• Tourists have become more concerned about the environmental and social impact of their holidays abroad.
  • This trend has only strengthened after the Covid-19 pandemic, with South Africa’s tourism sector primed to benefit from a wave of eco-conscious visitors.
  • Several establishments across the country have been recognised for their contribution to responsible tourism.
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Post-pandemic travellers are thinking more about the environmental impact of their holidays and how the communities they visit benefit from tourism. South Africa is primed to benefit from this trend.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the shape of global travel and the demands of tourists. Travellers, frustrated by more than two years of flight suspensions and border closures, are looking for something different.

Tourists now favour flexibility and want to stay for longer, mixing business with pleasure, according to a trend study conducted by the Association of South African Travel Agents (ASATA). They’re also more focused on experiential and sustainability stays.

“When it comes to confirming travel, sustainability efforts and initiatives are often a huge deciding factor for many customers,” said Otto de Vries, CEO of ASATA.

“Instead of simply going on holiday, today’s leisure travellers want to learn and grow whilst giving back to the people and places they encounter during their travels. It is important for agents to develop an understanding for and deliver on the sustainability drivers of leisure travel.”

This growing sustainability trend – also referred to as responsible or regenerative tourism – was recently highlighted by Mary Rijnberg, a recruitment expert for Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO) in Africa and managing director of an upmarket travel boutique business, Planet Africa Safaris.

“We are also seeing a big increase in regenerative tourism, where people want to know that they can make a positive difference and impact on their travels,” said Rijnberg in October.

“What are lodges doing for local communities? How can I contribute to conservation? These sorts of questions are becoming more important, and this is definitely a focus area for us, to facilitate this meeting between travel and conscience.”

The Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA) has identified responsible tourism as a priority and holds establishments to high standards in terms of water, waste and energy management, conservation, and interactions with local communities. In another step towards entrenching responsible tourism, South African Tourism has created a list of the Top 20 Sustainable Products and Experiences.

Coffee Shack Backpackers and Surf School in Coffee Bay, Wild Coast, is one of the establishments recognised for responsible tourism. In addition to eco-friendly practices, like recycling, turning any food waste to compost, grey water systems, use of indigenous plants, and solar water heaters, Coffee Shack also manages community projects.

Sustainable travel and tourism in South Africa

!Xaus Lodge (Image: Facebook)

With the help of the National Development Agency, it built and manages Ikhaya Labantwana Montessori Nursery School for 60 children, assisting in early childhood development.

“We have found that we benefit, more than we intended from this investment into our community partners and environment,” said Coffee Shack’s manager and co-founder, David Malherbe.

Baleni Cultural Camp in Limpopo, situated in a mopani forest on land belonging to the Mahumani Traditional Authority of the VaTsonga, is another example. The rural villages of Selwane, Lulekani, Mbaula, Phalaubeni and Majeje – all plagued by high levels of unemployment – are direct beneficiaries of Baleni, with the support creating jobs and sustaining the continuation of the local people’s tradition of harvesting artisanal salt.

Since opening in 2007, the !Xaus Lodge in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park has generated more than R50 million for surrounding ‡Khomani San and Mier communities and has significantly reduced poverty in the region. Additionally, almost all the !Xaus Lodge employees are drawn from the local communities.

Sustainable travel and tourism in South Africa

Grootbos Private Nature Reserve (Image supplied)

Several South African establishments were also recognised in the 2022 WTM Africa Responsible Tourism awards.

Grootbos Private Nature Reserve near Gansbaai, which has been measuring its direct emissions – electricity, fuel, water, waste, and gas – for the past eight years, was awarded silver in the category of decarbonising travel and tourism. Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, which has halved its carbon emissions over the past decade, was also a winner. 

Article originated from Business Insider