Responsible Travel in South Africa
When after living 17 years in China, Marco Polo, famous trader and traveller decided to leave Cathay, as it then was called, to return to his native Venice, the journey took him two years. More than 700 years after his extraordinary travels along the Silk Road, mobility is a fact of life and global tourism worth more than US$700 billion. Global tourism is not only a lucrative, multi billion dollar industry that employs 8% of the global workforce but also one of the fastest growing industries.
Global economists forecast continuing international tourism growth, ranging be-tween three and six percent annually, depending on the location. As one of the world's largest and fastest growing industries, this continuous growth will place great stress on remaining biologically diverse habitats and indigenous cultures, which are often used to support mass tourism.
Unregulated tourism development, however, is continuing to devastate environ-ments, degrade cultures and destroy traditional livelihoods. In order to ensure that tourism is not invasive but beneficial to the environment and host communities, a number of organisations have come up with ethical and sustainable ways to trans-form the industry.
According to the Sustainable Development of Tourism Conceptual Definition by the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) formulated in 2004, "sustainable tourism de-velopment guidelines and management practices are applicable to all forms of tour-ism in all types of destinations, including mass tourism and the various niche tour-ism segments. Sustainability principles refer to the environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development, and a suitable balance must be es-tablished between these three dimensions to guarantee its long-term sustainability.
Sustainable tourists can reduce the impact of tourism in many ways, including:
informing themselves of the culture, politics, and economy of the communi-ties visited
anticipating and respecting local cultures' expectations and assumptions
contributing to intercultural understanding and tolerance
supporting the integrity of local cultures by favouring businesses which con-serve cultural heritage and traditional values
supporting local economies by purchasing local goods and participating with small, local businesses
conserving resources by seeking out businesses that are environmentally con-scious, and by using the least possible amount of non-renewable resources
Increasingly, destinations and tourism operations are endorsing and following "re-sponsible tourism" as a pathway towards sustainable tourism. Responsible tourism and sustainable tourism have an identical goal, that of sustainable development.
The pillars of responsible tourism are therefore the same as those of sustainable tourism – environmental integrity, social justice and economic development. The major difference between the two is that, in responsible tourism, individuals, or-ganisations and businesses are asked to take responsibility for their actions and the impacts of their actions. This shift in emphasis has taken place because some stake-holders feel that insufficient progress towards realising sustainable tourism has been made since the Earth Summit in Rio. This is partly because everyone has been expecting others to behave in a sustainable manner. The emphasis on responsibility in responsible tourism means that everyone involved in tourism – government, product owners and operators, transport operators, community services, NGO’s and CBO’s, tourists, local communities, industry associations – are responsible for achieving the goals of responsible tourism.
Responsible Tourism in South Africa:
South Africa’s tourism industry is exploding, and we believe that those involved should take responsibility for the development and preservation of the communities and environments on which the business relies. At Andulela, we consider it our duty to foster job creation, social upliftment and ecological awareness. To this end, local communities and environmental initiatives are involved in and supported by An-dulela’s tours.
For Andulela Experience, responsible tourism means sharing South Africa’s natural and cultural riches, while contributing positively to the preservation and growth of the communities and environments we visit. Our policy is one of mutual respect: we ensure value for money and professionalism in our relationship with visitors, while always remaining cognizant of the needs of locals.
There are a few South African operators that go the extra mile, such as Andulela Travel. Andulela, which means ‘first’ in Xhosa, provides guided tours and day trips that comprise of cultural tours, wildlife and conservation tours, as well as music and culinary tours. The tours generally take tourists into the heart of local life and cul-ture, often visiting homes, workplaces and social hideouts for a hands-on experience of local customs and life, facilitating insight into a new culture. It furthermore cre-ates a platform for visitor and host to meet and exchange, meaningfully and learn from each other.
In Cape Town, Jazz Safaris take tour participants to some of the greatest living jazz legends of the Mother City. During soccer tours, visitors meet township soccer play-ers and promoters and attend matches, when possible. There are furthermore gos-pel tours, drumming workshops, braiding tours, township tours, meeting locals tours, wine tours and Bo-Kaap (Malay quarter) tours on offer.
All these experiences have in common that they take the tourist away from dull, crowded, impersonal tours he or she may usually experience, towards gaining a unique insight, acquiring an authentic taste of local life as well as creating an inter-est and pride in custom and heritage.
Wildlife tours around Cape Town are hosted by conservationists and help to create awareness to overlooked flora and fauna. Sustainable development is created through job creation in local areas, thanks to responsible tourism and wildlife con-servancy. Andulela offers Safari tours, baboon tours, a tour to the meercats in the Klein Karoo, Rondevlei wetlands tours, botany tours, whale watching excursions, swimming with dolphins, diving with seals, surf lessons, rock art tours, ballooning trips, oyster catching and much more is available to tourists to get a well rounded taste of the rich wildlife and natural surroundings. Money generated helps the con-servation of the natural surrounding and animals.
The culinary tours are an exciting and new adventure available in responsible tour-ism. Every culture has its own culinary traditions, ingredients and rituals and what better way to discover these than through a tour, which takes a tourist straight into a foreign kitchen, the heart of a home, to witness the cooking up of a feast.
Culinary tours include a guided walking tour through the township, a hands-on cooking demonstration and lunch. The tour focuses on food and traditions and the cultural aspects embraced by the local culture, straight from the homes which show-case the story behind Black African cuisine.
So if you dream about an interesting holiday, one without the usual "tourist" experi-ences, and the chance to leave a location with a sound knowledge and understand-ing of the local culture, why not take part in responsible tourism? You will be help-ing with social responsibility needs as well as creating an awareness of culture and identity.