With an enhanced website and more enticing holiday offerings than ever, the company is well-placed to take advantage of a resurgence in nature-based tourism.
The European Safari Company (ESC), which launched in 2016, has already brought hundreds of people closer to Europe’s wild nature, supported rewilding efforts in many areas, and helped to deliver one of Rewilding Europe’s key objectives: the establishment of sustainable nature-based economies.
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a severe impact on nature-based tourism in Europe, a revamp of the ESC website and an increase in the number of safari offerings now place the company in a strong position as the sector rebounds in the second half of 2020.
“The demand for nature-focused travel experiences has been growing for a long time, and will undoubtedly bounce back after the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Aukje van Gerven, the ESC Operations Manager. “We are now well-placed to offer people fantastic holidays that are hugely memorable, and which make a valuable contribution to rewilding and the support of nature-based economies and jobs.”
Revamped website, new safaris
With the world in lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, the second quarter of 2020 has been challenging for everyone involved in tourism. Yet participants in this year’s second European Rewilding Network webinar showed that many nature-based tourism entrepreneurs have adopted a practical, forward-looking approach to navigating these uncertain times.
For the ESC, such an approach has encompassed everything from keeping people engaged and inspiring future travel with new blogs and other online items, right through to updating the website and diversifying the number of unique safari experiences on offer. These now include wildlife tracking in the Southern Carpathians of Romania, a guided experience through the Velebit Mountains of Croatia, and a rewilding “impact retreat” in the Central Apennines of Italy.
Emphasising the rewilding connection
One of the main aims of the new ESC website is to enhance accessibility and transparency for customers. In addition to improved navigation and the opportunity to choose between standard and tailor-made safaris, the ESC’s new ethics page places more emphasis on responsible travel and the company’s connection with rewilding.
“The lockdown gave us a chance to make our connection with rewilding more clear,” says Aukje van Gerven. “For every experience we offer, potential travellers can now see how their booking would directly contribute to the rewilding of the destination area and benefit the local community. This is really important.”
Many of Rewilding Europe’s rewilding areas see close cooperation between rewilding teams and local nature-based tourism entrepreneurs. Rewilding is an interesting topic for tourists and something they’re eager to learn more about. That makes it interesting for local guides, as it adds to the story of the area and can boost their business. On the flip side, guides can act as an extra set of eyes and ears on the ground for the local rewilding team, keeping them informed which areas are of particular interest for tourists and the latest location of wildlife.
“Soon we will be in a position to roll out ‘rewilding training’ for local businesses,” explains Aukje van Gerven. “With more knowledge of rewilding, those involved in nature-based tourism will be able to better explain rewilding efforts and principles to interested tourists. This is not only good for their business but helps to generate more interest and public support for rewilding. It’s a win-win.”
A post-COVID opportunity
What will travel look like in a post-COVID-19 world? Travel experts are already debating whether the pandemic will reorient people’s focus towards more local, sustainable travel. This is clearly something that everyone concerned about climate change is hoping for. There is certainly more awareness than ever that the health of wild nature is inextricably linked to human health and resilience against disease.
Aukje van Gerven explains that most people are now very practical when searching for a vacation. Now that travel bans are lifting, they are not only looking where they can go but taking account of what feels like the safest and most comfortable way to get there. For many, a European holiday – close to home and nature, away from the crowds, and reachable by train or car – may just be the perfect answer. This dynamic gives the ESC a great opportunity to take a step forward.
“Right now, travel in Europe, by Europeans, is becoming increasingly popular,” she says. “At the ESC we want to turn a challenge into an opportunity by connecting travellers with Europe’s fantastic wild nature. We are proud to offer an increasing number of adventures in our own backyard that let people rediscover Europe’s magnificent wildlife and dramatic wild landscapes and enhance rewilding.”