Cape Verde

Homecoming season

High season on the Island of Sal is during the winter in Europe, when people seek to enjoy our year-round sun and warm welcome. But Cape Verde has another peak season, one with a more local flavour – summer time!

It is estimated that more Cabo Verdeans live abroad than in Cape Verde itself… and it is during the hottest months of the year that many of our diaspora return to visit friends and relatives.

hatchlingInterestingly, this homecoming event also happens for another species – Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta caretta) which, like many islanders, leave their birthplace to travel the world, but always come back – females will often return to the beach where they hatched to lay their eggs.

Cabo Verde is the 3rd most important nesting site for Loggerhead turtles in the world and the only significant nesting one on the eastern side of the Atlantic. This species is considered endangered by the IUCN, threatened by hunting and loss of habitat.

As ecotourism is becoming increasingly popular in Europe, nature tour options such as turtle watching are growing. However, the lack of supervision, linked to poor scientific knowledge of the target species by some guides and tour operators, has generated adverse impacts on the turtles and consequently on the tourist experience – threatening the sustainability of the activity itself.

The Travel Foundation has partnered with Projecto Biodiversidade (a local conservation NGO) and is developing a tool to help providers deliver ecotourism excursions in a sustainable way. The project includes best practice training, and will lead to the implementation of a Nature Guide certification scheme.

turtle-stakeholder-meetingThe Travel Foundation has met with the National Directors of Tourism and of Environment who have embraced the idea and promised total engagement. A joint operational plan will be developed with the input of all stakeholders.

It is estimated that by the end of this year´s nesting season (June to October), about a thousand nesting female turtles will have laid eggs in more than 4,000 nests on Sal, and that about 246,000 baby turtles will hatch.

This is great news, but if we factor in about 20,000 tourists participating in turtle watching excursions, translating into an estimated half a million Euros of income, then the business case for protecting turtles is clear!

Dalia GomesWritten by Dalia Gomes, Project Co-ordinator, Cape Verde.

Read more on our work in Cape Verde.

The magic of tourism – selling ‘The Nothing’

DaliaBlog1First I would like to introduce you to Tourah, my new travel buddy! She is a Cape Verdean rag doll that will accompany me while I explore Sal, Cape Verde, and the rest of the world! Last week I went on a half day Island tour that is on sale to TUI customers.

I have been to this island many times on business trips and know many of the main tourist attractions, but it was different and interesting to see Sal through a tourist lens, while observing the curiosity and excitement of the other visitors. It was sad, though, to witness some issues that hinder the quality of our tourism destination. I saw challenges for the destination’s decision-makers – in particular, the training of craft vendors in customer service and product quality. The Travel Foundation have already made a start on this (read more here), but Sal’s tourism stakeholders need to come together and agree a strategy for the future. Hopefully, we can leverage support through the Destination Council.

On the positive side, the tour took me to places I knew, but through paths I have never been. There were two moments of the journey that made me recall a conversation I had the previous weekend with my uncle at São Vicente (another Cape Verdean island, where I am originally from). He is a businessman, owner of two restaurants and a guesthouse, so I love listening to his thoughts on the tourism sector. The other day he said something very interesting:

“Dalia, when Cape Verdeans realise that one can sell ‘The Nothing’, then they will finally start making money from tourism”.

In fact, during the tour I saw two places where the guide sold ‘The Nothing’.

daliablog4One was when we went to a place where all you could see was dirt and rocks, and still the guide was able to make the stop fun by telling the tourists that piling up five rocks would bring good luck – so a moment was created for wishes and photos. The other place was at Terra Boa – where the landscape is basically flat dry landscape, but the guide surprised us all when we were shown the remarkable ‘nothing’ – a mirage! That is when my uncle´s wise words came to mind.

 

Tourism is such an amazing versatile sector that can take whatever shape, taste, smell one wants and therefore any country can take part in it – be it rich, poor, big, small, green, dry, cold, hot! If you think of tourism as an iceberg, the tangible aspects are only the tip of it, the major part, the grounding roots, are all intangible assets – friendly atmosphere, welcoming host communities, curious stories, unforgettable experiences… creative and beautiful ‘nothings’!

Dalia GomesWritten by Dalia Gomes, Programme Co-ordinator, Cape Verde.

Read more about the Travel Foundation’s work in Cape Verde.

