Marthinus van Schalkwyk: Tourism should be everybody's business

From a speech delivered by the premier of the Western Cape, opening a conference in South Africa on responsible tourism
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The Independent Online

For decades we have pursued tourism in the single-minded belief that our most important goals are tied to numbers and increasing market share. These form only one segment of the real tourism tapestry. We can no longer afford the assumption that the benefits of tourism will eventually filter down in a manner that will last indefinitely.

The reality of tourism has proven, in many cases, to be the opposite. Local communities have often been marginalised and the environment has regularly been the victim. We must find ways to maximise the socio-economic benefits for the former, while maintaining the quality of the latter.

Responsible and sustainable tourism goes well beyond the environment. Social problems associated with tourism include abuse and sex-trafficking. In terms of responsible cultural tourism, there is rarely an authentic experience that could bring much-needed tourism income to communities in need.

Public-private partnerships can be an essential part of constructive change. We have made a substantial difference in this regard, with various programmes to generate year-round jobs, create an alternative local paper industry, and ensure that revenue flows back into our rural areas.

In the Western Cape, we will not allow short-term tourism growth at the expense of our natural environment. We will care for our environment and ensure that the economic and social benefits of tourism filter through to the grass-roots level. We believe that tourism should be everybody's business.