Posted by: gypsytales | March 17, 2011

Knysna’s Responsible and Sustainable Tourism Plan for Entrepreneurs

Knysna Tourism, in conjunction with industry specialists, are campaigning to facilitate established and emerging tourism related enterprises towards responsible and sustainable tourism in Knysna. 

A succession of tourism workshops are planned for the first quarter of 2011.  We attended the “Tourism Awareness Programme” presented by Tourism Enterprise Partnership.  TEP (Tourism Enterprise Partnership) is an initiative funded by Government through the Department of Tourism in partnership with Business Trust representing the private sector.

“The Tourism Awareness Programme” presented by Alexander McLeod, formerly from TEP, took us through an introduction to the tourism industry and the major role players involved.  He went on to say that tourism is going to become one of the largest contributors to the economy and GDP.  As the tourism industry grows, opportunity for employment and economic advancement increases.  According to data provided by the Department of Tourism on International Tourist Arrivals, growth in the tourism industry has increased year on year – except for one year – over the past decade; despite political change and high crime stats.  

Businesses involved in tourism are divided into two segments; direct and indirect.  Direct tourism businesses are those that offer a service directly related to tourism e.g. tours, accommodation and transport.  Indirect businesses are those that benefit from the tourism industry but are not directly involved.  For example a company in Cape Town derives 25%-35% of their business by supplying linen to the tourism industry. 

Tourists travel for different reasons based on individual interests.  South Africa has a broad palette of choices available with an appeal to all ages.  Below is an overview of the main tourist interests on offer:

  • Ecotourism

40%-60% of our tourists who are visiting for the scenery, wild animals and the wilderness are classified as nature tourists.  South Africa has approximately 20 National Parks and many privately owned game farms, resorts and lodges. 

  • Adventure

Adrenalin adventure is a small contributor to tourism but is on the rise with increased attractions like Bloukrans Bungy, which is currently the highest bungy jump in the world; shark cage diving; sky diving; paragliding.

  •  Fossils / Archaeology

Tourists with an interest in fossils and archaeology won’t be disappointed.  South Africa hosts: 

    • Some of the oldest rocks in the world
    • Fossils of some of the oldest organisms on earth
    • A record of mammal ancestry in the Karoo region
    • The bones of Mrs Ples, one of the most complete skulls ever found of an “early” hominid (human ancestor)
  •  Spiritual

 With the demand that high powered careers and stressful lives place on people there is a growing trend towards spiritual and religious tourism as alternatives to purely recreational holidays.  Establishments offering retreats, meditation and workshops in comfortable accommodations are popping up in tranquil and serene destinations throughout South Africa.

  • Historical

South Africa is rich and diverse in history for a relatively “new” country.

  • Cultural

South Africa features traditional tribal communities each with their own unique customs that are visually displayed through arts and crafts, museums and heritage sites.

  •  Sport

Previously Sports and Tourism existed in isolation from one another.  But with more than 10% of foreign tourists coming to South Africa to either watch or participate in a sporting event, Sports & Recreation along with Tourism are now working together to ensure a successful collaboration.

  •  Business / Conferences

South Africa is becoming a popular and affordable destination for international companies to conduct seminars and other matters of business.  During this time conference delegates are spending up to three times the amount of regular tourists.

  •  Shopping

Dubai is synonymous with shopping.  A trip made especially to Dubai with the sole intent of going on a shopping spree is not uncommon.  So too, in recent years, South Africa has become an accessible shopping destination, attracting visitors from neighbouring countries.

  •  Medical

South Africa is a popular destination for medical treatments and procedures whether cosmetic or other.  Patients are able to recover anonymously on arranged post surgery holidays. 

While South Africa may have some unique tourism offerings, particularly pertaining to our wildlife, it is still nonetheless a long-haul destination.  This affects tourist’s decisions when choosing a destination.  With this in mind, a conscious effort towards responsible and sustainable tourism will have a positive impact on social, economic and environmental factors. 

McLeod went on to add that we need to Think Betterment when referring to Responsible Tourism.  One cannot offer a service that degrades the image of one’s country.  Ethical tourist services equate to operating your business with integrity and providing quality and value for money.  Among other issues raised, high prices and overcharging for tourism related services was a strong point of discussion among the attendees of the workshop.  Valid points were raised highlighting the concern that out of control tourism prices do not support the maxim that Responsible Tourism forms a platform for Sustainable Tourism thus ensuring longevity of the tourism industry.

 The workshops, hosted at Knysna Tourism, are an informative opportunity for entrepreneurs and local tourism operators to meet like minded people, to gain insight into current industry trends and initiatives and to garner the necessary support from one another to ensure Responsible and Sustainable Tourism thrives in Knysna.

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