Sustainable tourism in Madagascar !

Sustainable tourism in Madagascar !

Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Madagascar: a destination that will never leave you !
Boogie Pilgrim let you discover this destination "out of time".

Your idea
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Street Address

Parc de Tsarasaotra



Postal/Zip Code


Year innovation began


Geotourism Challenge Addressed by Entrant

Quality of tourism management and impact on the destination

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Indicate sector in which you principally work

Tourism-related business

Geographic location

Urban, Rural, Coast, Mountain, Rainforest, Multiple locations.

Plot your innovation within the Mosaic of Solutions
Main barrier addressed

Lack of local input

Main insight addressed

Incorporate sustainable practices

What is the goal of your innovation?

Madagascar's tourism is beginning: we hope to develop it in a sustainable way to avoid mistakes that have already be done in other countries.

How does your approach support or embody geotourism?

we promote hotspots of malagasy biodiversity: our visitors get the unique chance to discover fauna & flora in some remoted natural areas. Beside that, we always include cultural highlights to show how local communities are living beside or inside these hotspots. We support directly several bush schools and are implicated in several conservation areas.

Describe your approach in detail. How is it innovative?

- the tours we offer are innovative: traditional boat tours in the west, treeclimbing sessions on the highlands, hiking tours in unusual places
- community based tourism: we promote home stays in malagasy villages, active participation in rural areas (rice planting, silk waving, cooking local cuisine...)
- we built 3 public primary bush schools in very remoted places, more than 600 young malagasy children go to school nearby our 3 lodges Bushhouse, Tsara Camp, Mananara Lodge
- we are directly implicated into the management and ownership of 2 classified natural private parcs (Parc de Tsarasaotra, bird Sanctuary, RAMSAR site & Anjozorobe Parc)

What types of partnerships or professional development would be most beneficial in spreading your innovation?

.we need financial and technical support to develop other local community projects in some places we permanently are with tourists (water supply, medical aid, family planning...). We would like to develop environmental education programs also, and give more support to the teachers (capacity building in env. educ. and languages). But we are only Touristic Operators and not experts in all that !

In one sentence describe what kind of impact, change, or reform your approach is intended to achieve.

We hope to increase the awareness that Madagascar has to develop tourism in a sustainable way.

Describe the degree of success of your approach to date. Clearly define how you measure quantitative and qualitative impact in terms of how your approach contributes to the sustainability or enhancement of local culture, environment, heritage, or aesthetics? How does your approach minimize negative impacts? 200 words or less

We started 20 years ago in tourism in Madagascar. Starting with some sportive hiking tours in natural places without any environmental guidelines, our mainly german, dutch and english visitors brought the awareness to us that we have to respect lots of rules. In a natural way, we started to get implicated into the first school project in 1994, near to the Bushhouse. One way to fight against environmental destruction in Madagasacar is to improve eductation ! Our neighbours, the local villages, changed their behaviour slowly: childrens are planting trees every year, former charcoal producers became local guides or regular suppliers in fruits, fish... , woman became servants in our lodges...
The fear of the white man dissapeared, the proudness of their way of living appeared: drinking tea and sharing rice with foreigners is a great experience for both sides !
Our lodges are all small and integrated in their landscapes, we use local materials and renewable energies the most we can (ram pumps, solar panels).

How does your program promote traveler enthusiasm, satisfaction, and engagement with the locale?

As mentioned above, we let our visitors meet locals: they get the chance to learn how to plant rice or find kassava in the ground, how to cook malagasy food, the tours are respecting the minimal rules of sustainable tourism: transparency of price-salary-cost, donations are clearly managed and can be proven.

In what ways are local residents actively involved in your innovation, including participation and community input? How has the community responded to or benefited from your approach?