A cleaner side to Cape Verde…

Santa Maria is among the best beaches in the world, according to the TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice awards 2016. Crystal clear water, fun waves and golden, soft sand are some ingredients that make this beach so special. Surrounded by international standard hotels and beach clubs, Santa Maria attracts many holidaymakers and locals. If you are looking for tranquility, this is it! But don’t get tricked, at the “Reef” surfing spot you can also ride waves and have breathless experience!

Santa maria beach cleanA way to show love to a place is by giving back, and this is how Revolusal (Sal´s Surfing Association) decided to celebrate their 9th anniversary last weekend. They organised a two-day event at the Reef spot where their members, children and beach-lovers participated in several water sports and environmental education activities.

The Travel Foundation was pleased to support the beach clean-up race where children and adults, residents and holidaymakers, collected about 400 kgs of litter that were on the beach and in the seawater! I loved watching the kids running enthusiastically to get their gloved hands on rubbish and also appreciated the holidaymakers that took 40 minutes of their sunbathing time to help us clean the beach – it is heartwarming to see people visiting my country, caring for it as well.

CV beach cleanHappy kids, positive atmosphere and a truck full of waste were the results of the event. It was disturbing to see the items/rubbish collected, especially those found in the water. More than ever, I’m certain that Sal´s beaches are areas that need special attention in order to guarantee sustainability of this beautiful tourism destination.

Beach cleans are very important, but prevention is a key ingredient as well. Beach-users (visitors and locals), excursion providers, hotel and tour operators need to have responsible attitudes towards the resource that is the very reason of their visit/ business. Travel Foundation will continue to support Revolusal’s commitment to keeping Sal’s beaches clean, and we will work together with other destination partners to improve beach user experiences.

Santa Maria now has a cleaner face. If you do pay it a visit, don’t forget: leave no litter …only your footprints on its soft sand.

*POST UPDATE 01/06/2016*

Last Saturday we supported another beach-clean. This time we joined the Project Biodiversity and other stakeholders in celebrating the World Turtle Day (23rd May). Some 115 volunteers, mostly from the civil society, joined efforts in cleaning the Serra Negra Beach, which is a Natural Reserve located on the southeast of Sal Island. The great teamwork certainly paid off, as they were able to fill up about 68 trash bags! Boy will the turtles be happy next time they come around – that beach has the highest density of nesting Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) in the island. Kudos!

Dalia GomesWritten by Dalia Gomes, Programme Co-ordinator, Cape Verde.

Read more about the Travel Foundation’s work in Cape Verde.

 

INTERESTED IN ORGANISING A BEACH CLEAN?

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The sign of an interesting visit

crop

Since the Travel Foundation started working on the Island of Sal, in Cape Verde, we noticed that there was a general lack of signage – a simple thing, but essential for informing visitors about sites of importance, flora and fauna, and protected areas.

Data from questionnaires handed out to 255 visitors and 175 residents of Sal in 2015 confirmed that over 75% agreed that it was a very good idea to implement new signage.

It was a long process as we wanted to collect information and experiences from different stakeholders, ensure we achieved an appealing design that would fit into the landscape and choose the correct environmentally friendly material, especially in the case of the beaches.crop2

Today we are very happy with what we have achieved: informative signage that, at the same time, encourages the reader to respect the chosen sites. Pedra de Lume, a cultural heritage site, now has 2 signs with information about its important role in Sal’s development.

Besides contributing to visitors’ interpretation of the site and sharing information about the history of the island, the signs also brought a sense of pride and recognition among the locals.

On Kite beach we listened to the owners of the famous Kite Surfing school on Sal, about their concerns for the safety of visitors coming to practice kite surfing, and therefore we designed a map of the area which we are sure will improve kite surfers’ experiences.

We are so happy and proud to be a part of the process of developing significant tourism sites, although there is still much to do.debora-abu-raya

By Débora Abu-Raya, National Programme Manager.

More about our work in Cape Verde.

New certification for guides in Cape Verde

In January 2016, we supported the Ministry of Tourism on Sal to train local guides, with the aim of improving customer experience, guide knowledge, and the types of excursion on offer.

The training course was designed to address the main constraints that the Travel Foundation identified, in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism, including lack of diversity of products on offer and lack of knowledge about Cape Verde.

Cape Verde local guidesWe worked with key stakeholders to identify how the course content should be designed, and of course, wanted participants to feel engaged, relate to, and apply the new information they were receiving. Content covered the history of Sal, biodiversity, culture and what there is to see and do.

