Responsible tourism in South Africa is a marvelous way of making a positive difference through travel. You return home refreshed, carbon-neutral and culturally enriched, with memories to last a lifetime.
Broadly speaking, here are some responsible tourism guidelines:
- Avoid waste and overconsumption
- Use local resources in a sustainable way
- Maintain and encourage natural, social, economic and cultural diversity
- Be sensitive to the host culture
- Involve the local community in planning and decision-making
- Assess the environmental, social and economic impacts before embarking on tourism developments
- Ensure that communities are involved in, and benefit from, tourism
One of the first environmental issues people think of these days is the impact of the flight. In South Africa you can offset carbon emissions while uplifting communities at the same time, through Food and Trees for Africa. After calculating your carbon footprint via their calculator, your donation will help plant fruit and indigenous trees in schools, clinics and the backyards of impoverished areas.
Another South African responsible tourism initiative allows you to check whether the seafood item you’re eyeing on the menu is endangered or not. The South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) gives you the simple option of texting your choice to a mobile number. Within minutes, you’ll have your reply. The fish may be labeled ‘green’ (feel free to order), ‘orange’ (in trouble, but legal to eat) or ‘red’ (kindly desist).
Becoming a responsible tourist can also be a matter of choosing the right accommodation. And there are plenty of choices, as you’ll find wherever you find the RT icon on this website. Just by staying at these destinations, you can ensure minimal impact on the environment, maximum positive social spinoff, and a feel-good factor all round.
Similarly, responsible voluntourism (or volunteer tourism) is now also underpinned by standards that aim to ensure valuable input by volunteers and tangible benefits for the communities involved. As a volunteer, check that possible programmes adhere to this code. Fair Trade Tourism has an accreditation programme for volunteer projects. A list of accredited programmes is available on its website.
South Africa’s environmental tourism initiatives have great social resonance so make use of them if you can.