Making Community Cape Town stronger

mandela, quote, cape town, south africa

A few months ago we spoke about why employees are so important to a tourism business’ success, and also why it’s important that your employees are happy at work. Some of you might have rolled your eyes and said “Duh! It’s so obvious”. This month we’re going to continue with the theme of happiness but suggest something that’s less obvious – that happy communities contribute to a tourism business’ success.

Discontent in Khayelitsha, for example, can very well affect a B&B elsewhere in Cape Town, in Constantia for example. Repeated service delivery protests make a dent in Cape Town’s destination image, and if the N2 is blocked your guests may find it difficult to get to you. And then there’s the negative word of mouth…

You may ask “Surely looking after the well-being of communities is the job of the municipality and councillors?” While true, many Cape Town tourism businesses contribute to the development of those communities in Cape Town that can do with a helping hand. Big companies would call this corporate social responsibility (CSR) and a small business may call this charity. The label is not as important as the action.

Here are some ideas as to how your tourism business can get involved in community development in Cape Town:

1.  Support existing organisations

Support existing organisations in their efforts so that you contribute to their sustainability. You may want to consider themes that are important to your business such as health, education, sport, culture, conservation, etc. The Two Oceans Aquarium supports Reach for a Dream, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Habitat for Humanity.

Two Oceans Aquarium, Etafeni Day Care Centre Trust, Reach for a Dream Foundation
The Two Oceans Aquarium hosts children from the Etafeni Day Care Centre Trust. The trip was organised by the Reach for a Dream Foundation, an organisation the aquarium supports. Here you see the kids with party packs, buckets and spades.

2.  Concentrate your efforts

Concentrate your efforts on a limited number of initiatives as opposed to supporting numerous different initiatives; the impact of the latter will dilute your efforts and be unlikely to make a meaningful contribution to the initiative. The Backpack, South Africa’s original backpacker hostel, supports the GCU Academy, an organization that offers children in Cape Town’s Heideveld suburb learning support and sports development. The Backpack subsidises some of the coaches’ salaries, is refurbishing some of the facilities from which the academy is run, buys produce from the academy’s food garden, helps to recruit volunteers for the project and raises funds for the academy by asking guests to donate their key deposits.

The Backpack, Cape Town Backpacker, Cape Town Tourism
The Backpack helps to recruit volunteers to lend a hand for Heideveld learning support and sports development organisation, GCU

3.  Make contributions in-kind

If you are unable to donate in cash, consider the option of offering vouchers for your tour, discounts on dinner bookings, or auctioning prizes at your conference in support of fundraising by local projects. The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway provides concession and complimentary tickets to registered NGOs, NPOs and community organisations.

Iliso Care Society, Table Mountain Aerial Cableway
Elderly members of the Iliso Care Society visit Table Mountain courtesy of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway

4.  Commit on an on-going basis

Commit, whether it be financially or in-kind, on an ongoing basis so that projects are confident of your support. City Sightseeing Cape Town contributes annually to the Tourism Community Development (TCD) Trust.

5.  Budget for community investment

Consider allocations to community investment in your annual budget.

6.  Partner with other tourism businesses

Join forces with other tourism businesses by partnering with them to support relevant projects your efforts will have greater impact. Ashanti Lodge, Daytrippers, Drive South Africa and Grassroute Tours founded the Tourism Community Development Trust (TCD TRUST), a non-profit organization that is involved in several community projects in Cape Town. The trust now has over 20 partners contributing to its efforts.

Blomvlei Library, Hanover Park, TCD Trust
The Blomvlei Library in Hanover Park was opened in 2011 with the support of the TCD Trust. The trust continues to support the library, thanks to the regular contributions by trust members

7.  Arrange activities on commemorative days

Join in on collective effort by arranging activities on commemorative days, like Mandela Day and Youth Day. In 2015, the City’s Tourism, Events and Economic Development officials arranged a half day tour with CitySightseeing Cape Town, for a group of girls from Ons Plek, an NGO working with street children. The girls ‘felt like tourists’ in their own city and during the final leg they ‘wished the tour could start all over again’!


Ons Plek, Tour Cape Town, Mandela Day, City of Cape Town
Girls from Ons Plek hop on the bus to go on a tour of Cape Town on Mandela Day, a treat organised by the City of Cape Town

8.  Get staff involved in your efforts

Allocate each staff member a certain amount of time each year to ‘volunteer’ on community development projects that have been identified, e.g. one paid day work with an alien- clearing or tree-planting project, and encourage them to raise funds for this initiative on their own if they would like to. Staff and visitors at The Backpack get involved by knitting blankets for sick babies and young children with HIV.

Scarfs knitted, Baphumelele Crèche, Khayelitscha Town­ship, Cape Town, The Backpack
Scarfs knitted for the Baphumelele Crèche in Khayelitscha Town­ship, Cape Town, by staff and guests from The Backpack

9.  Get guests involved in your efforts

Inform your guests about the initiatives that you support; they might want to donate as well when they hear about this so ensure that you provide them with information about how to do so. You might even want to introduce a voluntary contribution on conference or guest booking forms in order to encourage more support for these initiatives. Cape Town hotel, The Vineyard Hotel, raises funds for its Kids of the Cape initiative this way. A voluntary levy is added to the bill, and this amount is matched by the hotel.

Donations, Vineyard hotel, Kids of the Cape, Vrygrond Family Festival
Donations from guests at the Vineyard hotel funds the efforts of the Kids of the Cape organisation, like the Vrygrond Family Festival

10.  Inform guests about responsible conduct

Make sure to inform guests about responsible conduct in communities. This will not only help to avoid uncomfortable situations where they may have offended someone, but it will help them feel more confident engaging in the local area and will pave the way for more constructive and responsible tourism dynamics going forward. Cape Town Tourism also give some valuable tips for tourists on their website

11.  Engage with communities fairly and respectfully

Likewise, ensure that any visits you lead into communities are done in a way that is respectful and that benefits them, e.g. ensure that visitors have an opportunity to support local spaza shops, restaurants, and/or crafters. Meet with local beneficiaries to identify the best way for your business to benefit the local area, provide a positive visitor experience and avoid any negative impacts on communities.

12.  Encourage responsible volunteering

If your guests would like to volunteer their time during their visit, make sure to tell them about responsible volunteering and how their skills may be passed on in a way that will be of true benefit locally. Uthando South Africa facilitates volunteer outings to the programmes it works at. These programs include urban agriculture, youth development, old age, day care and refugee centres, environmental, animal projects, schools, orphanages, skills development and centres for abused women and children.

Urban garden, volunteer responsibly, Uthando
Working in an urban garden is a good way for tourists to volunteer responsibly. Uthando organises these volunteering opportunities

Your tourism business may already be involved in supporting Community Cape Town, even if it is in a small way. Remember that every effort counts, and this also applies to those businesses who aren’t yet contributing. Remember also that being in this case being competitive is less important than the strengthening Community Cape Town, so you can look to what others are doing and replicate it. The Responsible Tourism “How-to Guide” has more examples of how Cape Town’s tourism businesses contribute to community development.