I’m pleased to say that as the training progressed, participants expressed how much they needed the information and were able to clearly identify the additional needs they have to keep improving their services. In the beginning, it seemed as though participants felt obliged to attend because it was being delivered by the Ministry of Tourism, so it was great to see that everyone saw the value in it.

At the end of the course 100% of guides indicated that the training exceeded or met their expectations, and they commented on how much more they learned about Sal, which they can now share with their customers.

Attendants will receive certification as official guides from the Ministry of Tourism.

We would like to express our gratitude to Ivalena Rosário, technician at the Institute of Cultural Heritage, and biologist Tommy Melo, from Biosfera, for their collaboration on the training. Both offered to keep in contact with the training participants to help with any questions they may have in future.

debora-abu-rayaWritten by Débora Abu-Raya, National Programme Manager.

More about our work in Cape Verde.

Bringing the Message: Sustainability Training in Sal

Insider Guide to SalDébora Abu-Raya, National Destination Manager, Cape Verde explains how training is benefiting Sal…

Last month, to mark the launch of the new Insider Guide to Sal, Cape Verde, the Travel Foundation delivered the first of several planned workshops with tour operator resort teams.

The training explained the concept of sustainability, and how it can be communicated to customers in a fun, non-obtrusive way.

Using this method we believe that customer satisfaction levels will not only increase but also the benefits of tourism to the economic, social and environmental make-up of the island will have a much wider impact, whilst the possible negative impacts are better managed.

When high season begins, reps are “taken by the wave” so it is difficult to get more involved with the destination and meet customer demands for information about the local community.

The first batch of reps to receive the training were from tour operator Thomas Cook. They were intrigued but not quite sure what to expect, but they soon warmed up and left empowered, knowing that they could do more, and aiming to do so.

The training covered practical ways of improving walking tours, increasing their knowledge about Sal so as to pass more and better information to customers. Reps will also start promoting the Insider Guide to Sal, encouraging visitors to explore the island a little more.

What I tried to show them was that small steps, when taken in the right way,  may bring huge benefits to a destination and they, as a holiday rep, can leave in six months knowing that they made a difference to the destination and its community and that will last a long time after they leave.

So, when it comes to sustainability in tourism there are many people who think it’s just a waste of time or an illusion at first sight, and for us who are bringing the message sometimes it demands a lot of energy and really positive vibes! But then when we finally get the opportunity to implement actions and see changes happening, it’s just amazing and suddenly you get filled with double the energy to continue.

debora-abu-raya

 

Débora Abu-Raya, Overseas team

> Read our ‘Insider Guide to Sal, Cape Verde’

The future is bright for Cape Verde

Tom ArmittTom Armitt recently joined the Travel Foundation as a new Destination Programme Officer. 

Half way through my second month at The Travel Foundation, and I am starting to get my head around the responsibilities that I have been assigned.

I was first put in charge of the Cape Verde programme: an interesting destination for me as I started my tourism career in West Africa researching the possibilities for the development of community-based Ecotourism in Senegal, and working closely with local communities to design and manage heritage trail tourism experiences in Sierra Leone.

Cape Verde has a lot of potential for the implementation of Sustainable Tourism principles within its fast-growing tourism industry. While big-complex, all-inclusive tourism is holding sway, the 10 island archipelago seems to have learned from other nations’ mistakes and has set its sights on sustainability. It has recently been in the news for increasing its renewable energy output by 300%.

On Sal, the island where The Travel Foundation works, a Destination Council has been created, bringing tourism stakeholders together from the public, private and third sectors to ensure that sustainability principles are made part and parcel of the island’s tourism development strategy. Slowly but surely this initiative is taking root, and the council has built on some of the Travel Foundation’s past work with the Cape Verdean Crafts, Discover the Real Sal and Better Beaches programmes.

In my opinion, the future is bright for Cape Verde, the future is sustainable tourism!

– Tom Armitt

sal-cape-verde-beach

Crafting a sustainable future in Sal

debora-abu-rayaToday’s blog is a guest article from Débora Abu-Raya, who is based in Sal, Cape Verde. Débora joined the TF team in July 2013 and has since been working to build our programme of work on the Island of Sal. Today, Débora updates us with the latest from the Cape Verdean Craft project. The project aims to increase the awareness, provision and competitive nature of the Cape Verdean craft offering in Sal, increasing sales to tourists to improve the livelihoods of artisans and help create a more unique tourism product. More on the project here.


