LUKE BAILES’ LEGACY: WHY SINGITA IS REBRANDING AS A CONSERVATION COMPANY

Today’s digital landscape has considerably reshaped the traveller’s expectation of companies through increased transparency and insight into sustainable practices; the demand for ‘responsible travel’ is driving a shift for brands to highlight eco-friendly initiatives with growing significance. Luxury African safari tour operators have long been renowned for defining the role of tourism and its positive economic impact on the surrounding communities and supporting wildlife protection. For Singita, who have grown into one of the world’s most recognisable brands in an industry known for its excellence in hospitality, the decision to elevate their conservation message was ignited by the precarious state of the environment.

Singita Founder and CEO, Luke Bailes, photo courtesy of Singita

From utilising social media channels to communicate its conservation story through compelling and thought-provoking content, to employing a new Director of Conservation, Singita is making significant strides in elevating its guests understanding of the conservation work going on behind-the-scenes. By bringing heightened awareness to Singita’s efforts, South African founder and CEO, Luke Bailes, makes clear his belief that “it is becoming more the norm that people want to give back to help to protect this land that is so at risk. We are finding that more and more of our guests are concerned about the vulnerability of the planet.”

Singita’s legacy to preserve sizeable tracts of land remains steadfast, and the safari experience provides a platform to inspire and show travellers the habitats and species that are important to protect for future generations to come. Read on as Bailes shares insight into Singita’s brand positioning, conservation ethos and forthcoming projects throughout Tanzania and South Africa…

What is driving the shift to reposition Singita as a conservation-led company?

Singita’s purpose has always been conservation – our vision is protection and conservation. The world’s resources are under increasing pressure as populations continue to increase. The situation in Africa is dire; human and wildlife conflict due to increasing population pressure is placing wildlife and land at risk. We have recognised the need to elevate our conservation message – it is more relevant now than ever before. We believe tourism has an important role to play in creating awareness of this conservation challenge. We felt that the seriousness of the situation in the world, particularly with regard to conservation, required of us to elevate the message significantly.”

How does Singita bring conservation to the forefront of the brand, from pre-booking to the experience on the ground?

We use social media channels to communicate the conservation story by providing regular evocative, relevant, emotive and revealing content. A proactive traditional media outreach is another important element of reaching guests before they arrive. Key team members, such as our newly appointed Director of Conservation, and our teams of qualified PHD conservationists on the ground who take guests through the experience also play a major role.”

An afternoon game drive at Singita Boulders Lodge in Sabi Sand Reserve, photo by Amanda Ho

How do guests contribute back to conservation and community development through their stay at Singita? Is there full transparency regarding conservancy fees?

Simply by being there they are already making a contribution. Often guests want to become involved and there are various ways to give back: they can become donors and they leave as ambassadors for conservation. In some countries the levies are regulated by the government; in other areas where we are responsible there is full transparency.”

Serenity at Singita Boulders Lodge, located on the banks of the Sand River in Sabi Sand Reserve, photo courtesy of Singita

How have you seen responsible tourism evolve over the past decade and where do you see it headed? 

There is so much more awareness and responsible tourism has greatly evolved over the last ten years. We have been approached numerous times by wealthy philanthropists who trust the Singita brand and want to partner with us on various projects to protect the land. It is becoming more the norm that people want to give back to help to protect this land that is so at risk. We are finding that more and more of our guests are concerned about the vulnerability of the planet.”

Are there any forthcoming conservation initiatives that you can share details of?

There are many ongoing and new initiatives, such as the introduction of a K9 anti-poaching unit in Tanzania; the introduction of new technology to support an already effective ‘boots on the ground’ anti-poaching strategy; and the installation of Tesla’s Powerpack energy storage systems – the first of their kind to be paired with an off-grid site in Africa. We are also involved in the consolidation of a seizable area of land (360,000 acres) on the Kruger National Park border, which will result in the protection of this vulnerable area.” 

There is mention of a new project on the horizon in Rwanda – what is in store for the future of Singita?

This is true. We are working on securing an opportunity in Rwanda, but we are not ready to release details yet.”

What is your vision for the Singita legacy over the next 100 years?

Singita’s 100-year vision is to protect and preserve large tracts of wilderness for future generations. This will always be our 100-year vision and remains evergreen in the face of rampant population growth, exploitation of resources, increased poaching and pressure on the land. Our legacy will be to leave the land better than we found it.”

Elephants crossing the plains at Singita Grumeti in Serengeti National Park, photo courtesy of Singita

Championing a global worldview, Amanda Ho has cultivated the craft of storytelling through her work as Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Electrify Magazine, a New York-based print and digital publication capturing the voice of the global generation. She is also the co-founder of Sundays In Motion, a full service creative agency specialising in content development and branding.