Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, launched the South African National Minimum Standard for Responsible Tourism (NMSRT) this week, which highlights the role of sustainable tourism practices in creating better places for people to visit, work, invest and live in.
The minister said that the primary objective of the National Department of Tourism is to retain the economic and social advantages of tourism development and growth while reducing the undesirable impacts on the natural, historic, cultural or social environment. The South African National Minimum Standard for Responsible Tourism serves to:
· Establish a common understanding of the minimum criteria for responsible tourism and the certification of the sustainability of organisations in the tourism sector;
· Promote responsible tourism throughout the tourism sector, as well as all organs of state and entities involved or interested in the tourism industry.
CEO of Cape Town Tourism (CTT), Mariette du Toit-Helmbold says the organisation welcomes the announcement of a standard by national government.
For many years, CTT has been a key stakeholder in the drive to raise awareness of good practice for responsible tourism in the Mother City. Working closely with the City of Cape Town, and other stakeholders, CTT has prioritised sustainability as a guiding principle of growth in all aspects of tourism. In 2002 the Cape Town Declaration was developed as the foundation for a responsible tourism charter. In 2009, this charter was realised with The Responsible Tourism Policy for the City of Cape Town, which seeks to guide growth that is sustainable.
“South Africa is a country with rich natural resources and a diverse cultural heritage. In Cape Town we recognize this daily as some of Cape Town’s busiest urban centres share space with natural attractions such as Table Mountain National Park and Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. These are Cape Town treasures, which must be managed effectively if they are to carry on inspiring locals and attracting international visitors.
"In the same breath, the multifaceted history of the city has left its mark on its socio-economic dynamic as poverty stalks many communities. Opportunities within the sustainable tourism landscape would assist in creating jobs and lessening this hardship. Travellers are also becoming more aware of treading lightly and are looking for responsible and cultural travel experiences.
“Illustrating the real beauty of Cape Town lies in the stories of her people and responsible tourism is the best means of unlocking these stories and providing meaningful experiences for these visitors. Tourism is ultimately about global sharing, sustainable job creation and ensuring socio-economic development for our city and our region” du Toit-Helmbold says.
“It goes without saying that South Africa’s natural environment is one of its greatest tourism resources, and therefore the tourism industry needs to be actively involved in conserving and protecting it. Cape Town, in particular, is known around the globe as a place of unparalleled natural beauty and is well placed to offer the authenticity and diversity desired by a responsible traveller.
“We urge tourism organisations in Cape Town to get behind the guidelines of the Minimum Standards Act for a brighter Cape Town future, and we hope to see responsible and sustainable initiatives coming to the fore beyond the guidelines provided by National Government and local tourism authorities”, she concludes.