Having built 3 lodges in remoted natural areas, our first challenge was to engage unqualified people and to teach them how tourism works. After 3-4 years, we maneged in each place to give permanent and seasonal jobs to 95% local people. Each lodge is looking after 1 or more schools having around 200 students, we organise visits to these schools and let our visitors meet teachers, children in a organised way (no sweet, t-shirts or pen distributions!). Each side is having a good experience:gifts and donations are coming through these visits, foreigners feel more informed about the country, rewarded and convinced. The community is always welcoming visitors because they are proud to show their culture and way of living. On all guided tours from Boogie Pilgrim, we insist to explain to our guests that underdevelopment is just a northern country concept, our guests will wee that most of the malagasy are happy humans.

Describe how your innovation helps travelers and local residents better understand the value of the area’s cultural and natural heritage, and educates them on local environmental issues. How do you motivate them to act responsibly in their future travel decisions?

Already answered above.
We hope that some travellers understand better poor countries after Madagascar. We try to demonstrate what they should look at and how to behave in these situations.

Is your initiative financially and organizationally sustainable? If not, what is required to make it so? What is the potential demand for your innovation?

As professional Incoming Tour Operator, Boogie Pilgrim is active since 20 years. It's a private company malagasy-german owned, we have the obligation to survive as private operator and did never get any support for free from any institution. We could have done faster more lodges and projects with easier access to money and technical support.

How is your initiative currently financed? If available, provide information on your finances and organization that could help others. Please list: Annual budget, annual revenue generated, size of part-time, full-time and volunteer staff.

Unfortunately it's nearly impossible to find financial support cheaper than from local commercial banks to improve yourself or to create a new eco-sustainable project.

What is your plan to expand your approach? Please indicate where/how you would like to grow or enhance your innovation, or have others do so.

The demand of new markets exists: the scandinavian countries, US market, Asia is looking forward to send tourists to Madagascar. Flight connexions and general informations about our country are very poor. As private operator, we try to meet these new markets on international touristic shows in Europe (Berlin, London, Göteborg/Sweden, Paris) and in South Africa (Indaba/Durban), investing ourselves into stands, brochures, travels. We cannot afford to replace a tourism board, we need to find out how and where to meet the right operators to sell Madagascar in a sustainable way !

What are the main barriers you encounter in managing, implementing, or replicating your innovation? What barriers keep your program from having greater impact?

The main barriers are on different places:
- on the field: local communities are very poor sometimes and not sharing our interests in conservation, wood cutting, charcoal production, lemur hunting etc are not compatible with ecotourism. We are often seen as potential "policeman" that disturbs in their every day life. It takes a lot of time and energy to change that image and to get their confidence and implication in common interests.
- on the market: tourism is an industry worldwide so figures are important for the wholesellers we have to work with. Madagascar is not a huge touristic destination so often not interesting enough for them to be promoted. Sustainable or eco tourism is a real niche market, we do not always find the real interest in our products. Travellers often want to get a nice feeling but are not ready to participate actively on the field. Their comfort is more important to them and they still want to get value for money.
- in the goverment: international organisations push them to improve conservation, sustainable development programs are getting important financial supports (World Bank, USAID, CI...), it's often misused, corrupted and the results are not existing on the field.

The Story
What is the origin of your innovation? Tell your story.

Sonja's Story
My parents emigrated to Madagascar when I was nine. I grew up in Antananarivo, went to French school and spent a lot of time in the Malagasy bush. My father ran an export business in exotic plants so I was surrounded by nature from an early age. In 1978 my parents purchased the BUSHHOUSE property. We spent a lot of time sailing in the tropical seas around the island and my school holidays were spent roaming the island in our 4WD.
In 1986 after a brief attempt to live in Europe, I was lucky enough to land a job as translator for the German primatologist Bernhard Meier, who became famous the same year for his discovery of a new species of lemur in the rainforest of Ranomafana.
My first step into the tourism industry was a job as management assistant at Palm Beach Hotel (now closed down) in Nosy Be in 1986. As one of the few Germans resident in Madagascar I worked as a free-lance tourist guide for those travel agencies that had a largely German-speaking clientele.
My Malagasy husband Thierry and I started our first tourist activity on the Canal of Pangalanes: The BUSHHOUSE – a guesthouse with three rooms! – opened in 1987! At this time tourism in Madagascar was still in an embryonic stage and we pioneered trekking tours in the Isalo Ranges, which were later declared a National Park.
Based on these experiences we created BOOGIE PILGRIM (the name coming from the pilgrim/adventurer figure in the Elton John song) and we became Tour Operator receptif in 1988. We offered excursions into all of Madagascar’s National Parks, river expeditions on the Canal of Pangalanes, and 4WD camping trips into the big South as well as to the West Coast. At first Thierry and I were driver/guide/cook/captain all in one. Between circuits I lived in the Bushhouse to manage and supervise the construction of more cabins.

