Resources, Interviews, Features, & Blogs

November 2020 

Harvard Business School Case Study | Wilderness Safaris: Responses to the Covid-19 Crisis

By James E. Austin, Megan Epler Wood, and Herman B. “Dutch” Leonard

This case is an epilogue to “Wilderness Safaris: Impact Investing and Ecotourism Conservation in Africa” (See below), which ends with the emergence of the pandemic in March 2020. The final discussion area for that case can be “What should Wilderness Safari CEO Keith Vincent do to confront the challenges of the pandemic?” This case documents, in the CEO’s own words, what actions and plans Vincent and the company had taken or formulated as of July 2020. The areas covered are: Governance and Decision Making, Cash Management, People, Communities, Travel Agencies and Customers, Conservation, Reopening, and Investor Reactions and Future Projects. The case is only five pages, so it could be used as an in-class handout after the discussion of the previous case, with the follow-up class discussion taking place then, if sufficient time is available, or in the subsequent class. The focus of the discussion is on the students’ analysis and evaluation of Vincent’s actions and plans. The case particularly offers learning opportunities for risk assessment, leadership, and management in crisis situations.

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October 2020 

Harvard Business School Case Study | Wilderness Safaris: Impact Investing & Ecotourism Conservation in Africa

By James E. Austin, Megan Epler Wood, and Herman B. “Dutch” Leonard

In 2018 the majority ownership of publicly owned Wilderness Safaris, the leading high-end ecotourism company in Africa with safari operations in eight countries, was acquired by The Rise Fund, one of the world’s largest private social impact investing funds, and by FS Investors, a private equity investment firm. This is a follow-on case to “Wilderness Safaris: Ecotourism Entrepreneurship,” (See above) which focuses on the company’s origins, growth, and distinctive 4C business model based on Commerce, Conservation, Community, and Culture. The two cases can be used sequentially or independently. The current case provides an opportunity to examine the investment rationale of the impact funds and their methodology for measuring and assessing nonfinancial impact variables, such as avoided deforestation and the social cost and pricing of averted carbon emissions. Changes and effects in governance resulting from the buy-out and the subsequent taking the firm private are presented. The case poses strategic investment decisions in Rwanda and Angola, which is the source of the Okavango Delta and the second largest forested region of the world. Questions of business decision making based on the preservation of natural capital and the management of the region’s protected areas are reviewed. It ends with the challenges from the emergence of the COVID 19 pandemic in March 2020.

Order Your Copy Here

April 2018

Harvard Business School Case Study | Wilderness Safaris: Ecotourism Entrepreneurship

By James E. Austin, Megan Epler Wood, and Herman B. “Dutch” Leonard

Wilderness Safaris sees itself as a conservation company that is built on a business model of providing high-end, premium-priced wildlife safaris in various locations in Africa. Dependent on functioning, healthy ecosystems for its long-term survivability as a business, it invests heavily in conservation efforts, both directly, with communities and governments, and with partners and competitors. It may be reaching saturation of the high-cost, high-priced, low-volume, luxury travel product in its existing locations, so to continue its growth it is now trying to expand into East Africa, where the traditional safari approach by most providers has been a high-volume, low-cost, low-priced product. As a publicly- listed company, can Wilderness Safaris find a sustainable growth path that will allow it to profitably expand its business and meet its shareholder’s interests while still achieving its priority purposes of protecting and investing in the ecosystems and communities on which its services are based?

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February 10, 2018

Why the private sector must protect tourist destinations 

The following is an edited excerpt from “Sustainable Tourism on a Finite Planet” by Megan Epler Wood (Taylor & Francis, 2017).

To understand the growth of destinations and the exact demands this growth will have on local resources and residents is the best antidote. Systems to anticipate and calculate this growth, and pay for the services and preservation of valuable assets that will be required, is the only way to avoid the worst aspects of insistent demand.

Read full excerpt here


November 30, 2017

Skift Podcast: Finding Solutions for the Overtourism Dilemma

On this episode of the Skift podcast, the conversation about the way destinations can start to address the problems of overtourism is discussed with Megan Epler Wood. Epler Wood spoke with tourism experts Andrew Sheivachman and Dan Peltier and news editor Hannah Sampson.

Listen here

October 23, 2017

“Proposing Solutions to Overtourism in Popular Destinations: A Skift Framework”

The world is in an unprecedented period of tourism growth, and not everyone is happy about it. Arrivals by international tourists have nearly doubled since 2000, with 674 million crossing borders for leisure back then and 1.2 billion doing the same in 2016.

