 2,000 hectares adjacent to the existing 5 area, means that Lalibela now has a pristine wilderness range that will be used as a breeding area, and to reintroduce endemic game species to the Eastern Cape, thus ensuring long term sustainability of game numbers.

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Regarding Lalibela’s flora and fauna, a huge amount of the initial effort and resources are being allocated to eradicate alien vegetation. With the addition of more land, there is a need to get game numbers up to equilibrium in terms of an ideal carrying capacity. To this end, various species of game are being acquired and these are being introduced both in the “Big 5 area” as well as in the new breeding area.

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Responsible Tourism

The new owners of Lalibela are avid conservationists who acquired Lalibela because of their two passions – the preservation of African flora and fauna and the upliftment of rural communities, specifically children in rural communities.

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For the conservation of habitat and wildlife to be successful over the long term, there has to be “buy-in” from local, rural communities – Africa has a long list of successful examples of this. A strong ethos at Lalibela is that the mere creation of rural jobs does not constitute rural upliftment. Going forward, Lalibela will play an active role in the meaningful upliftment of the rural communities near Lalibela.

The goals of conservation and community upliftment can only be sustainable over the long term if they are matched by tourism offerings that are run on sound commercial principles.

Product Refinement & Expansion

So, whilst much effort is being spent on the flora and fauna side, Lalibela recognises that the lodge and game experience that Lalibel provides for guests, needs to be at a consist level to ensure that support from the travel trade continues, and that it grows.

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To this end Lalibela will be broadening it’s offering by adding a new 10-bed tented camp, due to open in mid-October.  Whilst the idea is to add additional capacity by way of extra rooms at existing lodges as well as a private villa, these ideas will be communicated to the travel trade only once they become firm plans.

Partnering with the Travel Trade

There is much debate about the role of the tour operator and travel agent in these times of rapid technological change. Lalibela believes that the travel trade has a significant role to play in the lodge industry, given the complexities of seasonality, logistics, and the like that come into play when deciding on the safari portion of an itinerary – knowledge that only a travel professional can provide.

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With all the exciting changes taking place at Lalibela, this is the ideal time for travel trade professionals to contact Lalibela Game Reserve and to learn about the various developments taking place.

For more info contact Vernon on +27 (0)41 581 8170 or email bookings@lalibela.co.za or visit www.lalibela.net

About the Author: Vernon Wait is the Managing Director of Pembury Tours – a leading SATSA accredited tour operator established in 1996, and offering tour itineraries across Southern and Eastern Africa. For more information visit www.pemburytours.com

Download a printable PDF version of the article HERE.

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