Nicky Fitzgerald, Angama Mara
How do you feel that your history best prepares you for service on the ATCF Board?
I have built, opened and operated over 60 luxury safari lodges in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and India. I have been in the hospitality industry since 1981 and in ecotourism since 1994.
Describe prior experience you have working with nonprofits and conservation groups?
During the 15 years I worked as a director (Operations followed by Sales and Marketing) for &Beyond (formerly CC Africa) I worked closely with the company's not for profit arm, the Africa Foundation. Raising guest awareness, raising funds, implementing and maintaining projects - both community and conservation - were all part of our daily routine. As the owner of Angama Mara (a lodge in Kenya's Maasai Mara), I am deeply involved in our foundation, the Angama Foundation. In the 22 months we have been open we have built a clinic, accommodation for 16 teachers, three classrooms, funded a vehicle for rhino monitoring in the Reserve and funded a kitty for compensation to Maasai live stock owners for when their animals are taken by predators. And all of this funded by a $10 per guest per night contribution to our Foundation - we firmly believe in the 'micro-donations, small and scalable projects' approach. Operating as we do in a remote area surrounded by local communities with bottomless needs and operating in a reserve that also desperately requires ongoing support giving back is simply part of what we do.
Outline the specific skills you bring or contributions you hope to make to the ATCF Board.
My specific skill would be to guide the board as to what actually happens on the ground in the remote areas of Africa and India. How to engage with communities in particular.
Why do you seek a position on the ATCF Board of Directors?
Perhaps after all my years in looking after guests in remote areas, I have learnt a few lessons that I could share - and also share the many mistakes made along the way.
Describe any experience with sustainable tourism.
I joined Conservation Corporation (which became CC Africa and then &Beyond) in 1994 and spent the next 15 years there as a director (operations, sales and marketing). Core to the company’s DNA was ‘Care of the Land, the Wildlife and the People’. &Beyond was an early mover in sustainable tourism and the many successes achieved bear testament to this. And currently I am the co-owner of Angama Mara whose foundation, after just two years of opening, is already making an impact in our local community and in the Mara Conservancy.
Describe any experience working in fundraising and development.
All fund raising I personally have been involved with is talking guests whilst they are staying with us and sharing our stories about sustainability and what a positive impact their choice of holiday makes to local communities and wildlife areas. I have worked alongside many teams in the field who have been responsible for identifying projects, implementing them and then sustaining them. As the Marketing Director for &Beyond I was deeply involved in all the projects in order to tell the story and ensure the story we were telling was authentic.
Describe any experience working with indigenous/community groups.
&Beyond has lodges in South Africa (notably Phinda Private Game Reserve which, whilst I was there, was was handed back to the local Zulu community in a ground breaking land redistribution deal), Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya and India. The majority of the 2000 employees in the field were drawn from local communities where work opportunity is scarce. I was deeply involved in the training and upskilling of many of these staff members. Currently I operate in the heart of Maasailand in Kenya – we have 25 000 immediate Maasai neighbours, our landlords are Maasai and the majority of our staff are Maasai. And I was born in Africa and have lived here my whole life.
Describe any experience working with nonprofits and/or conservation groups.
The Africa Foundation is the affiliate foundation of &Beyond. For the 15 years I worked there I was involved with this NGO – mostly in the field. And in my 23 years of working in remote wilderness areas I have brushed shoulders with more NGO’s and conservation groups than I can remember. What I have learnt along the way is what works here in the communities surrounding Africa’s wildlife areas and what doesn’t. Currently my company works closely with The Mara Conservancy and Angels in Africa, an NGO with an education focus here in Maasailand.