SIXTY-SIX Blue Flags will be proudly flown at 46 beaches, eight marinas and by 12 sustainable tourism boats around South Africa over the forthcoming 2018/19 South African Blue Flag season, which opens officially on November 1. The South Coast will be among them. This was announced at the National Wessa (Wildlife and Environment Society South Africa) Blue Flag launch, hosted by the Mossel Bay Municipality at Santos Beach, Mossel Bay, in the Western Cape on October 12.Surpassed only by Capetown, the South Coast again boasts the second highest number of blue flag beaches in the country as they fly seven of the nine flags in the province.South Coast beaches that retained their blue flag status this year include Marina, Trafalgar, Lucien, Southport, Umzumbe, Ramsgate, and Hibberdene. Spokesperson for Ray Nkonyeni Municipality Simon April said this was a proud moment for the region. “We are the only municipality who maintains this status for the whole year (365 days), unlike other municipalities who usually maintain it for a particular period. “This Blue Flag Status is an international annual award which focuses on the environmental management of our coastline and coastal waters to help tourism growth and development,” said April. He said that although it is a voluntary eco-label, it has become an international symbol of quality for beaches, boats and marinas that meet a standard of excellence in the areas of safety, amenities, cleanliness, environmental information, and environmental management.“We are very proud that we have managed to maintain this status as a way of contributing towards promotion of tourism as we are aware that it contributes a lot towards local economy,” said April.Speaking at the event, National Department of Tourism Director of Programme Planning & Implementation Patience Molokoza said, “Through programmes like the Tourism Blue Flag Beach Stewards that is implemented by WESSA, we can address the issue of South Africa’s youth unemployment. This programme is meant to capacitate the youth and provide skills training and development. Programmes like these would not be possible if it were not for partnerships with municipalities,” said Molokoza. Vincent Shacks, General Manager of the Ecotourism unit, noted that the municipalities, marinas, and boat operators who have achieved the prestigious Blue Flag award are our sustainable tourism champions and all South Africans should be proud of these achievements. “Blue Flag is a voluntary eco-label, so all of the effort and funding that is put into improving these sites is done in the interest of those using them. We are especially inspired by those sites where municipalities, the business sector and local residents are all working together to maintain this standard of excellence,” he said.