Doing the responsible thing is easier than you think

(Guest blog by Tessa Buhrmann, founder and editor of Responsible Traveller)

When it comes to responsible tourism and doing the right thing, it’s easy to feel intimidated and think that it’s only the ‘big guys’ that have the ability to do it.  Agreed, the means often seem out of reach of many small businesses, and the perceived costs and complications can be quite daunting.

But you know the sayings: ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ and as awful as it sounds, ‘How do you eat an elephant? Bite by bite’. So how do you go about changing things for the better? Step by small incremental step, learning from those who’ve gone before, the champions of responsible tourism, and steadily making changes in the way you do business.

Champions of Responsible Tourism in Cape Town

Cape Town has a wealth of these champions – from the big-budget operations like Table Mountain Aerial Cableway with their innovative ways of dealing with water and waste management, the V&A Waterfront’s huge investment into resource management,  the Two Oceans Aquarium with its commitment to raise awareness about the environment, ‘Africa’s Greenest Hotel’ Hotel Verde that was constructed from-the-ground-up as a green environmentally efficient building, and the Cape Town Marathon, a mega-event that is a certified climate-neutral event and in 2017 was voted the Greenest Marathon in the world. 

To small enterprises like Uthando South Africa, whose every breath sees them building capacity into disadvantaged communities and Coffeebeans Routes with experiences that bring travellers and locals together as a means of sharing one another’s reality in a sociable and beneficial way, Moonglow Guesthouse in Simon’s Town, who source all their bathroom amenities, floor mats and other decor items from a local community project and The Backpack , Cape Town’s original backpacker hostel that operates in an eco-conscious and community orientated way.

Some examples of Responsible Tourism in South Africa

Further afield in the Western Cape there’s !Khwa ttu which introduces guests to the world of southern Africa’s San people and their rich history and culture, Dyer Island Cruises that brings the world of conservation to life with their marine tours and Grootbos with its commitment to conservation, the environment and local communities.

Venture into KwaZulu-Natal and there’s Three Tree Hill with its strong ethos of community upliftment, local employment and environmental sustainability and Kosi Forest Lodge whose Manager Blessing’s first role at the business was digging trenches during the building of the lodge, proof of their commitment to employing locally and promoting from within.  Head to Limpopo and there’s Umlani Bush Camp where staff members have direct input into decision-making processes and Madi a Thava where guests experience a sense of place surrounded by the stories, culture and beauty of the local Venda people.

Some examples of Responsible Tourism beyond our borders

And beyond our borders there’s Chobe Game Lodge  in Botswana with its exceptional environmental management initiatives and all-women guiding team (a first in a very male-dominated industry), Ultimate Safaris //Huab Under Canvas, a Namibian safari operation offering ‘back to nature’ experiences in a community conservancy and Anvil Bay, a community lodge in Mozambique that has uplifted, trained and employed members of the local community who had never worked in hospitality before.

How do they do it?

Each of these unique tourism establishments is celebrating responsible tourism in the way they do best. Some have environmental management systems as their strong-point, others just waste, water or energy efficiency. Some community upliftment, providing local employment and economic benefits, others local procurement and on-site vegetable gardens or health and education initiatives. One thing they all have in common is that they have all have been recognised and rewarded publicly by excelling in the World Responsible Tourism Awards or African Responsible Tourism Awards or through the stamp of approval of certification, in this case, Fair Trade Tourism.

responsible tourism at wtm africa 2018
The winners, judges and sponsors of the 2018 African Responsible Tourism Awards

Why is it important?

Knowing that an establishment or experience has been recognised for their efforts brings peace of mind to travellers – it does not, however, negate the need to travel in a mindful and conscious manner. For tourism businesses, it doesn’t all have to happen at once, rather be inspired to do what you can to ‘make better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit’ – the essence of responsible tourism is achieved improvement by improvement and ‘bite by bite’!

About our guest contributor: Tessa Buhrmann is passionate about telling the stories around conservation, communities and the environment and as such founded Responsible Traveller, an informative ‘glossy’ digital magazine and website that inspires travellers to ‘be the difference’. The content offers examples of responsible tourism ‘best practice’, both locally and globally, in the form of entertaining articles, high-quality images and interesting news snippets.