A sustainable future for the tourism industry: Cape Town Tourism attends COP17

The Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meets annually to assess progress in dealing with climate change, makes decisions and adopts resolutions on these issues. COP17 is currently underway at the Durban International Convention Centre until 9 December 2011. As a member of the Cape Town Climate Change Coalition, Cape Town Tourism is attending and will have a presence at the expo stand of the coalition, along with the City of Cape Town and other partners.

As one of few urban centres in the world boasting a mountain range in the heart of a city and unparalleled beach beauty from coast to coast, Cape Town realises the importance of its natural assets in terms of recreational and aesthetic appeal to residents, as well as for driving tourism. Protecting these assets goes hand in hand with supporting climate change initiatives, and Cape Town is regarded as a pioneering city when it comes to responsible tourism.

Defined as “tourism that creates better places for people to live and better places to visit”, responsible tourism focuses on minimising the negative economic, environmental and social impact of tourism, involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and encourages respect between tourists and hosts.

In 2002, representatives from tourism sectors across the board in 20 countries attended the Cape Town Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations, at which a declaration on responsible tourism was agreed upon. In 2009, the City of Cape Town adopted the Responsible Tourism Policy and Action Plan, largely as an approach to destination management, to bring about positive economic, social and environmental influences for all concerned.

The Responsible Tourism Charter was signed by the City of Cape Town and these leading trade associations – the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (Fedhasa), the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (Satsa), the South African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI) and Cape Town Tourism. Each signatory was committed to work actively on the priority issues for Responsible Tourism and report on their progress.

More recently, in September 2011, the Cape Town Climate Change Coalition launched the Climate Smart Cape Town campaign, which aims to highlight ways for the public to reduce their carbon emissions. It brings facts about the climate crisis into the mainstream media and engages the public in conversation about how to solve this crisis.

“Climate change is a global problem – we are all in this together,” says Stephen Granger, head of Major Programmes and Projects for the City of Cape Town’s Environmental Resource Management Department and spokesperson for the campaign. “Cape Town’s response to climate change must be a collective partnership between government, business and civil society. The vision of the Climate Smart Cape Town campaign is for Cape Town to become more compact and resource-efficient, a lower-carbon city adapting well to the impact of climate change, protecting its most vulnerable citizens and building an economic future based on clean development, localisation and jobs for all.”

Cape Town Tourism backs each one of these campaigns and continues to drive responsible tourism principles within the industry, as well as distribute responsible traveller tips with regard to Cape Town’s communities and natural environment.

Says Grant Pascoe, Cape Town executive mayoral committee member for Tourism, Events and Marketing, “Responsible Tourism philosophies and practices are key in our tourism planning and business, ensuring that we meet current tourism needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

“Cape Town has been acknowledged by the Ethisphere Institute of New York as ‘one of 10 cities in the world most likely to become centres of sustainability by 2020’, and was listed by Ethical Traveler as one of the ‘Top 10 Ethical Destinations in the World 2010’. It was also the first urban centre to receive the coveted Best Destination in the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards in 2009.

“These awards bear testament to Cape Town’s commitment to responsible tourism and the creation of a future-fit city for all. The City has come to realise that we are, in some respects, breaking new ground. The local authorities of very few major cities have adopted comprehensive responsible tourism policies and committed to implementing them with action plans. While there are cities with sustainability strategies and cities with tourism strategies, few link these two in such formal and robust ways.”

Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold, CEO of Cape Town Tourism says, “Our focus on responsible tourism arises from the vision of establishing Cape Town as one of the world’s top cities to visit, work, study, live and invest in. However, we realise that for the City to be a great place to visit it must first and foremost be a great place to live. Responsible tourism aims to not only look after our environment but Capetonians too.

“We hope that fostering a greater respect between cultures and involving locals in tourism activities will provide job opportunities for residents and create a greater sense of pride in our city and country. Cape Town Tourism has a vested interest in climate change as it is directly linked to responsible tourism and the sustainable future of our city. Twenty years from now we would like to see the same Mother City we see today, and responsible tourism and climate change initiatives are tools that we can use to achieve this. We must also be prepared for the shift in mindset and lifestyle that will need to be undertaken by all individuals if we are to build on the enormous value of our people and our natural resources.”

ENDS

For further information, please contact Cape Town Tourism’s PR and communication manager, Skye Grove, skye@capetown.travel or see www.capetown.travel.

Released for Cape Town Tourism by Rabbit in a Hat Communications, Tammy White, +27 (0)21 448 9705, +27 (0)73 202 5041, tammy@rabbitinahat.co.za.

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