Supported by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Wednesday, November 9, 2011 is World Travel Market (WTM) World Responsible Tourism Day. It is an international day of awareness and action around responsible and sustainable tourism. More than 150 international tour operators and organizations will participate in World Responsible Tourism Day at WTM today.
Commenting from WTM, Cape Town Tourism member and pioneer in Responsible Tourism, Anne van der Tuuk of Abang Africa said: “Responsible and community tourism has gained momentum from a niche tourism sector to a philosophy that is one of the industry’s most exciting developments ever, uniting citizens from across the world into one interconnected, united movement, communicating a significant signal to businesses that the tourism industry mean to act, not just talk.”
In 2002, representatives from tourism sectors across the board in twenty countries attended the Cape Town Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations, at which a declaration on responsible tourism was agreed upon. The 2002 Cape Town declaration agreed that responsible tourism should:
– Minimize negative economic, environmental and social impacts;
– Involve local people in decisions that affect their lives, generate greater economic benefits for, and enhance the well-being of, host communities;
– Encourage respect between tourists and hosts, and build local pride and confidence;
– Provide more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people;
– Make positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, embracing diversity; and
– Improve working conditions and access to the industry.
The objectives of WTM World Responsible Tourism Day are to drive these changes within the tourism industry by educating both the sector and individual travelers on more responsible travel behavior, sharing knowledge about how countries and destinations can be made more sustainable, educating the market on key environmental issues related to tourism, and harnessing the influence of World Travel Market in driving the responsible tourism agenda forward.
Said Nombulelo Mkefa, Director of Tourism of the City of Cape Town: “Cape Town is a pioneering city when it comes to responsible tourism. We define responsible tourism as ‘tourism that creates better places for people to live in, and better places to visit.’ With Cape Town’s name inextricably linked to the definition of responsible tourism, our city has a special honor and obligation. Fortunately, we are blessed with many advantages that, if we continue to work together, should enable us to live up to these environmental, social, and economic obligations.”
Mariette Du Toit-Helmbold, Cape Town Tourism CEO, agreed: “Responsible tourism is just one element of a general shift that we each have to make, not just as an industry, but as individual Cape Town residents and human beings. From the moment our children are born, we need to teach them the immense value of our people, our natural resources, and the fine balance of it all.”
In 2009, the city of Cape Town adopted the Responsible Tourism (RT) Policy and Action Plan. This plan commits to adopting Responsible Tourism, largely as an approach to destination management and to bring about positive economic, social and environmental influences.
More recently, in September this year, the Cape Town Climate Change Coalition launched the “Climate Smart Cape Town Campaign,” which aims to highlight ways for the public to reduce their carbon emissions. Climate Smart Cape Town brings facts about the climate crisis into the mainstream media and engages the public in conversation about how to solve this crisis.
Cape Town Tourism backs each one of these campaigns and continues to drive responsible tourism principles within the industry, as well as distribute responsible traveller tips with regard to Cape Town’s communities and natural environment. The fact that the Mother City was the first city to win the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Award in the Best Destination category in 2009 is a testament to the success of this drive for responsible tourism.
Du Toit-Helmbold said: “Industry reports from World Travel Market confirm that the global recession continues to have a significant impact on long-haul travel. Within this context, people are increasingly seeking original and local experiences. Authentic travel experiences underpinned by responsible tourism practices are becoming non-negotiable for many travelers. Cape Town is acknowledged internationally and has become one of the leading cities in the world when it comes to responsible tourism. Even though considerable progress has been made in addressing the environmental impact of tourism in our destination, we cannot rest on our laurels. In order to achieve sustainability, the tourism industry must continue to place a significant focus on harnessing tourism for local economic development, for the benefit of all communities and in managing the social impact of tourism. Cape Town Tourism is continuously looking for better ways to instill the responsible tourism philosophy and expand on existing sustainable tourism mechanisms in our city.”