27 September 2012

World Tourism Day focuses on sustainable energy

In the South African tourism industry the hotel and business events sectors have been among those at the forefront of sustainable energy practices and other environmental initiatives.

Barba Gaoganediwe, Gauteng Tourism Authority senior manager: destination and corporate communications Barba Gaoganediwe, Gauteng Tourism Authority senior manager: destination and corporate communications

Some 33% of all inquiries are about responsible tourism accommodation options and many tourism business owners have invested in renewable energy initiatives - Lihle Dlamini, Tourism KwaZulu-Natal PR and communications manager.

Tourism & Sustainable Energy: Powering Sustainable Development’ is the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (WTO) theme for World Tourism Day. It takes place annually on 27 September. 

According to the WTO the global tourism industry is at the forefront of clean energy transformation and sustainable energy initiatives. Among these are energy-efficient upgrades to aircraft, a move to renewable fuel in the aviation and cruise line industries, and a big shift to energy efficient solutions for hotels.

In his recent keynote presentation at the South African Travel & Tourism Industry Conference, Professor Geoffrey Lipman, president of International Council of Tourism Partners, pointed out that the sub-Saharan region ranked very high on the World Economic Forum Travel & Tourism Competitive Report with regard to environmental sustainability. This was the result of long-standing conservation policies. He said South Africa and Africa as a whole could use this ranking to their advantage to attract more environmentally-conscious travellers.

Mariëtte Du Toit-Helmbold, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, said there has been an increase in the commitment of the Cape Town tourism industry to accelerate the transition to responsible and sustainable tourism practices.

In partnership with the City of Cape Town 21 hotels are currently engaged in a 2-year programme to assess, monitor and share progress towards achieving responsible tourism practices. This forms part of the city’s preparations to develop a longer term Responsible Tourism Management System.

Grant Pascoe, City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Marketing, pointed out that as a long-haul destination, South Africa’s carbon offset needed to be particularly good to attract travellers who may see this as a critical factor in their travel decision-making.

Du Toit-Helmbold added that with Cape Town’s World Design Capital 2014 status, there were opportunities to create more responsible tourism experiences for visitors.

Responsible tourism has also become increasingly important to visitors to KwaZulu-Natal, according to  Lihle Dlamini, Tourism KwaZulu-Natal PR and communications manager. 

‘Some 33% of all inquiries are about responsible tourism accommodation options and many tourism business owners have invested in renewable energy initiatives,’ she said.

Tourism KwaZulu-Natal provides training to SMMEs on sustainable and responsible tourism in its SMME training workshops. 

Barba Gaoganediwe, Gauteng Tourism Authority (GTA) senior manager: destination & corporate communications, said Gauteng’s master plan for sustainable energy formed part of the province’s 2020 vision.

'The 2020 vision aims to ensure Gauteng has sustainable energy and water - particularly sourced from renewable mechanisms - to power developmental needs and future growth. We want to ensure Gauteng’s tourism businesses rejuvenate their tourism products in line with these provincial plans,’ he said.

The GTA has also been working with Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa to assist 15 Dinokeng Game Reserve tourism products to become Fair Trade-certified. In another initiative it is promoting its Green Event Guidelines Handbook – launched at Meetings Africa 2012 and  downloadable from the GTA website. This guides businesses on how to organise green events and conferences in Gauteng.