Talking Point: Why be a responsible destination?

V&A Waterfront, Cape Town

V&A Waterfront, Cape Town

Our destination this month is South Africa which is taking great strides towards greater sustainability in its tourism and hospitality industries. We asked Rozitta De Villiers of the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town to tell us what it takes to be a responsible destination and why it’s so important.

At the end of 2014 we were honoured to receive the Best Destination for Responsible Tourism at the World Travel Market in London. It’s an accolade that means a lot to us - recognising the years of work that we take very seriously - and we were particularly honoured when we saw the international destinations and initiatives that we were up against.

The question we are often asked is why we place so much importance on being a responsible destination. Certainly, from a pure numbers perspective, it makes sense; more and more travellers and tourists (especially foreign ones) are looking to visit and spend their money at places that have sustainable and responsible business practices in place.

But, for us, it is so much more than that, and it is inextricably linked with our aim to be a world-class destination and one of the best (if not the best!) waterfronts in the world. We see ourselves as custodians of this site, and everything that we do takes this into consideration; from how we develop the buildings in ways that are sensitive to their historic roots, to how we work with the local community.

For us “responsible tourism” means a few things. It absolutely means working in a sustainable way to reduce our impact on the environment, whether that be through being more energy efficient or recycling more. And this is extended through to the new developments we are undertaking, such as the new No 1 Silo building (the head office for Allan Gray), which is the first in Cape Town to be awarded a six-star rating by the Green Building Council of South Africa.

But there are other factors at play which, we think, assisted us in being considered a “responsible destination”.

Our economic impact is substantial. Recent research has indicated that the V&A Waterfront has a positive impact on job creation, economic stimulation, revenue from tourism and property values. And along with the direct employment within the V&A, our tenants and through our development projects, we see much wider halo effects of indirect job creation and contribution to household income, both provincially and nationally.

We believe in having a social impact as well. For example, the recent development of the Watershed - a reimagining of our craft offering - now houses over 150 small businesses centred on craft, design and wellness / well-being.

The Responsible Tourism awards recognised those destinations that strongly reflect their unique community and environment by creating an exciting and memorable tourism experience, and places that use tourism to create better places for people to live in and visit.

To be chosen as one of destinations is an honour not just for us, but for South Africa as a whole. Many travellers are making decisions based on sustainable business and development practices, and so recognition such as this aids us as a country in continuing the growth of our tourism industry.

But for us, for now, we are proud to have been recognised as a success story for Cape Town, and for our value as a destination beyond tourism alone.

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