Responsible Tourism

There has never been a more opportune time in tourism, but the tourism industry and our society has also never before been faced with such an urgent need to address the triple bottom line – investing in solid, practical and firm principles of ethical behaviour, management and lifestyle. It is time for action.

Cape Town Tourism is committed to playing a pro-active and co-operative role in the equitable development of tourism in Cape Town and the Western Cape.

We have entered an interactive age where a new generation of responsible travellers is influencing our markets and dictating what products and experiences it wants to buy.

These responsible travellers are seeking real, meaningful and authentic experiences and are in tune with responsible lifestyle practices such as the use of alternative energy, buying fair-trade products and experiences and supporting community tourism.

Cape Town Tourism supports responsible tourism which, by definition, is “tourism that promotes responsibility to the environment through its sustainable use; responsibility to involve local communities in the tourism industry; responsibility for the safety and security of visitors and responsible government, employees, employers, unions and local communities”.

Cleaning up the city is just one of the many initiatives under taken by Cape Town Tourism. Photo © Cape Town Tourism

One of the most sensitive issues that the tourism industry faces is the phenomenon of commercial sexual exploitation of children, mainly in developing countries, by tourists often coming from developed countries. In partnership with the UN World Tourism Organisation, ECPAT (End Child Pornography and Trafficking) has developed The Code, an international code of conduct intended to prevent child sex tourism by making the tourism and hospitality industry vigilant and aware. As a tourism industry membership association, Cape Town Tourism will play a critical role in driving the implementation of The Code in Cape Town.

The Code is used in many countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas. In terms of the African continent, to date only Kenya has introduced The Code. Cape Town Tourism has committed itself and our members to work with stakeholders such as Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa to adopt the Code.

Cape Town Tourism encourages members to adopt responsible tourism principles in their businesses. We launched responsible tourism guidelines for visitors in the 2009 Official Cape Town Visitors Guide. In the same year, we added simple criteria to the quality assurance programme for accommodation and tour operators.

The quality assurance programme is operated in partnership with the star grading system managed by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa. The assessment is conducted by qualified grading council assessors. The cost of the assessment is included in the membership fees. Assessments are conducted every two years.

Assessment applies to all accommodation providers that are not graded and all tour operators that have not passed the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association minimum criteria.

The full criteria can be downloaded below. The main criteria include:

  • Evidence of an environmental statement and/or policy
  • Evidence of a supply chain or procurement statement and/or policy including commitment to buy from local businesses
  • Evidence of a community interaction statement and/or policy including a commitment to use local guides and assist guests in community engagement

We work with government and a variety of partners such as Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa to create awareness of responsible tourism issues. We encourage you to engage with us to find out how you can get involved in the equitable development of tourism.

Cape Town is committed to Responsible Tourism. Photo © Cape Town Tourism

What other cities are doing

South Africa and Cape Town in particular has been at the forefront of responsible tourism practices. The Cape Town declaration on responsible tourism was signed in 2002 at the Cape Town Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations. The conference was attended by 280 delegates from 20 countries. The follow up conference was held in Kerala in 2008 and was attended by 503 delegates from 29 countries.

Two leading responsible tourism destinations have been highlighted as winners of the Responsible Tourism Awards. They are New Zealand and The New Forest in England.

New Zealand has implemented many of the principles of the Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism in Destinations and demonstrated what national government can achieve – working with the private sector, local communities and local government – by harnessing tourism to benefit its people and their environment. See

The New Forest in England has, for the past 15 years, worked with visitors, the industry, the community – including commoners and small holders – to look after the environment. This includes the exciting contribution of the New Forest Breakfast to sustainable development, only possible because there are now sufficient local suppliers to meet the demand for local produce from locals and visitors. 

The World Travel & Tourism Council has published a comprehensive list of mini case studies of previous winners and finalists of the Tourism for Tomorrow awards. These are very useful examples of best practice in “green business”. Visit


Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism (2002)

City of Cape Town Responsible Tourism policy (2009)

City of Cape Town Responsible Tourism action plan (2009)

City of Cape Town Responsible Tourism declaration (2009)

Cape Town responsible tourism tips for visitor

The Code criteria