South Africa has officially launched its new, globally aligned Minimum Standard for Responsible Tourism, entrenching the importance of sustainability in this growing industry.
Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk confirmed at the launch – on a ferry boat outside the southern Cape Town of Knysna on 12 September – that responsible tourism has been a guiding principle for the industry in South Africa since an important policy paper on the subject was published in 1996.
However, he said, ‘One of the key challenges that we faced was that South Africa did not have a single, unified national responsible tourism standard and accreditation system.’
The national Department of Tourism worked with stakeholders for more than 18 months to decide on the criteria. These were then refined through the South African Bureau of Standards.
The South African National Minimum Standard for Responsible Tourism (SANMSRT) has been benchmarked against the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s criteria and is based on the 3 cornerstones of sustainable tourism. These are social and cultural, economic, and environmental responsibility.
Responsible tourism principles include respect for cultural and natural environments, avoiding energy and water over-consumption and waste, ensuring that local communities benefit from tourism, and adhering to ethical business practices.
The SANMSRT will be a voluntary standard, and tourism certification bodies wanting to be accredited will work through the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) which will be ready to carry out this task by the middle of 2012, according to the minister.
There will be more and more pressure for companies in the tourism industry to align themselves to responsible tourism principles, remarked the minister.
‘An increasing number of tourists are enquiring about adherence to environmental and social standards before they make their accommodation bookings,’ he pointed out.
Jennifer Seif, founder and head of Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa, was the chairperson of the technical working group that helped develop the National Minimum Standards.
‘Responsible tourism is a central pillar of our national tourism policy and strategy, and the launch of the Minimum Standard today thus marks an important milestone in achieving our collective vision of a tourism industry that benefits people, business and the environment,’ she said at the ceremony.
‘I am confident that the new Minimum Standard will reiterate South Africa’s position as a leading responsible tourism destination. Very few countries have published national standards of this calibre, and I am sure that other destinations will look to South Africa for knowledge and leadership in this field.
‘South Africa has helped pioneer Responsible Tourism on the worldwide stage – our job now is to mainstream it.’
SA – the Good News via SouthAfrica.net