Moving from Inspiration to Implementation at RT week seminar 2015

At the recent Responsible Travel Week Seminar held in Cape Town a high-powered panel of speakers made the case that business practices in responsible tourism has a social and direct impact on our environment. Businesses were initially spurred on by the fact that being responsible to the environment was not only the right thing to do but also made business sense as it raised profit margins. The seminar aimed to engage the South African tourism industry, key stakeholders and interested individuals in a stimulating dialogue about practical responsible tourism practices. 

MC Iain Harris described Cape Town as being in the forefront of Responsible Tourism. Iain is the founder and Creative Director of Coffeebeans Routes. 

“Responsible tourism is responsible business,” said opening speaker Anton Groenewald, the Executive Director of Tourism, Events and Marketing for the City of Cape Town.

He gave insight into the responsibility of businesses toward the environment, the citizens and growth of the local economy. ‘There is no such thing as waste but placed in the wrong place’ he said.

Jason Drew entertained the audience with his remarkable story of growing larvae from waste.  He expressed the need to move away from the industrial revolution way of thinking and to redesign products so they can be reused instead of throwing them away.

Jason is an international business leader and serial entrepreneur turned environmentalist and author. He chairs a number of organisations including, his latest green venture. This includes waste nutrient recycling using fly larvae, urban wind energy generation and disease vector control using genetically modified mosquitos and conservation estate development. Jason highlighted that the industrial revolution is over and the sustainability revolution has begun. He further stated that how people manage this transition will define the outcomes of the 21st century and that businesses need to understand the environment and environmentalists need to understand business or they will both fail. This ‘environmental capitalist’ believes that there is no such thing as waste but rather resources placed in the wrong place. This he has proven through his latest green business ventures. 

During his in depth discussion at the seminar, Grant Newton stated that “A visit to Cape Town is incomplete without a visit to the Big 6.” He expressed the challenges of being a farming community living in a city and focused on how they give back to previously disadvantaged communities by offering free accommodation to some of their staff. They also fund and assist with education development programs in rural areas. Grant is a member of the Board of Directors at Cape Town Tourism. 

Also speaking at the seminar was Colin Devenish, the Executive Manager of Operations at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. He stated that the “Big 6 helps uplift communities” and that responsible tourism is centered around  economic social and environmental impacts. The Waterfront has made great strides in using energy efficiently.

Representing Grootbos at the seminar, Lean Terblanche described how they’ve developed schools in the area and uplifted the surrounding communities.

“Children are impressionable and sport is a great way to help them develop life skills.” she said. Grootbos supplies lodges with organic foods and bottles their own

Meruschka Govender, a freelance Journalist and Travel Blogger enlightened the delegates about responsible tourism from a Bloggers perspective. Her presentation was focused on social responsibility and wildlife awareness. 

She encourages tourists not to “bargain too much” but rather “pay a fair price.” According to Meruschka we’ve come a long way by implementing responsible tourism practices. She expressed the need to purchase local arts and crafts and to support trade industries.

As a blogger, the key issues she looks at are Environmental, Socio-cultural and Economic impacts. “Fly your flag. Tell your responsible tourism stories…” she said.

The highlight of the seminar was the video conference with Ron Mader, founder of the RT Week initiative. He expressed the view that being a responsible tourist varies in different countries but we should always support the local traders which helps with the development of the tourism industry. Ron believes that we should all conform to the digital age. We should use it as a platform to raise awareness about Responsible Tourism. He ended his talk with the notion that we should be “motivated online and take advantage of the latest technology and innovation.”

During her closing remarks and vote of thanks for the seminar, Director of Tourism for the City of Cape Town, Nombulelo Mkefa stressed the need to share experiences and ideas with one another. She also focused on finding solutions through community projects.

“We’ve come a long way as there are more people on board and there are more people who realize that responsible tourism makes good business sense. The work begins now. We’ve seen the examples out there,  it’s about telling the story. ” She said

Also planned for RT Week were the two flash mobs in St Georges Mall and V&A Waterfront.

The responsible tourism seminar and flash mobs were in partnership with the Big6 and the Two Oceans Aquarium. Cape Town’s ‘Big 6’ tourist attractions: the V&A Waterfront, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens (SANBI), Groot Constantia, Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Co. (Pty.) Ltd, Robben Island Museum, and the Cape Point Partnership. 

RT Week is a precursor to the 11th International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations (RTD11), also to be hosted by the City of Cape Town, and takes place during Africa Travel Week 2015 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from the 14 -15 April 2015.