Responsible tourism is about growing a booming industry and at the same time applying the “handbrake” so that it will remain sustainable, says Jan Hutton of Deloitte South Africa.
Speaking at the Responsible Tourism conference hosted by the City of Cape Town last week, she cautioned: “The travel industry is under attack; for everything from its carbon footprint to its social costs. How do we align our desire to travel in a more thoughtful way with our conscience? We are all aware that tourism has an impact. It can be positive because tourism has benefits of job creation and preserving heritage, but it also has a negative impact on carbon emissions and the trading of wildlife.”
Councillor Roxanne Hoorn, chairwoman of the city’s tourism, events and economic development portfolio committee, agreed.
“Tourism today is facing a period of growth, but with this exciting development comes some challenges. The reality is that the fast-paced expansion of tourism in Cape Town, as well as South Africa as a whole, has often ignored the social, economic and environmental impact on our city and our people.
The city, with VoiceMap and Cape Town Green Map, launched Africa’s first Responsible Green VoiceMap at the conference.
Green Point Urban Park will be the inaugural route, and people will be able to use their smartphones to connect to a “guide” that will explain how a dysfunctional space has become one of the most popular parks in the city.
These voice tours will soon include other attractions such as Khayelitsha Mall, Muizenberg to Kalk Bay and Cape Point.
Garreth Bloor, mayoral committee member for Tourism, Events and Economic Development, said a Slave Route walk was also on the cards.
The app can be downloaded on an iPhone from the App Store, by searching for VoiceMap or by visiting bit.ly/voicemap on the iPhone. An Android version will be available soon.
Hutton said South Africa was already recognised as a world leader in responsible tourism. And next year, Cape Town will host the International Responsible Tourism Conference with the World Travel Market Africa.
Global travel was changing, with greater emphasis being placed on the “how” and the “why”, rather than the “where”. Travellers no longer wanted to tick items of a travel to-do list. Instead they yearned for “authenticity” and to “get under the skin” of their destinations, she said.
“Responsible tourism is about (creating) better places for people to live in, and better places for people to visit.”
Future travel scenarios included carbon caps for all airlines, with a return to “slow travel” via bike, boat or train.
Samantha Annandale, the general manager of Hotel Verde, said responsible tourism had to move beyond sustainability to “thrivability”. Hotel Verde, “Africa’s greenest hotel” recently scooped the World Responsible Tourism award.
Annandale said: “We’ve decided to show that the rewards outweigh the costs. It’s about doing the right thing. We worked on a concept of ‘thrivability’ as the next logical step of sustainability.
“It’s about actually succeeding – that being sustainable naturally will enable (one to thrive).”
The hotel, located 400m from Cape Town International Airport, has won numerous awards since it opened last year. It lists photovoltaic panels, energy-efficient lighting, natural ventilation, power-generating gym equipment and an eco-pool among its “green” interventions.