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Response by South African Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona to open letter on animal interactions

DDear Louise

Let me start by thanking you for bringing these issues to my attention, and for contributing in an informed way to the public debate on the ethics of wild animal interactions for commercial gain. It is only through constant liaison and interaction with passionate industry players such as yourself that we can steer South Africa towards reaching its full tourism potential in a responsible manner.

I would like to reiterate South African Tourism’s position on cub petting. We are fully cognisant of the global anti-petting lobby and back it unreservedly. However, I must emphasise that this is our stance as an organisation and is not necessarily our country’s official policy, as the practice has not been outlawed.

As a destination marketing organisation, we do not have the authority to dictate to tourism enterprises how they should conduct their business if it is in the confines of the law, even if it is not regarded as being in the interest of conservation. The best we can do is educate, inform and guide these businesses, and constantly liaise with government, the trade and conservation bodies on the best way forward.

There is still much to be done around awareness, the OR Tambo incident just informs and highlights the importance of constantly educating the industry.  We know that the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA), did not put up the advert with malicious intent, they simply were not informed. The good news is that after it was red-flagged by Captured in Africa and other members of the public, ACSA has covered the section of mural at OR Tambo International Airport that depicts a family petting lion cubs while they find a suitable replacement for the image.

Please accept my assurance that all of us at South African Tourism are committed to promoting sustainable, responsible and ethical tourism practices. There is still much work to be done, in consultation with the industry, but please don’t hesitate to keep in touch and highlight any other inconsistencies or ethically questionable tourism practices you may come across that you believe we can assist with.

We welcome any input you and others may have in constructively finding solutions together, to develop our tourism economy responsibly. Please feel free to email me at ceo@southafrica.net with any suggestions, queries, red flags or complaints & solutions.

As an alternative, we also encourage all to make use of the various association bodies in our sector as they have standing relationships not only with us but with other related and relevant stakeholders.

I will also be taking part in another webinar with Tourism Update on the 31st of January at 13h30, where I will be available to chat about this and other burning tourism issues in more depth.

Best wishes,

Sisa Ntshona

CEO: South African Tourism

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