Sustainable Cape Town

Cape Town is known globally for its sustainable tourism practices, and has many sustainable tourism awards. Photo © Cape Town Tourism

Known around the globe as a place of beauty, Cape Town has exceptional diversity in a small geographical area. The sheer economic value of Cape Town’s natural heritage is driven largely by its importance to tourism. With a significant park such as Table Mountain National Park running through the centre of the city (and indeed the greater Cape Peninsula), natural biodiversity is a birthright of all Capetonians and a marvel that is appreciated and admired by visitors. Cape Town is globally recognised as one of the world's most sustainable tourism destinations, and has received many awards in this area.

Known as the Big Six, Cape Town’s top attractions include Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Robben Island, Cape Point, the V&A Waterfront and the Constantia Valley vineyards. The city also offers exceptional beaches (many of them with Blue Flag status), architectural and archaeological heritage, cultural attractions such as the Bo-Kaap and Cape Flats, museums, shops, art galleries and a geographical layout that means one can easily and quickly travel from sea to mountain to city.

The Cape Floral Kingdom has approximately 9 600 species of indigenous plants. It is one of Conservation International’s Global Hotspots of Biodiversity and a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site, placing an international responsibility on our government and ourselves to ensure its conservation.

The City of Cape Town, as well as tourism and business stakeholders, prioritised sustainability as a guiding principle of growth in all aspects of tourism. In 2002, the Cape Town Declaration was developed by these role-players to serve as the foundation for a charter on responsible and sustainable tourism. In 2009, this charter was realised in the Responsible Tourism Policy for the City of Cape Town, ensuring that “green” progress is prioritised and tracked.

Responsible tourism is defined as “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”.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup™ assisted Cape Town in furthering its plans towards becoming a benchmark sustainable, responsible city. The Green Goals were a series of actions taken by the City of Cape Town to ensure that the impact of the influx of 2010 visitors was correctly managed. To this end, a large, street waste-recycling project was implemented and continues today, with separated waste street bins. Low carbon emission public transport, green spaces and low-energy solutions are all being given top priority by the city and its tourism and business stakeholders.

In addition to the measures put in place by authorities and stakeholders, we have entered an interactive age where a new generation of responsible travellers are seeking real, meaningful and authentic experiences and are in tune with responsible lifestyle practices such as buying Fairtrade products and experiences, and supporting community tourism.

There are many projects and initiatives under way in Cape Town that are working for the city in its efforts to be a responsible and sustainable destination. Fair Trade in Tourism, Green Building, township tourism, voluntourism, and the city’s successful bid to be World Design Capital 2014 are but a few.

When all is said and done, if Cape Town is to successfully continue to grow its tourism sector towards job creation and skills development, it must also protect the very thing that has created tourism demand – the environment and its special, colourful citizens.