Meet the Tourism Conservation Fund CEO!

SATSA and Peace Parks Foundation recently launched and founded the Tourism Conservation Fund, a new initiative that aims to encourage and support large-scale and long-term projects that deliver durable socio-economic benefits to rural communities surrounding South Africa’s protected areas. Four of SATSA’s own already sit on the board of directors for the fund: David Frost (SATSA CEO), and members Martin Wiest (Tourvest Destination Management), Sean Kritzinger (Giltedge), and Colin Bell (Natural Selection).

With an ambitious development vision, the fund needed someone equally determined to head it up as CEO. We are happy to announce the newly appointed CEO whose experience, skill and passion speak directly to the needs of the Tourism Conservation Fund – Paul Zille.

Paul currently works as an independent consultant and currently runs a diverse economics and development advisory practice.  He will take up the role of CEO from 1 January 2018.

His work as a development economist is rooted in the use of concessionary finance to unlock opportunity, incentivise investment and leverage sustainable development at scale.

Paul is no stranger to the tourism and conservation sectors and has diverse experience in the design and management of development funds, programmes and incentives across a number of sectors, including tourism and conservation. From 2001 up until 2005, Paul led the ComMark Trust, which pursued a number of initiatives to leverage the development impact of the region’s diverse tourism assets.  One such involved the design, along with national authorities and international donors, of a financing arrangement to capitalise high value community-private partnerships located in community conservancies across Namibia. The project blended concessionary with commercial bank finance to enable these partnerships and to provide for long-term organisational support and technical training required by participating communities.

Asked about his first months as the man in charge, Paul’s excitement is obvious as he describes his plans to meet the key players across the tourism and conservation value chain, to learn about and explore existing initiatives and ideas from the industry itself, and to introduce his vision for the fund.

And what exactly is his vision? He is careful to emphasise the need for this to be informed by ideas and experience on the ground, but he wants to use the fund to catalyse co-investment and activity by private sector tourism players in business models that combine profitability with high social impact. Generically, this refers to ‘inclusive business’ or ‘shared value’ approaches that enterprises, both large and small, can adopt in meeting their commercial goals and in fulfilling their obligations to their shareholders.

Paul is keen to learn about and inspire innovative ideas that the fund can help deliver, replicate and scale. This might involve existing supply chain or community partnership initiatives that companies have already explored and tested, for which they need co-funding to help leverage and scale.  It may involve good ideas that need to be piloted and tested to establish their feasibility before being expanded and replicated.

The ultimate aim of any initiatives pursued by the fund will be to incentivise and leverage partnerships based on good ideas which combine commercial objectives with demonstrable social and conservation impact – and in this way maximise the tourism industry’s socio-economic relevance and sustainability. “If something is profitable, it will be sustainable…… We will be looking for innovative ideas which are rooted in community-public-private partnerships, are ready to be implemented and have a clear vision of long-term impact and sustainability – without the need for ongoing funding support.”

Needless to say, Paul is a keen traveller.  He is a regular visitor to SA’s national parks and derives as much pleasure from being with and learning from communities in and around conservation areas, as he does from the wildlife and the wilderness experience itself.  He has two sons and lives in Johannesburg together with his wife.

Welcome on board, Paul!

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