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, make decision, and adopt resolutions on these issues. This year, COP17 will take place at the Durban International Convention Centre between November 28 and December 9, 2011. As a member of the Cape Town Climate Change Coalition, Cape Town Tourism will attend and 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 centers in the world boasting a mountain range in the heart of a city and unparalleled beach beauty from coast to coast, Cape Town realizes the importance of its natural assets, in terms of recreational and aesthetic appeal to residents, as well as their economic driving power behind 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 minimizing the negative economic, environmental, and social impacts of tourism, involving local people in decisions that affect their lives and encouraging respect between tourists and hosts.
In 2002, representatives from tourism sectors across the board in twenty 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. A Responsible Tourism Charter was signed by the City of Cape Town and 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, which commits each signatory 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. Climate Smart Cape Town 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. 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 impacts of climate change, protecting its most vulnerable citizens, and building an economic future based on clean development, localization, and jobs for all,” said Stephen Granger, Head of Major Programs and Projects for the City of Cape Town’s Environmental Resource Management Department and spokesperson for the campaign.
Cape Town Tourism backs each one of these campaigns and continues to drive responsible tourism principles within the industry, as well as distribute responsible traveler tips with regards to Cape Town’s communities and natural environment.
Said Grant Pascoe, Cape Town Executive Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events & 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 ten cities in the world most likely to become centers of sustainability by 2020,’ received approval from the Ethical Traveler by being listed as one of the ‘Top Ten Ethical Destinations in the World 2010’ and was the first urban center to receive the coveted ‘Best Destination’ Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Award 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 realize 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, said: “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 realize 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 mind-set 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.”