Address by Deputy Minister of Tourism, Ms Tokozile Xasa Responsible Tourism Conference South Africa House, London, United Kingdom
23 Jun 2012
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, I wish to thank the International Centre for Responsible Tourism for taking the initiative and organising this conference and for inviting South Africa to be part of the deliberations on the occasion of such an important milestone.
According to World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), 880 million people travelled across the globe in 2010, and this number is expected to grow to 1,5 billion by 2020. As more and more regions and countries develop tourism as an economic sector, it produces significant impacts on natural resources, consumption patterns, pollution and social systems. The need for sustainable planning and management is imperative for the tourism sector to survive as a whole.
This gathering today, is part of a journey that started ten (10) years ago in the Mother City, Cape Town. The 2002 Cape Town declaration on responsible tourism in destinations has been very influential over the last ten years in encouraging stakeholders around the world to take responsibility for making tourism more sustainable. The declarations calls upon us to use tourism to make better places for people to live in, and better places for people to visit, in that order.
As the government of South Africa, we are proud to be the first country in the world to include “Responsible Tourism” as a key pillar of our national tourism policy, the 1996 White Paper on the development and promotion of tourism in South Africa.
At that early stage we were clear as a country that we want to develop the tourism sector as a national priority in a sustainable and acceptable manner, so that it will contribute significantly to the improvement of the quality of life of every South African.
To us, as stated in the 1996 White Paper, “Responsible tourism is not a luxury for South Africa. It is an absolute necessity if South Africa is to emerge as a successful international competitor”, thus committing the tourism sector to pursuing a policy of Responsible Tourism.
In August 2002, South Africa hosted the World Summit on Sustainable Development. A parallel event, the Conference on “Responsible Tourism in Destinations” was held in Cape Town and was attended by 280 delegates from 20 countries. The conference grew out of the South African work on responsible tourism guidelines and it resulted in the Cape Town declaration being ratified by all delegates.
The private sector has since then also escalated their efforts to become more sustainable. To spur tourism businesses on and recognise their efforts, the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (FEDHASA), has been running the Imvelo Awards for Responsible Tourism since 2002. This programme has the support of government.
The South African government is also signatory to the Tourism Child Protection Code of Conduct (“the Code”). This is an instrument of self-regulation and corporate social responsibility, and aims to provide increased protection to children from sexual exploitation in travel and tourism.
Most recently, the NDT developed the National Minimum Standard for Responsible Tourism (SANS 1162:2011), which aims to promote the implementation of Responsible Tourism principles in tourism businesses, harmonise sustainable tourism certification programmes and set a national benchmark for tourism businesses to aspire to.
We are currently finalising a comprehensive National Strategy for Responsible Tourism in South Africa, which has the support and endorsement of a growing cross-section of stakeholders. The strategy contains proposed action plans which would guide the implementation of the strategy, and allow for mechanisms to monitor and measure progress. Part of this strategy seeks to find ways in which we can work together with the tourism sector to maximise the local economic benefits which tourism can bring to local communities.
The National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS 2011), a blueprint for the tourism sector in South Africa, was an outcome of broad industry consultation. The NTSS sets a new vision and growth trajectory for the future. This vision is to make South Africa one of the top 20 destinations by 2020. It commits the tourism sector to creating a total of two hundred and twenty five thousand additional jobs (225 000) in 2020. NTSS further seeks to increase tourism’s contribution to the economy from R189,4 billion (2009) to R318,16 billion in 2015 and R499 billion by 2020.
The NTSS however recognises that these ambitious growth targets should be achieved in a responsible and sustainable manner, mindful of the fact that South Africa’s natural environment is one of its greatest tourism resources.
Tourism is an integral component of South Africa’s New Growth Path (2010), which strives to significantly reduce unemployment and stimulate inclusive economic development. South Africa’s Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP2) has identified the tourism sector as an important contributor to the development of rural areas and culture industries amongst others.
As we move forward, we maintain our commitment to the principles of sustainable development. The new Tourism Draft Bill aims to provide for the development and promotion of sustainable tourism for the social, economic and environmental benefit of South African citizens and for the enjoyment of all its residents and foreign visitors.
