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V&A Waterfront in spotlight at global tourism awards

Apr 06 2016 07:48
Carin Smith

Dallas – The V&A Waterfront is a finalist in the 2016 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, which will be announced at the annual general meeting of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) on Thursday.

Fiona Jeffery, chairperson of the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, told Fin24 ahead of the AGM that the judges were impressed by the contribution the Waterfront has made to generate business, while emphasising inclusion, regeneration and sound environmental practices.

The Waterfront attracts about 24 million visitors per year and has invested almost R1bn since 2008 in good environmental practices, she emphasised. The judges were also impressed with the African craft market – showcasing the work of about 150 crafters – which opened at the Waterfront last year.

Wilderness Safaris, which is active in SA and Botswana, is another finalist in the awards this year. It has been actively working to conserve black and white rhinos, including translocation where possible.

“Africa has a better reflection of the environmental sustainable agenda in the tourism industry,” Jeffery told Fin24.

“It is because of the impact this kind of approach can make on poverty reduction. Travel and tourism operations in Africa have some of the best sustainable practices in the world.”

In her view there is, however, still a general lack of complete commitment to a total sustainable approach in the tourism global tourism industry. That is why she regards the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards as a vehicle to raise awareness about best practice and to encourage further education on the issue.

“In the same way as a business accepts that it needs financial expertise as a core principle, the effect of an environmental and social approach to the economic running of a business should be part of all tourism companies’ strategies,” said Jeffery.

“It requires experts in the field in order to avoid companies merely giving lip service to the issue.”

She believes that since the travel and tourism industry is still price sensitive and customers often make their choices based on cost rather than the environmental footprint, the industry has to realise the massive responsibility it has to protect its tourism product.

“There is no use seeking to promote a tourism product if you cannot protect the environmental side, which would ultimately lead to the destruction of that tourism product,” explained Jeffery.

“It is where tourism reaches the grass roots community level that one sees tour operators developing products which are sympathetic to communities and taking responsibility in a more collaborative way. These would include community upliftment, local employment and purchasing produce locally.”

Jeffery said it is time for the tourism industry to realise that good business is not just about profit, but also about doing good.

“Of course profit is not a dirty word. One has to make a profit first and use the power and opportunities that (profits) bring for the business to add value in other ways,” she said.

“This could include conservation, giving back to communities and training and developing people to be sustainable. That is what responsible tourism should be all about.”

* Fin24 is the guest of the World Travel & Tourism Council at its AGM.

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