The birth of our first daughter Betty in 1990 forced us to modify our itinerant lifestyle a bit.

Somehow this nature/adventure based tourism was asking for a more sustainable and ecological approach. Not that we followed marketing trends or slogans! Our first step was to integrate the local population around the Bushhouse. In 1994 we organized the construction of a public school in the village next to the hotel with financial assistance from the German Embassy. It was time to upgrade our equipment and the Bushhouse got solar power to work lighting and ham-radio.
In 1999 we established the first Luxury Tented Camp Lodge in Madagascar located in a remote valley not far from l'ANDRINGITRA National Park. TSARA CAMP is based on a South African concept used in the "Big 5" reserves. Although we function only during the six months dry season we got involved with the construction of a school and a medical clinic in the area. Many of the employees were recruited in the nearby villages and trained in First Aid, Basic Hygiene, alphabetisation as well as reforestation.
BOOGIE PILGRIM became a member of the US Ecotourism Society and we are now recognized private partners of national and international institutions working for environmental protection in Madagascar such as WWF, USAID, GTZ-KFW, CI, PEREGRINE's FUND, ANGAP, ONE, the Malagasy Environmental Ministry..
With the birth of two more daughters we concentrated more on activities around Antananarivo and surroundings. The Ranarivelo family is fortunate enough to own a beautiful 27ha property consisting of lakes and forest, only 4 km from Antananarivo’s CBD. It is a refuge for birds – more than 50 species have been recorded – and a paradise for birdwatchers from all over the world! In 2001 a family association named APT was formed with the aim of protecting Tsarasoatra Park., and the property has been recognised by RAMSAR, an international organization for the conservation of wetlands. As APT's secretary I am responsible for the arrangement of visits, promotion and development of TSARASOATRA Park.
Our latest project is closer to our ecotouristic aspiration: ANJOZOROBE. This family property, a domain of 3000 ha of high plateau primeval forest harbouring 12 varieties of lemurs, 82 species of birds and a variety of rare plants, was opened to the public in August 2002. As part of a forest corridor, this vestige of 60.000 ha gets international protection. Organisations like PNUD (United Nations), CI (Conservation International) and WWF (World Wildlife Fund) are involved and are looking for private and public assistance.NGO Partners have undertaken scientific studies to establish an inventory of animals and plants, collecting DNA of lemurs, locating and counting species etc. There are more than 40 km of forest walks on the property, all mapped and described. To integrate the local population, activities such as the production and sale of wild honey, the distillation of essential oilspink pepper have been created. Some villagers have been trained to become guides and track maintenance workers or to work in the hotel industry.

Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers' marketing material.

First Name : SONJA
Date & Name of Birth : 17 MAI 1967 in Kassel
Citizenship : German
Civil Status : married, 3 children (17, 12, 6 years)
MONTPELLIER (1987). Diplôme : BAC A2
Languages : German : mother language, French : fluent, English : fluent, Spanish : scolar, Malagasy : speaking

Other competences : Hôtellerie, Ecotourism, Trekking, Camping, Event organisation
Hobbies : hiking, water sports (kiting, windsurfing, snorkeling),Books & Music

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Madagascar: a destination that will never leave you !
Boogie Pilgrim let you discover this destination "out of time".