It is almost twenty years of experience in the implementation of sustainable development agenda since the adoption of Agenda 21. In 2002 the World Summit on Sustainable Development was held in South Africa and we have made strides in establishing a clear course of action for the implementation of Agenda 21 known as the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI).
South Africa has made progress in the implementation of some targets contained in the JPOI, inclusive of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) over the years. However, Africa still lags behind on the attainment of sustainable development agenda, particularly the Millennium Development Goals. The ability to achieve the Millennium Development Goals requires continuous interventions at international, regional, national and local level supported by the science and knowledge economy.
We view the Rio+20 as a much needed platform to address, in a coherent and coordinated manner, the emerging challenges associated with implementation of sustainable development. Furthermore, Rio+20 should provide a platform for a frank and candid discussion as well as introspection by the international community on its ability to deliver on the much needed internationally agreed targets for sustainable development including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
2012 and beyond
As a commitment to the 2002 Declaration, tourism enterprises and trade associations are urged to continue adopting a responsible approach, to commit to specific responsible practises, and to report progress in a transparent and auditable way, and where appropriate to use this to provide competitive advantage.
I believe that in order to implement the guiding principles for economic, social and environmental responsibility, it is necessary to use a portfolio of tools, which will include regulations, incentives, and multi-stakeholder participatory strategies.
The commitment and efforts of the private sector are also critical to the roll-out of Responsible Tourism in South Africa. A comprehensive assessment of the attitudes and behaviour towards Responsible Tourism amongst tourism businesses is to be undertaken and will be a key priority of the new National Responsible Tourism Strategy.
There is no doubt that Responsible Tourism is gaining momentum, but some challenges remain:
- We need a more active travel consumer. A majority of tourists want to learn about social, cultural and environmental issues while travelling, but few make this issue part of their decision making process. We will ensure we speak to tourists desire for authenticity and unique cultural experiences.
- Climate Change will affect us as long-haul destinations. Concerns over global warming and the contribution of long-haul flights are escalating – our strategy and messaging will address these concerns.
- Interest in and support for sustainable tourism is building in South Africa’s traditional core markets, but consumers find it difficult to find appropriate offers.We will work with partners to find creative and inspiring ways to meet this need.
- Sustainable Tourism Certification is useful, but the proliferation of labels, is a challenge, whilst small businesses find the cost of certification prohibitive.
- We need to enhance our understanding of growing source markets. Little is known about the preferences of priority markets in Asia and Africa. Market research is needed to help us to build our understanding of the views, attitudes and behaviours of these markets in relation to sustainable tourism.
- Voluntourism is growing; it has obvious advantages in that less privileged communities have new funds flowing in to improve local living conditions. It is however often difficult for tourists to decide between one program and another. A more marketing centred approach will help address this and support tourists in their decision making.
This is what Pico Iyer, a write and renowned traveller had to say “I take very seriously the sense of our living these days in a global neighbourhood. And the first sensible thing to do in such circumstances, as well as one of the most rewarding things, is to go and meet the neighbours, find out who they are, and what they think and feel. So travel for me is an act of discovery and of responsibility as well as a grand adventure and a constant liberation.”
As the department of Tourism in South Africa, we are mindful of the fact that sustainable tourism development and growth can only be realised through joint efforts of public and private sector. The department is committed to putting systems in place that will facilitate such collaboration.
Against this very positive platform we will reach out to the markets and reinvigorate them with South Africa’s unique proposition as the only globally recognised Fair Trade tourist destination. A place where you are more like a local than a catered-to tourist, a place where you have genuine connection with South Africa.
We invite all the stakeholders to commit to mainstreaming responsible tourism, and make it an essential part of the way of doing business in the tourism sector.
As we close this conference, I trust that we have all learnt from each other’s experiences, generated new ideas and found sufficient motivation to propel the responsible tourism movement forward for the next ten years.
Let us work together to encourage the development of South Africa tourism products today, without compromising the needs of future generations.
I thank you!
Issued by: Department of Tourism
23 Jun 2012
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