I am convinced that no business can be sustainable if it is not managed responsibly. This should be part of everyone’s everyday lifestyle. It does not necessarily have to cost money. Living responsible actually saves you money on the long run. It saves the environment and improves the lives of animals, insects and people.
Please read Heidi van der Watt’s introduction below.
Heidi is an International Sustainable Tourism Specialist who is the founder of Better Tourism Africa (formerly the International Centre for Responsible Tourism – South Africa) and owner of EDGE Tourism Solutions, based in South Africa.
Heidi has helped shape South Africa’s vision as a responsible tourism destination. She developed a National Strategy for Responsible Tourism for the Department of Tourism, played a key role in the development of the Responsible Tourism Guidelines, and managed the development of Cape Town’s Responsible Tourism Policy and Action Plan and the national Minimum Standard for Responsible Tourism. Heidi holds leadership positions in a number of African organisations, including the Sustainable Tourism Certification Alliance Africa and the Sustainable Tourism Partnership Programme. Heidi is also a Director of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and a member of the WTM Responsible Tourism Advisory Panel.
Travel Responsibly in die Weskus
Most people travel for fun but increasingly travellers are becoming aware of how tourism contributes to global warming, destruction of the environment, erosion of cultures and poverty – and so there’s a worldwide call to travel more mindfully. Thankfully, travelling responsibly doesn’t mean that you have to compromise on how enjoyable your travels are, and in many cases you will have a better time by finding better ways to travel.
By choosing socially and environmentally responsible accommodation, tour operators, activities, transport and places to eat, you can ensure that your trip contributes to conservation efforts and the well-being of communities. And, you’ll discover that because these tourism operators put you in touch with nature, bring you closer to the people, cultures and creativity of the places you visit, and serve food that simply tastes better, travelling responsibly makes for excellent experiences.
Here are some ways in which you can be a responsible tourist during your visit to our region:
Choose responsible tourism businesses
Choosing businesses that operate responsibly is a simple but significant way of travelling responsibly. Many tourism businesses claim to be “green” or “eco-friendly” – but how can you know that they are really environmentally and socially responsible? A responsible tourism operator will have a responsible tourism policy, or at least a page on their website saying how they operate responsibly. Businesses that are certified by Fair Trade Tourism are also a good choice because they have met stringent conditions to get certified. Next time you’re planning to travel to the West Coast, also take a look at our #GoGreenWeskus directory to choose products that will help you make a difference.
Be water and energy-wise.
Water is scarce in most parts of South Africa and all of the country has water restrictions. Do your bit to save water by having a shower instead of a bath, limiting your shower to seven minutes, not letting water run unnecessarily, and closing taps properly. You can also help to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses that are released by your trip – switch off air-conditioners and lights when you leave your room, unplug cell phone and camera chargers when not in use, and ask your accommodation not to change supply fresh towels daily. Walk, cycle and use the bus explore our towns.
Support local artists and producers.
The West Coast is bursting with artistic talent, and whether it’s a wire-animal from a street vendor or a painting from a modern art gallery, there’s something for everyone. These purchases not only give you a memento of your visit, they support local artists. Remember though that buying ivory products is illegal in South Africa, and while you can bargain with traders, still pay a fair price. The many wineries, breweries, farmstalls and markets in our region offer fresh produce, preserves and honey, craft beer and wines, environmentally friendly cosmetics and much more. Whether you’re shopping for groceries, a snack for the road or a memento of your trip, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Don’t give money to beggars.
It’s natural to feel compassion for beggars, vagrants and children living on the streets, but it’s best not to give them money. If you really want to help, rather donate to organisations that provide meals, shelter and other services to the poor and homeless. This way you’ll know where your contributions are going and that you are making a real difference.
Your travel choices make a difference!