IT’S official – Kouga beaches have been awarded world-class status and the right to wave the Blue Flag.The announcement was made in Jeffreys Bay last week Wednesday.Dolphin Beach once again got the nod from the adjudicators to fly the Blue Flag, joining 43 other beaches, seven marinas and 11 sustainable tourism boats around South Africa.Another addition to Kouga’s achievement was the St Francis Canals, which received Blue Flag Marina status.Speaking at the event, Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa said her department aimed at attracting five million tourists to South Africa over the next five years.“The Blue Flag should be used as a selling tool to bring these visitors to our shores and to ensure that visitors have a positive experience in our country,” says Xasa.She adds that her Department entered into a partnership with the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa) in 2016 to implement the Blue Flag project with the assistance of the Expanded Public Works Programme , so as to ensure that jobs were created for young people in the tourism industry.Kouga Executive Mayor Elza van Lingen, delivering the opening address, thanked Wessa – who manages the Blue Flag programme locally – and the national Tourism Department for recognising Kouga as the ideal place to host this year’s event.“We have featured as a recipient of this award for 16 consecutive years but never have we thought we would actually host this national event,” she says. Van Lingen says the process was not only about securing Blue Flag status for Dolphin Beach but helping to set the standard for other beaches within the municipality as well.Applications for the Blue Flag eco-label were reviewed earlier this year by a South African and international jury panel.To achieve Blue Flag status, as many as 33 criteria spanning over four areas of coastal management must be met and maintained. The four areas are water quality, environmental education and information, environmental management, and safety and services. The Blue Flag programme, now in its 30th year internationally, is focused on the conservation of marine and coastal habitats, and is designed to raise environmental education and awareness, and increase sound environmental practices among tourists, local populations and beach management. The programme is operated under the auspices of the Foundation for Environmental Education and is headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark.