Responsible tourism and volunteering in South Africa includes numerous conservation and community-based programmes that aim to deliver benefits to both the communities and the volunteers involved. The programmes are based on sustainable principles and adhere to codes of good practice and national minimum standards to ensure all-round positive experiences.

Did you know?

Quality responsible tourism operators are recognised through the Imvelo Responsible Tourism Awards programme.

Responsible tourism and volunteering has long been a part of the South African tourism industry, but in recent years governance of these sectors has been tightened to ensure such programmes impact constructively on economic, social and environmental issues within local communities.

Responsible tourism is a management approach that aims to maximise these benefits on a sustainable level. In 2009, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism drafted a set of National Minimum Standards for Responsible Tourism (NMSRT), as well as an accreditation process to certify competent responsible tourism operators.

NMSRT, finalised in 2011, were based on existing national responsible tourism guidelines and certification criteria, and the international Sustainable Tourism Stewardship Council's Global Criteria for Sustainable Tourism.

NMSRT aim to establish a common understanding of responsible tourism in South Africa and provide a baseline standard for operators to aspire to. The standards include involving local communities in planning and decision making, maintaining and encouraging social and cultural diversity, assessing environmental impacts, using resources sustainably, and maintaining and encouraging natural diversity.

When considering responsible tourism enterprises, check that their operations adhere to the NMSRT and that the company is certified accordingly.

Similarly, responsible voluntourism - or volunteer tourism - is now also underpinned by standards that aim to ensure valuable input by volunteers and tangible benefits for the communities involved.

As a volunteer, check that possible programmes adhere to this code. Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA) has launched an accreditation programme for volunteer projects, using the code as the basis for its assessment. A list of accredited programmes is available on its website.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Fair Trade Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)12 342 2945/3642

Voluntour South Africa
Tel: +27 (0)82 416 6066

Tel: +27 (0)21 790 7782

Calabash Tours
Tel: +27 (0)41 585 6162

All Africa Volunteers
Tel: +27 (0)42 296 0594

African Voluntourism