Making a social impact through South Africa mega-fam


The travel and tourism (T&T) sector has become a powerful form of development of economies and societies across the globe. The natural ability of the sector to enable participation of all citizens, creating employment and opportunity for upliftment of quality of life, is central to the motivations of T&T leaders. This ability to create sustainable impact is of vital importance to emerging economies.

This week in South Africa during the nation’s largest mega-fam trip the T&T industry proved it can go one step further in creating meaningful impact for local communities by creating meaningful connections with global industry leaders.

As part of the 2010 Travel Corporation (TTC) International Sales Conference currently underway in Cape Town, the over 350 of the world’s leading tourism business decision makers stepped out of their meetings and presentations for a day to step into local communities. Working hand in hand with the Amy Biehl Foundation, conference delegates picked up tools and built a total of twenty one “Wendy Houses” – small four-wall homes ready for usage by families – which were then donated to local communities, providing a significant step-up for families in neighboring townships in need.

As stated by Gavin Tollman, chairman of Travel Corporation South Africa:
“The Travel Corporation brought its global delegates to South Africa not just to create business impact but to create social impact. The creation of these twenty-one homes by the delegates of the conference will touch the lives of these communities. And clearly, from the emotion seen in delegates through the building and hand-over ceremony, Project Wendy House has touched their lives.”

In addition to building houses, the 350 delegates hosted 600 young school children at a local theme park, giving these children a day of smiles, laughter, and love, which will stay with them far longer than the gifts of clothing and “Relate” bracelets, which they also received before they went home.

Speaking of the importance of ensuring that the day created life-long impressions in delegates as a prelude to their becoming global ambassadors for Destination South Africa, Lucile Sive of Lion World Tours in North America, which already sells the destination in the US/Canada market, and won South African Tourism’s UBUNTU Award in 2009, stated:

“Without exception, travelers to South Africa return home overwhelmed by how deeply the people have touched them. They expected to find natural beauty and to bring home curios and excellent wine. They leave, however, with stories as their most precious possessions.”

Even delegates currently not directly selling the destination leave personally impacted. This will prove an invaluable destination endorsement when they speak to their friends, families, and colleagues back home of how their time in South Africa opened their eyes and hearts. As shared by Richard Launder, president of Travcorp USA who shared, on reflection of the day and conference as a whole:

“Coming to Cape Town and reflecting on our project day – how something so simple as building a Wendy House would carry so much value to others – has made me realize how much more I could really do to help. This is the proof that the gift of giving is so much more valuable than of receiving. In our busy lives what a great reminder. This time in South Africa has given me that!”

The conference has shown all involved – delegates and local communities – that tourism goes far beyond building the bottom line. The building is far more fundamental.