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Fair trade in tourism

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Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA) is a non-profit organisation to facilitate a certification scheme for tourism businesses in the country that is focused on creating better jobs, providing good wages and ensuring good working conditions. A business that needs to get certified and carry the FTTSA label needs to go through a thorough assessment. “The assessment looks at the triple bottomline of social, economic and environmental issues and the goal of the certification and our whole existence is that tourism benefits the people in South Africa,” says Katarina Mancama, marketing manager, FTTSA. These businesses invest in local communities and their surroundings so that the benefits is not limited to their hotels, shops or offices. This is of particular importance in rural areas. Besides the social and community benefits, the environment is another critical aspect that these tourism businesses should be committed to for the FTTSA certification.

Katarina Mancama 

“Currently the number of FTTSA members are 70, all these businesses do a lot for their employees, their surroundings, for the greater environment in South Africa. It is a very strict certification and these businesses are at the top of the range of fair trade and environment conservation,” states Mancama. The organisations include accommodation, tours and activities. The activities include whale watching tour or township cycle tour – they are a product, a one set tour. “We do not certify tour operators for the simple reason that they sell so many different hotels, but we work with the tour operators and encourage them to use the hotels that have been certified when they have a choice between two hotels,” explains Mancama.

The process is that if a hotel or a tour/activity wants to get certified, FTTSA sends an assessor. “For example, if it is a hotel then the assessor will spend one to three days at the hotel checking everything against the standards that we have developed. So they will look at the wages, how the staff are treated general, health and safety and different issues. It is a thorough assessment before you become a member of the club,” she states. An important factor is that it is not a one-time certification, every 24 months the FTTSA assessor returns and checks before certifying again.

Mancama points out that for all these businesses their initiatives are not an act of charity. It is a creating a win-win situation. For example, a lodge in Kruger National Park noticed that a lot of their guests were asking a waiter about the life in his village, how the houses look like, etc. So the lodge helped him set up a little tour to take tourists into his village. It also benefitted the hotel as they had an additional activity to offer their guests.

“While fair trade is about giving back to the community, about creating decent jobs and wages, and also taking care of the environment, the focus is more on the socio-economic side,” says Mancama, clarifying however that fair trade is more about people than about the environment. However, FTTSA would never certify a business that does damage to the environment.

Location and size of business is not a consideration as long as the key parameters are adhered to. “We believe that any business can operate according to FTTSA standards and we have certified businesses in Johannesburg and in some of the most rural areas in South Africa. Accommodations can vary from a backpackers’ lodge to a five-star lodge,” states Mancama.

The FTTSA certification helps these businesses, particularly in marketing aspects. “In source markets like Europe consumers are interested in fair trade, they already buy coffee, banana, tea, and many other ethical products. Also, the assessment as well as the report that comes out of the assessment is a valuable development tool. We would give them feedback on each and every area that we have assessed,” she explains.

FTTSA has received a grant from the development branch of the Swiss Ministry of Economics, which will help them to move into other countries. They are looking at Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania. “We want to either cooperate with existing certification initiatives in those countries so that we harmonise our standards or in those countries where there are no certification initiatives to set up something similar to our label there,” reveals Mancama. The bigger term goal is to try and establish a blue print for how Fair Trade Tourism could be then moved to Asia or South America. “Not for us to move to those markets but to tell people in those destinations what we have learnt here. The big term goal is a global Fair Trade Tourism label,” she concludes.

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