As a Cape Verdean, I want to see tourists shopping for locally made crafts, and taking something home that is unique to the islands. Aside from the romantic notion that a little bit of Cape Verde will be spread around the world, it’s vital that local businesses are able to benefit from tourism, and that as a destination we’re providing a unique, quality experience, in order to protect our future in tourism.

Craft producer SalCape Verdean craft producers and vendors haven’t had it easy since the growth of tourism on Sal. Initial research showed that imports, lack of knowledge, lack of diversity of products and poor access to market have all contributed to a difficult market place. On top of that, there was very little communication between producers, vendors, regulatory bodies and the ministries. We were left asking questions such as…who could help? How could we help to protect the future of Cape Verdean craftspeople in Sal?

With backing from the Destination Council (you can read more on that here), we pulled together a strong group of influencers from both public and private sectors that would help us address some of the issues, and more importantly, co-ordinate efforts and take ownership in the long term.

A year on, I was so pleased to organise a workshop for local craftspeople, being run by two designers from M_EIA (University Institute of Art, Technology and Culture in Cape Verde). It focussed on meeting customer demand and customer service. Leão Lopes led the 5 day workshop, and recognised that due to the lack of formal training, traditional craftspeople in Cape Verde were getting lost in the market. We collaborated to design the training course to address issues found in the initial research.

Andrea Monteiro from LAlambicIt’s rewarding to see a year’s worth of research, planning and future-proofing reaching the local craftspeople. On the day, I spoke to craft producer Andrea Monteiro who said “This training helped me to have a more critical look into my work and to be aware to the need of constant innovation. We had an excellent trainer, who obviously knows very well the craft and design areas/sectors in Cape Verde, and that lead me to know more about what’s happening in other islands with craft and to get more info about designers that I can work with.”

The project is due to finish in December, and I don’t want to jump the gun, but I think we’re almost at the point where we can answer my earlier questions…

Who could help? Input is needed from many parties, and to list all those involved would be too long (you can read that here!) but to make this project work we needed, and got, buy in from all sectors – public, private and NGO.
How could we help protect the future of craft in Sal? Our approach was to first understand the issues, then bring together the people who influence those. Of course, upskilling the producers and vendors was important, but without a supporting network, it wouldn’t have a lasting effect.

Sal Paintball makes holidays greener

Sal beach cleanOn 12th July around 40 people came together in Sal, Cape Verde, to clean about 2km of beach. Almost 500kg of rubbish was collected, mainly plastic bottles and fishing gear (fishing nets and containers) washed up on Kite beach, on the East coast of Sal.

The most unusual items they collected were a water boiler, a gas bottle, and a pepper shaker. The most common pieces of trash were plastic bottles – around 300 of them in all, which underlines how important it is for everyone to try and reduce their single-use plastic (e.g. with re-usable bottles).

Thank you so much to all the participants and organisers, and especially to Sal Paintball and Explore CV for the lunch, drinks and activities at the end of the beach cleaning, and to the CMSal (City Hall) for supplying water, bin bags and transport. Sal beach clean Photos: Duncan Gillies, Sal Paintballers.

Getting a share of the tourist dollar

IMG_2656In 2014 we carried out research into the supply and customer demand of Cape Verdean crafts in Sal, and ran a 5 day workshop for 15 craft producers and 11 vendors with the help of craft experts Unearthed.

But what difference did our training make? Would changes to product design and pricing help the artisans to make more sales to tourists? We found out in June, at a small craft market at the Oasis Atlantico Salinas Sea Hotel.

In preparation for the event, five artisans received some extra coaching on what selection of products to bring to the fair, how to approach customers, and how to present their stalls, for example, by decorating them with traditional fabrics and palms.

Andreia Monteiro from L’Alambic, who produces a wide range of the local liquor grogue, developed recycled packaging as a result of the training. She was delighted with their sales on the day, saying:

“It was such a good day for us and since the market we’ve had a number of customers coming into our shop who said they’d seen us at the market – I wish we could do more of these hotel craft markets!”

Sotero Lopes who creates white turtle, flower and heart necklace pendants from shells has changed the thread he uses from white to black to show off the pendants more and sold almost double what we would usually expect to sell at a day at the craft market.

Djumanga, who carves large wooden statues from driftwood that appear in a few local hotel lobbies has started producing carvings in smaller sizes that tourists can pack in their suitcases. At the fair he made twice what he used to make at the beach.

In July, five more craft producers who attended the training will appear at the hotel craft market, and the General Manager has said she’d like to make it a weekly event for her European guests.

Follow up training, and technical design support for the craft producers is being planned for 2015.IMG_2660