Crucial responsible tourism steps for Cape Town

As part of celebrating Responsible Tourism Week and driving conversation around ways to make Cape Town a better place to live in and a much more meaningful place to visit, we asked for your thoughts on responsible tourism initiatives in the city. Here’s one response, from Jessy Lipperts.

Jessy Lipperts runs Extraordinary Travel, a company dedicated to organising inspiring and custom-made travel itineraries to Southern Africa for responsible tourists. She’s a National Tourist Guide and moved from the Netherlands to South Africa in 2003. Her mission is to share her passion for South Africa and its beauty with as many people as possible in a responsible way. Extraordinary Travel supports several projects and non-governmental organisations such as the Trees4Schools Trust, the Chaeli Campaign, the Malealea Development Trust and the Shine Centre.

What do you see as the crucial steps to be taken over the next three to five years if Cape Town is truly going to deliver on its potential to become a responsible destination? What are the biggest risks?

Cape Town in context

First of all, Cape Town must take itself out of the vacuum. Cape Town is part of the Western Cape, South Africa, Southern Africa, the continent. Cape Town should seek collaboration on all these different levels. Why? Visitors never just visited the Mother City. They travelled the Garden Route, went up to Namibia or flew to Kruger and visited the game reserves. Most of all, their trips started in their home countries. I see many different organisations (Cape Town Routes Unlimited, Cape Town Tourism, the Southern African Tourism Services Association, Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa, the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa, City of Cape Town, etc) that are all trying to do something, but haven’t really experienced real collaboration. Everybody out there simply seems to be trying to prove a point – instead of working together towards a common goal. Budgets and strategic plans should be joined to come up with one strategy.

Star grading of establishments

I have a strong opinion on the star grading of accommodation establishments. How can it only involve the guest’s experience? I very strongly feel that it should include standards for staff, the environment and community involvement as well. Star grading (although the South African version is very different than European or American systems) is recognised worldwide, and guests will ask for three-, four- or five-star grading. Five-star grading for staff, environmental practices and community involvement should be compulsory. In short, the star grading system should be completely revised and government should take a very strong stance in making sure that grading is objective and includes all stakeholders and not just guests.

Crime on the mountain

Another issue I feel strongly about. This has to be sorted out. In the last few weeks there have been a lot of muggings, and I find the information available around these crimes quite poor. Where was the crime exactly? What time? These crucial details are somehow not communicated. Why is it so difficult to employ visual guards that walk up and down the mountain? I’m a keen hiker and my favourite is Lion’s Head. I hardly ever see a guard there. And it doesn’t make sense to have guards sitting in a little wooden house at the beginning of the track; they have to be proactive and make people feel safe and looked after.

International media

The international media loves to talk badly about anything happening in Africa and South Africa. I see this as a big risk, and all of us have a part to play in protecting and promoting the places we love. I do this with monthly newsletters and social media, but don’t really have the volume database. Let’s all work together, join databases and bring out weekly and monthly newsletters that show all the incredible things happening in Cape Town, South Africa, Africa – something like, a great resource for empowering and inspiring stories!

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