Cape Town – Did you know that South Africa is a leader when it comes to Responsible Tourism?
We’re not just referring to the recent announcement that South Africa topped the list along with the likes of Bhutan, Sweden and England as top global sustainable tourism destinations.
Nor are we talking about the fact the SA was the first country to adopt a national standard in responsible tourism in 2011.
We’re talking about as far back as 2002 when the first International Responsible Tourism in Destinations Conference took place and the Cape Town declaration on responsible tourism was undertaken.
Fast forward to 2015 and the 11th International Responsible tourism in Destinations Conference taking place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre until 15 April in conjunction with the second World Travel Market Africa event - where industry stakeholders, at least those who were in attendance, are asking what has been done with the 12-year lead SA had in green sustainable tourism practices?
Flying the flag are Hotel Verde and the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront who have won a number of accolades for sustainable practises and design employed in a responsible way. Most notably Hotel Verde won Gold in the Best City Hotel for Responsible Tourism category, while the V&A Waterfront walked away with Gold for Best Destination for Responsible Tourism at the World Responsible Tourism Awards held in London in November 2014.
But according to Anton Groenewald the City of Cape Town Executive Director for Tourism, Events and Economic Development, the city does regret that it has not made much progress with the older buildings and facilities within the city’s ownership - specifically the City Hall and the Good Hope Centre.
We're at the 11th international conference on responsible tourism, speaking to Heidi van der Watt
“Newer facilities like the Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town track and urban park however are operating within the responsible tourism guidelines and we are very happy to share a platform where there are examples within the city such as Hotel Verde, The Waterfront and Table Mountain that are being recognised globally from a responsible tourism point of view, ” said Groenewald.
“This philosophy is not abstract, it delivers real value,” said Groenewald.
Speaking during the opening address of the conference Chief Director for the Department of National Tourism Sa Ngidi implored all and sundry to consider the following question, detailed in the storyline of the Allen Paton Novel Ah, but your land is beautiful –
"Did we not have anything to fight for?”
While the cost of implementing new sustainable policies and frameworks cannot be overlooked, wen future generations ask, what will the response be?
According to Ngidi it should involve policy framework that works.
“As SA aims to increase visitor volumes, revenue and employment it should not be at the cost of livelihoods and local cultures.
Ngidi said it was important to pursue tourism in a sustainable manner that contributes to quality of life for all concerned.
“Responsible and sustainable tourism should development skills and take into consideration the reality of the human footprint, tourism’s social economic as well as its environmental impact.”
Globally tourism is one of the few sectors on the upward curve, with South African seeing 9.5m international visitors in SA in 2013 alone – Ngidi said it highlights the importance of managing the growth properly going forward, ensuring that those who visit South Africa, enjoyed the country in a responsible manner.
“Our World heritage sites need to be optimally run in a sustainable manner. As we pursue growth, we want to do so in a sustainable manner as well as one that brings about transformation.”
Ngidi highlighted the need for Responsible Tourism to cultivate socio-economic development that adds to the value chain across the board.
“The success of tourism in South Africa needs to be tied to the success of the communities, in which they take place, ensuring that future generations, both visitors and locals are able to enjoy its benefits.”
The 11th International Responsible tourism in Destinations Conference is taking place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre until Wednesday 15 April in conjunction with World Travel Market Africa until Friday 17 April, 2015.