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September 09, 2013

The Backpack Celebrates Responsible Tourism in #LoveCapeTown

The Backpack in responsible #LoveCapeTown is a proud supporter of Mdzananda Animal Clinic in Khayeltisha. Photo courtesy of The Backpack

Not just an affordable accommodation option The Backpack is also a pioneer in responsible tourism, offering eco-friendly hospitality in the heart of the Mother City (74 New Church Street, Cape Town).

In honour of World Tourism Day on Friday 27 September, 2013 and the theme ‘Tourism and Water: Protecting our Common Future’, we interviewed Lee Harris, Manager of The Backpack, one of the City of Cape Town's endorsed responsible tourism projects, to find out what they’re doing to be responsible and why they #LoveCapeTown.

What is The Backpack doing to celebrate World Tourism Day and its theme Tourism and Water?

The Backpack will start an awareness drive during September to encourage our guests to support a good cause by purchasing a glass of tap water on World Tourism Day for R5 per glass.  The proceeds of the sales will be donated to Tap Tap Water , an NGO that uses income from tap water sales to provide a tap for a disadvantaged community.  This will be a great opportunity for us to gain feedback and support in order to start doing this on a regular basis.

Practicing responsible tourism is important to  The Backpack because…

It fits in with our philosophy of ‘the way we work, the way we live and the way we are’.

We are choosing to make a difference. It makes our guests and staff aware of the importance of saving the environment for the future, teaching them skills to take back into their families and communities.

Practicing responsible tourism helps us give back to the community by supporting local crafts and products, local tours and community projects; thereby allowing us to bring tourism into the communities.  Guests can feel and see the difference at The Backpack and choose to make a difference by staying with us.

Please tell us about the most successful outreach programme The Backpack has been involved in.

In 2007 we met Mario van Niekerk, who started the GCU Academy  in the Cape Flats; an after-school soccer programme to keep kids off the streets.  We became involved and assisted him in running his programme from a primary school in the area.  The Backpack implemented a literacy programme funded by donations, tourism awareness and volunteers.

In April 2010, we put up a food tent (vegetable garden) on the school premises.  We later enlarged the vegetable garden, of which the produce is used to help supplement the daily lunches in the school-feeding programme.  We purchase excess spinach and other vegetables from the GCU Academy on a regular basis, which is used to purchase more seedlings. 

The Backpack also sent three members from the Heideveld community to do a greening course with Soil for Life , to help upkeep the vegetable garden.  Even with this intervention it has been a difficult process as people leave and then the garden is not looked after as well as it should be. We have not always been successful with our yield but we had an intervention last year of German Landscape students who put in a more sustainable garden with local indigenous plants and herbs, as well as veggies. This has proved to be much better.

To include female children, GCU started a rope skipping project, which was run in conjunction with the soccer project.  The Backpack has sponsored twelve girls who have made it into our Provincial Team.

We were instrumental in setting up the school library, where kids can spend time after school receiving assistance with their homework.

Our guests are always asked to donate their key deposits and any old clothing. We sell the clothes in order to buy things that we need for the project. Each month we pay the salaries of the soccer and rope skipping coaches, as well as website hosting.

We introduced Mario to a filmmaker who made a documentary about the GCU and assisted in arranging a fundraising event where the documentary was screened.

We also connect with volunteers and put them in touch with the GCU Academy to volunteer at the school.  Our staff members visit the project in their spare time, where they help the kids learn to read or play soccer with them.

What are your Top 5 water spots in #LoveCapeTown and why?

Cape Town Stadium – I love how the water comes down from the mountain and generates the power to run the lights.
Newlands Spring, Lady Anne Barnards Bath in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens and Newlands Forest - the Forest offers great streams and lots of fresh air.
Table Mountain Road – especially at this time of the year.
Deer Park – for a lovely walk through the Proteas and over the river, ending up at the start of the Hoerikwagga Trail.

Why do you #LoveCapeTown?

It’s full of hip, creative people who make this city rock!

For more information on World Tourism Day, you can visit http://wtd.unwto.org/.

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