Cape Town Tourism responds to Guardian article about poverty

In response to an article posted by The Guardian on Sunday, October 9, 2011 titled “Desmond Tutu’s dreams for Cape Town fade as informal apartheid grips the city” we would like to comment from a tourism perspective.

We acknowledge that there is a juxtaposition between Cape Town’s poor and wealthy communities. Poverty is one of the major legacies of apartheid and is a pressing issue that continues to affect the entire country, not limited to Cape Town as was implied in this article. The legacy of apartheid is a disjointed physical landscape and economic society in which the ability of the poor to seize opportunities or achieve any sense of optimism is adulterated by conditions stemming from outdated policies and laws.

To be a great place to visit we must first and foremost be a great place to live. Despite considerable effort to realign the social and urban landscape with post-apartheid values and virtues, for the majority of Capetonians living in informal settlements this is not yet a great place to live. As a city and as the tourism industry, we are deeply aware of our challenges. We have leaders and communities working together to address our socio-economic problems. Overcoming the legacies of apartheid cannot be achieved overnight. Real and positive changes are being made every day, but it is evident that for many of our citizens not enough is being done. We cannot afford to rest on our laurels. Creating an enabling environment for business to flourish, service delivery, continued vigorous debate and an investment in job creation and entrepreneurship will continue to provide the context and far-reaching impact to reimagining Cape Town as a more livable space for all. Projects such as the city’s bid for the title of World Design Capital 2014 are shedding light on sustainable design and the theme “Live Design, Transform Life” provides a platform from which we are able to learn, change and develop the city for the better.

Tourism is one of the biggest economic drivers for Cape Town, contributing R14,2 billion to the local economy and employing close to 300 000 people permanently. It has the potential to be an even greater economic stimulant, both in the short and long term. It does however require consistent support and ongoing public/private partnerships. In Cape Town, the City and the tourism industry have committed to embracing the principles of Responsible Tourism, which simply means tourism ‘that creates better places for people to live in, and better places to visit’, as a way of life and doing business. The majority of large and small tour operators are innately involved in resident communities – developing tourism products and investing in social responsibility programmes in partnership with local civil societies.

For many young informal settlement dwellers, the exposure to the tourism industry whets the desire to enter the profession. For others indirectly involved in the sector, such as crafters, restaurateurs, caterers, musicians and service providers, tourism is a lifeline to livelihood.

In the long run, the continued growth and sustainability of the tourism sector will go a long way towards helping many people rise above their circumstances. Our sector is deeply socially aware and working hard to contribute to real solutions to the real issues still plaguing our city and country.

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