As the travel industry has ramped up its operations around the world, destinations have not been well-equipped to deal with the economic, social, and cultural ramifications. Cities have often made economic
growth spurred by traveler spending a priority at the expense of quality of life for locals.

Read more here

August 8, 2017

On Ecotourism in Colombia with Megan Epler Wood

National Geographic sat down with the Megan Epler Wood, founding director of our International Sustainable Tourism Initiative, to learn about her recent trip to Colombia. 

“Epler Wood explained her philosophy on tourism, something she sees as a way of life rather than an act of consumption.  ‘I try not to look at what cannot be missed, she said. The more we think about what we cannot miss, the more likely we are to miss what is right in front of us. I see tourism as a way of experiencing the world, which allows us to open our minds, not try to be in the “right place.” For this reason, I try to get a feeling for the place, the history, the people, and of course the landscape and its immense animal and plant diversity.  All those things are unforgettable in Colombia.'”

Read more here

May 24, 2017

Using Tourism Revenue to Strengthen Local Communities

Peter Leyden from Reinvent interviews Megan Epler Wood as part of the “Future of Sharing” Series.  In the interview, Epler Wood shared her recommendations for increasing sustainability in the tourism industry while discussing her book, Sustainable Tourism on a Finite Planet. She advocates for an international summit meeting to identify existing challenges and think critically about the areas most in need of investment.

Click here to watch the full interview

May 22, 2017

Saving the Heart and Soul of Tourism Destinations

Why are tourism destinations becoming so crowded and what is being done about it? Politico Magazine stated in early 2017, “Amsterdam tries to stem tourist flood and save its soul” and “Barcelona declares war on tourism.” The Independent reported on “the death of Venice” in 2015. These cities have seen dramatic escalation in visitation that needs attention. Global travelers and the industry are taking note. 

Read more here

February 17, 2017

Ecotourism is Not the Answer to Sustainable Tourism

Megan Epler Wood, Founding Director for the International Sustainable Tourism Initiative, blogs about her trip to Colombia, where she attended the Nobel Peace Laureate Summit in Bogota and was honored to share the stage with laureate Leymah Gbowee of Liberia.

“I just returned from the country of Colombia where approximately one-third of its biodiverse landscapes are opening up to tourism due to a sweeping agreement in December 2016 to end their 50 year civil war. I flew over vast regions of their Orinoco and Amazonian states east of the Andes filled with emotion upon seeing the beautiful parks and protected areas there.”  

Read more here


January 28, 2017

Interview with Peter Greenberg

Peter Greenberg, the travel editor for CBS News, interviewed Megan Epler Wood, Founding Director of our International Sustainable Tourism Initiative, to tackle tough issues facing destinations around the world, including Greece, Italy, and Cuba. Megan also shares insights from her book, Sustainable Tourism on a Finite Planet

To listen online, jump to 1:16 or 76:00 for the segment with Megan. 


November 12, 2016

Let’s Stop Congratulating Good Examples and Raise Money for Them Instead

The final day of work in Marrakech was a day of presentations on a panorama of small projects from delegates around the world, who came to discuss their efforts to lower the impacts of excess tourism consumption. 

Read more here


November 11, 2016

Maybe we need a COP22 Planet

The sessions on tourism and climate change in Morocco were inspiring.  We kicked our event off with an official statement from Patricia Espinosa, the UNFCCC Executive Secretary.  She definitively stated that tourism must be part of the global effort to manage carbon and prevent the rising of global temperatures over 2 degrees centigrade. Read more here

View Megan Epler Wood’s Lecture for COP 22 on November 11, 2016:

View Lecture Here


November 10, 2016

Sustainable COP22 Moments

The total number of climate management delegates in Marrakech, Morocco is expected to reach 20,000 people before the full event is over.  Our small group of some 150 experts in sustainable tourism has been brought together by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to discuss how the tourism industry can respond the climate crisis.

Read more here


September 27, 2016


The Decision in Montreal – Can Tourism Be Sustainable?

The 39th International Civil Aviation Organization will begin meeting in Montreal today to make the most significant decision on curbing climate change since the Paris agreement in 2015. Very few people realize that this meeting will dictate if travel can be genuinely sustainable.  


September 20, 2016

Why Don’t We Ever Discuss The Carbon Impacts of Flying?

Flights over 1000 miles long are responsible for over 80 percent of the greenhouse gas impacts of air travel. While environmentally aware individuals worldwide agree that climate change is a proven challenge for our planet, few have changed their travel behaviors.  

Read more here