By Di Sparks, Theresa Gibbon PR

 

Despite the unprecedented setbacks that affected the tourism and hospitality trade in the past two years there is light at the end of the tunnel – local and international travel is picking up. 

Recognising that travellers have become ‘green’ conscious in terms of environmental performance, the tourism industry has moved responsible and sustainable tourism to the top of its agenda. 

Responsible tourism is defined as creating better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit. Sustainable tourism is defined as travelling to, and exploring a destination, as a tourist while respecting the culture, environment and people of that destination. 

Many South African hospitality establishments are aligning with these ideals and practices. 

CEO of Thanda Safari, Pierre Delvaux said that since the opening of Thanda Safari over 20 years ago, they have been embracing various aspects of responsible and sustainable tourism practices “given that many of our guests are from overseas”. 

“Being aware of these prevailing trends and the high expectations of our international guests we believe it’s our responsibility to re-establish a confidence in our industry. Everything that Thanda does is centred around responsible environmental development and management. We’ve been at the forefront of wildlife conservation for more than 15 years, always actively involved in conservation, wildlife research, and partnering with neighbouring communities in job creation, educational and socio-economic upliftment programmes”.

He mentioned that Thanda’s many conservation programmes have included protection programmes for the endangered Wild Dog, Cheetah and Black Rhino, an Elephant Breeding programme, and under the aegis of Thanda Foundation, the Star for Life Educational programme, the Inkanyiso Crèche project and a job-creating, Paper-Making project and a recent partnership with Move Africa’s Red Movement 2022 period poverty reduction campaign.

“Ultimately ecological commitment is about people coming together to look after the land, water, animals and plants and to sustainably use these resources to the benefit of communities and future generations.”  

Raw Africa Boutique Collection (formerly Cape Summer Villas Boutique Collection), a hospitality management and marketing group strives to support sustainable conservation and green practices at all its properties. 

Managing Director, Paul Duverge explained that the Group had embraced the concept of responsible tourism as “without it our businesses would not thrive.” 

“We’ve placed such a strong emphasis on responsible tourism that it’s now an integral part of our culture and in the way we operate. A key focus of the Group is the upliftment and empowerment of the local community. In 2020 we introduced a TeeOff4Tourism Golf Day fundraiser to aid local businesses hard hit by COVID-19 restrictions, and we also partner with local businesses, support local entrepreneurships and help with internships.”

Duverge mentioned that the green practices undertaken by the Group, from the solar-powered villas to kitchen waste being used for compost at Spanish Farm Guest House, and the recent installation of an Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Point to the ongoing removal of alien plants at Sky Villa Boutique Hotel, are but a few of many. “By embracing this commitment we’re able to minimise any potential negative economic, environmental and social impact, plus the local community in which we operate, will thrive,” he said. 

Also reaffirming its commitment to all things green is the Eendracht Hotel & Apartments in Stellenbosch with its recent installation of a 22kw DC Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Point. Having embraced the ‘green’ philosophy long before it was the fashionable thing to do, Eendracht has, since 1997 when it was rebuilt, minimised its environmental footprint significantly. Eendracht stays true to its management philosophy – we do not do business for short term profits, but for long term gains.  

We believe in sustainability and social accountability, declared William Stephens, owner of De Hoop Collection, De Hoop Nature Reserve. “We’ve realised that success is not only measured financially and through performance, but also through continually striving to serve and develop our community, and the environment – in essence this is the driving force behind our business.” 

De Hoop Collection’s prime focus is on developing its employees and local entrepreneurship, but it also concentrates on environmentally-friendly practices, particularly because of its highly valued Marine Protected coastline, and protecting cultural heritage.

“Protecting the cultural heritage of the area, entrusted to De Hoop Collection, in the De Hoop Nature Reserve is a wonderful privilege, and one that we do not take lightly,” said Stephens.    

“You can’t be in a place as beautiful as Knysna,” stated Chris Schutte, GM at The Turbine Boutique Hotel and Spa, “and not be aware that we all need to be committed to sustainable tourism.” Schutte explained that with Knysna being in a water scarce region various water and energy saving measures have been incorporated at The Turbine. “We’ve endeavoured to be as eco-friendly as possible.”

Also interviewed were some affiliates of Cape Country Routes (CCR), an umbrella body with a collection of more than 20 privately-owned establishments. 

Jonas Sandstrom, owner of the eco-conscious Gonana Guest House in Paternoster said that armed with the knowledge that travellers have shown an increased desire to experience destinations working with a sustainable and fair trade approach, there are many benefits to be gained from committing to sustainable tourism. It was this knowledge that led PJ Basson, owner and GM of Montagu Country Hotel to getting his hotel certified as a Fairtrade in Tourism product. “We had to undergo an audit to get certified,” he explained “fortunately we had many of the mandatory sustainable tourism requirements already in place. In April we added a 22kw DC EV charging unit and towards the end of June a substantial solar plant will be introduced”. Also fair trade registered, the De Zeekoe Guest Farm strives for fairness, ethical business practice and environmental respect and, said Kristy Potgieter, the General Manager, “we’re committed to supporting local, free-range and home-grown produce with solar energy, housing – we employ and provide homes for 20 families, and a school for local children”.  

Barbara Burger, Guest Liaison at The Arniston Spa Hotel said, “We support sustainable tourism by subscribing to the concept ‘buy local, and we follow the principle ‘reduce, re-use, re-cycle’ with all our recyclable waste being collected by the local recycling business”.  

The owner of New Holme Country Lodge, PC Ferreira, who started three non-profit organisations in the past two years to invest in his surrounding communities, remarked that small, owner-run businesses with an authentic old-time human experience will always do well, particularly if clients are afforded the opportunity to connect with nature – a deeply grounded need that most are not aware of until they get it, and they will return for the experience.  

In conclusion, Mr Delvaux’ observation, “Ultimately ecological commitment is about people coming together to look after the land, water, animals and plants and to sustainably use these resources to the benefit of communities and future generations” – says it best.

 

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