#87litres in the day of a tourist discovery

If you’re going to set a date to challenge six people to make their way around to some of Cape Town’s tourist attractions and save water, try not to make it the hottest day in summer yet. 

But, the participants of our #87litres in the day of a tourist discovery were up to the challenge on 6 December. Shona McDonald from Fair Trade Tourism, Di Brown, Narique from Century City Hotel and Patrycja from Travel Opulent joined Sadia from Responsible Tourism Cape Town and Heidi from Better Tourism Africa on what turned out to be a beautiful day.

We wanted to show two things  1) that it’s possible for tourists to bring their water usage down to #87litres per day – the target locals have to aim for. And 2) the clever and effective things that tourism businesses are doing to help tourists in this quest. 

Our participants were ready with their phones fully charged and Twitter fingers well-flexed. Our day was spent like this

  • We visited the Century City Hotel where GM, Walda Meyer took us on a site visit and gave us some much-needed coffee. 
  • Then we headed up Table Mountain using the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway. All of us used the toilet and bathroom because we wanted to see what was in place in terms of water saving.  Thanks to Cape Town Pass, we didn’t have to queue for tickets. 
  • The group split here. Heidi and Patrycja met Inge Dykman, the head of Leisure Tourism at ‎Wesgro, at the new Radisson Red a site visit and lunch on their rooftop where the swimming pool looked very inviting. Swimming pool! Read more below about what the Radisson does to save water and keep their pool full. 
  • The rest of the group headed out to the Twelve Apostles Hotel where we met up with GM Michael Nel and Maintenance Manager Victor over cocktails and snacks on the terrace. The view was stunning and info on what they do to save water equally interesting. 
  • Die-hards Shona, Di and Sadia then ambled along to Groot Constantia where we had a tasting (courtesy of Cape Town Pass). We also met up with Mike from Dongola Guest House who has many useful tips on what a small accommodation establishment can do to save water. 

What we found is that tourists can keep to #87litres per day if they’re willing and if the tourism sector helps them to. We discovered that waterwise tourism doesn’t have to mean compromising on customer satisfaction. Here’s some findings from the day: 

Engaging with guests is key

  • Communicating with guests about water savings is not only essential – it works. Guests use less water when you ask them to.
  • Explain the problem, or rather the urgency to save water. Most people are understanding if they’re informed. 
  • Tell visitors what you do to save water, like recycling grey water. This demonstrates that you’re committed to water-saving and that you’re asking guests to make the effort when you’re not. 
  • Tell visitors what they should do to save water, like taking two-minute showers. The best place for this type of signage is where people use water – showers, toilets and basins for example. 
  • Don’t take it for granted that people know what to do to save water. They may not. 
  • Make it a team effort, like saying that together we can avoid Day-Zero. 
  • Bring out people’s competitive spirit. For example, offer a prize for the person who took the shortest shower. 
  • Make people feel like a winner for saving water. For example, a sign above the toilet could say “congratulations for not flushing number 1s. You’ve saved 6 litres of drinking water per flush.” 
  • Use a combination of messages. They could be fun, inspiring, informational, instructional, profound, emotional, create a sense or urgency…
  • Personalise your messaging. Use your branding and keep it inline with your corporate identity. There’s no need for cookie-cutter messaging. 
  • Use messaging to let people know when things might be different from what they expect, for example if ice buckets are no longer made available. Preparing them for bad news will make them more understanding. 
  • If providing water is hard work, like at the top of Table Mountain, say so. People will appreciate the effort and be more conscious about how much they use.
  • Signage saying that you’re committed to saving water should be placed somewhere prominent, like at the reception area. It must be bold enough for people to take notice. This tells visitors that the problem is serious and that you’re doing something about it. We’re hoping that this motivates visitors to take action too. 
  • Encourage idea sharing because visitors might have clever ideas of their own that may work, especially when it comes to what messaging is effective. 

Make it easy to save water

  • Make low water consumption automatic with water saving devices like low-flow showerheads, tap aerators and low-volume toilets. 
  • Give visitors the tools to save water, be it timers in the showers to buckets to collect the first rush of cold water from taps.

Do your research

Scout for new technologies and solutions. There’s many resources on the internet, but other tourism businesses may also have some leads. During our day out, we learnt about shower timers, water-free napkins, tried and tested low-flow shower heads, refreezable plastic ice blocks and so much more. 

#87litres day out in Tweets