Responsible tourism is pivotal to the travel and tourism industry throughout Africa, and has been at the heart of South Africa’s tourism policy since 1996. It has significantly contributed to the growth of responsible tourism internationally following the Cape Town Declaration in 1996 and the Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations in 2015.

The mandate behind the act of responsible tourism is to minimise negative economic, environmental and social impact through generating greater economic benefits for local people; enhancing the well-being of host communities; improving working conditions as well as access to the industry. As responsible travel industry professionals, it is our duty to ensure that we are as informed as possible about the issues that impact our continent.

Tourism forms an integral part of Africa’s economy and is steadily becoming one of the leading drivers for economic growth across the continent. Tourism leads to job creation, community upliftment and social development.

Based on the above, we have to strive individually to impact the responsible tourism cause by nurturing partnerships with responsible associations. Commitment to responsible tourism practices and an involvement with relevant associations serves to re-enforce this stance.

Having partnered with the CODE <http://www.thecode.org/>, one can assist in establishing policies and procedures in the prevention of sexual exploitation of children, to provide travellers with information on children’s rights and to train employees in children’s rights, the prevention of sexual exploitation and how to report suspected cases.

Here’s another example – as the rhino population continues to diminish throughout Africa, it’s vital that we collectively strive to raise awareness of poaching on a global platform. Project Rhino KZN’s key objectives are to “let the children’s voices be heard” and the project is considered to be the most successful youth-art conservation initiative ever undertaken.  The ultimate objective is to gather the largest number of children’s art voices ever recorded in support of rhino conservation and to use these ‘hearts and minds’ messages from the youth as a worldwide call to action against rhino poaching.

We, as the travel and tourism industry, need to take a close look at how we can further incorporate responsible practices in our businesses and strategies going forward. How can we make positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, improve economic growth and the wellbeing of those we employ?

Whether it be through proactively minimising your business’s impact on climate change, supporting local businesses, or by empowering local communities, we must encourage the industry to get involved and help make Africa the leading continent in advocating responsible tourism.