This annual programme seeks to recognize and reward the tourism industry and its impact on the social, economic and environmental issues facing South Africa.
October has brought a double whammy of excitement to Aquila Private Game reserve.
First the birth of a baby rhino at the reserve on 13 October 2015, bringing the total rhino population at Aquila to 6. This birth comes as a symbol of hope for animal-lovers across the world, after the major poaching incident in 2011, during which 3 rhino were attacked, 2 of which were brutally slaughtered.
Now the reserve has once again scooped up 3 awards at the annual Lilizela Imvelo Tourism awards. This annual programme seeks to recognize and reward the tourism industry and its impact on the social, economic and environmental issues facing South Africa. The finalists are selected based on the real, measurable results of their efforts in sustainable and responsible tourism practices.
In 2014, Aquila was awarded Best Economic Impact by a large establishment, ahead of tourism giant, the V&A Waterfront. This year, Aquila has added Best Social Involvement Programme to its list of accolades. The award was presented by Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, to honour Aquila and its owner’s contribution to the “doomed” and forgotten town of Touws River.
The former railway town, 12km from the reserve, was left in abject poverty when the railway servicing plant was closed down in the 1980’s. 97% of it’s approximately 12 000 residents were faced with unemployment. Searl Derman visited the town 15 years ago and was deeply affected by the level of poverty. He made it his personal goal to resurrect the town.
Over the past 15 years, Aquila has paid approximately R160 million in salaries which has empowered locals and created flourishing primary, secondary and tertiary small businesses. Aquila is the largest employer with approximately 300 permanent staff. Over 500 staff, including temporary staff, have been on its monthly payroll, sustainably, over the past 15 years.
As one person feeds an estimated 9 family members, approximately 30% of Touws River is directly dependant on Aquila salaries. 95% of the 500 previously disadvantaged staff were trained by the Reserve management and had no prior experience.
All the staff from game rangers and anti-poaching guards to cleaners and reservations staff undergo regular operational training in their specialisations as well as in the fields of health and safety, first aid, fire-fighting and computer training.
The owner’s mother, Ray Derman, has been an integral part of the redevelopment of the Touws River community. Her selfless and untiring efforts to uplift the poor played a huge role in the reserve winning the prestigious award. Ray Derman’s litter-for-food campaigns, soup kitchens and clothing drives have brought much-needed basics to the people of the town.
Aquila was also 1st runner up for Best Economic Impact for the economic benefit brought to the Breede Valley and Best Single Resource Management for its highly successful solar plant project.