'Responsible tourism' booming in South Africa says travel expert
March 4, 2004
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa is at the cutting edge of responsible tourism, a
leading international tour operator said on Wednesday.
Julian Matthews, founder director of Discovery Initiatives
Julian Matthews, managing director of Discovery Initiatives, a
UK-based travel company which supports conservation and communities
around the world, was speaking at the first annual meeting of Fair Trade in Tourism SA (FTTSA), in Sandton.
FTTSA was established by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) to
certify businesses which promoted fair and responsible tourism.
Those awarded the FTTSA logo must meet certain criteria such as
fair wages and working conditions, ethical business practices and
respect for human rights, culture and the environment.
Matthews gave examples of irresponsible poor businesses
practices in tourism. These included the overdevelopment of some of
Spain's coastline; the degradation of the Great Barrier Reef and
"enclave" tourism in the Caribbean, where outside interests reaped
the rewards of local tourism.
Matthews said that four years ago the media in the United
Kingdom said eco-tourism "turned people off", but now "they can't
The benefits to practitioners of responsible tourism included
rapid growth; more returning clients; a greater sense of purpose
among staff; better working partnerships and improved media
Dr Tanya Abrahamse, director of the Tourism Business Council of
SA (TBCSA) said operators had a number of "hidden supporters" to
assist them in marketing themselves as responsible tourism
She said the country's Constitution and Environmental Management
Act automatically protected the rights of the citizen and the
environment. National parks were already employing best business
practices, and black empowerment was part of the commercial world
"It makes business sense," she said. "We are a unique, world
class African destination. We focus on our people and our natural
The Responsible Tourism Handbook, jointly published by the IUCN
and a number of government agencies, offers guidelines on fair
trade in all aspects of tourism.
It suggests employing local skills where possible; buying
products locally; developing the community; facilitating health,
education and literacy development; respecting local culture;
designing buildings according to local architecture using
sustainable materials from the region; and conserving the
environment in all its forms, whether that be the conservation of
water, recycling, correct waste disposal or the planting of
indigenous trees and shrubs.
The handbook suggests operators increase what they now spend on
conservation; charge tourists a levy of R10 a night to be used
solely for conservation purposes and earmark at least 15 percent of
the land for conservation by building a pond or planting indigenous
Tourists for their part should be encouraged to interact with
the local community and be made aware of poverty and the need for
development so that they can become involved if they so wish.
They should be informed how to interact with the local community
and encouraged to buy crafts made in the vicinity. –Sapa
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