The travel industry looked to the World Travel Market (WTM) event to lead on this year’s World Responsible Tourism Day through a wealth of debates and presentations on conscious tourism practice, as well as the awarding of the 2012 Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards (winners had not been announced at time of release).
Responsible Tourism is defined as tourism “that creates better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit.” One of the key challenges for Responsible Tourism identified at WTM is that of broadening access to destinations, particularly for the physically and economically disadvantaged. The conference also looked at ways in which various destinations were regulating and communicating their Responsible Tourism practice.
Speaking from WTM, the CEO of Cape Town Tourism, Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, said that the South African tourism industry is embracing Responsible Tourism: “Cape Town has been setting the benchmark since 2002, when the city hosted the Cape Town Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations. Cape Town Tourism has also recently partnered with Fair Trade in Tourism (FTT), a non-profit organization that promotes sustainable tourism development and facilitates a tourism Fair Trade certification program. The partnership aims to bring Cape Town’s tourism sector into contact with a tangible, audited program towards a complete responsible tourism transition.”
Said Councillor Grant Pascoe, Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Marketing, City of Cape Town: “Since the adoption of the Responsible Tourism (RT) Policy and Action Plan by the City of Cape Town in 2009, Cape Town has been acknowledged by the Ethisphere Institute of New York as ‘One of ten cities in the world most likely to become centers of sustainability by 2020.’ Ethical Traveler also listed Cape Town as one of the ‘Top Ten Ethical Destinations in the World 2010.’ The city was one of the first urban centers in the world to receive the coveted ‘Best Destination’ Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Award in 2009. The city of Cape Town is committed to responsible tourism, most recently with a pilot project in which twenty-one city hotels were assessed for their use of energy and instructed as to how to make climate smart changes. The implementation in these hotels will be the benchmark for tourism’s accommodation sector, in terms of economic viability, actual impact (on guests and staff) and as a test case for innovative responsible practices and technology.”
In acknowledging the partnership with industry, he continued: “The City of Cape Town is playing a central role in the rise of Responsible Tourism by creating an enabling environment for private sector organizations to operate and self-regulate in accordance with best practice.”