8 May 2011

First Responsible Tourism in Cities Mini-Conference held at INDABA

Following on from the Responsible Tourism in Cities Mini- Conference, the plan is to host a responsible cities global conference in South Africa in 2013.

Nombulelo Mkefa, City of Cape Town Director of Tourism Nombulelo Mkefa, City of Cape Town Director of Tourism

Responsible tourism must become an integral part of our destination’s standard tourism offering - Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, CEO of Cape Town Tourism

The first-ever Responsible Tourism in Cities Mini-Conference on the African continent took place at INDABA on 6 May 2011.

The conference reflected on the role of city governments in responsible tourism (RT); looked at RT and the marketplace; presented a business case for RT; and held discussion on what was needed for effective destination-wide collaboration on RT.

Among the issues highlighted was the fact that while Responsible Tourism (RT) is central to South Africa’s tourism policy and a key trend in tourism globally, little focus has been placed on the needs and challenges faced by cities to become sustainable destinations and to implement RT. As key tourism destinations, and home to more than half of South Africa’s population, keynote speakers pointed out that South African cities are crucial sites for sustainable development, as well as job creation and economic growth.

The conference also focused on how the private sector could adopt, implement, manage and market responsible tourism.

It was initiated by the City of Cape Town, and partners included the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA), the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (FEDHASA), the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI), and South African Tourism.

Ron Mader, founder of Planeta.com - a global leader in driving the message of RT on the internet and online community - addressed the failures of industry and local authorities in their attempts to implement RT.

Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, said the conference underlined the importance of collaboration between the government and private sector with the government needing to lead RT while the private sector drives it.

She said RT can no longer be regarded as a niche or separate category. ‘It’s got to be a principle that is applied across all tourism sectors and has to be integrated into everything we do as tourism. It must become an integral part of our destination’s standard tourism offering.’

Sheryl Ozinsky, responsible tourism consultant to the city of Cape Town, said the Responsible Tourism in Cities Conference created a space to start asking questions around RT. ‘If we create better places for people to live they will automatically become better places for people to visit. But how do you take that concept and make it happen in your business, your municipality, in a tourism authority?  How do we get customers and tourists to understand how important it is to choose products responsibly? How do we get industry to begin to implement RT as core to their businesses? How do cities talk to each other about RT and collaborate better?'

One interesting innovation at the conference was the use of social media and the internet to broadcast presentations in real time via the web, allowing for simultaneous virtual participation by delegates around the world. People from the UK, USA, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Germany and Peru used Twitter, Facebook and Flickr to communicate.

Nombulelo Mkefa, City of Cape Town Director of Tourism said the use of the internet, and social media enabled the conference to reach a global audience. ‘It linked us to those who are interested in responsible tourism and responsible solutions, and enabled us to tap into the wealth of experience and resources that exist around the world.’