Caspar Venter, MD of Venter Tours based in Neubrandenburg, says the German market is sensitive to eco-tourism and socially responsible products. “We have seen the market gravitate towards Fair Trade Tourism products when travelling to Southern Africa. As a result we place an emphasis on these products when we curate packages.”
Southern Africa has been offering eco-tourism products for years without marketing them in this manner, he points out. “In Southern Africa, to benefit from this market it is less about creating new products and more about focusing on improving and marketing existing product offerings.”
According to Martin Weist, CEO of Tourvest Destination Management, the most cost-effective way to improve your eco-tourism offering is to ask a recognised green accreditation company to conduct a gap analysis and assist you in putting an action plan in place. Once you have fulfilled the requirements, you should ensure that you receive accreditation and maintain your eco-friendly status.
He says it is also important to ensure that you incorporate all key elements of social responsibility. “These include social projects, education programmes, community progression initiatives, enterprise development opportunities and mentorship programmes.”
Jane Edge, MD of Fair Trade Tourism in South Africa, says FTT takes four key areas into consideration when assessing whether or not a product is eco-friendly and socially responsible. These are environment, responsible management practice, community engagement and the promotion of culture and heritage.
Under environment, the certification programmes looks at procurement policy, energy and water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, waste management plans, use of harmful substances, steps to minimise pollution, adherence to laws on endangered species, interaction with wildlife, use of indigenous plant species in landscaping, conservation of biodiversity and management environmental plans.
Edge says FTT conducts business development consultations to help companies meet their criteria. “Across the four pillars we have 250 criteria, some of which are mandatory and some of which are general, depending on the category of the business in question. As part of our consultation we work closely with the team to assist their business to become compliant, offering training and guidance. Once the correct documentation has been provided, we enlist the help of a third-party auditor to conduct an onsite visit. Once the business has been verified we actively promote its brand to the tour operators we work with.”
Tour operators wishing to partner with Fair Trade Tourism sign a pledge to sell a minimum of 50% FTT-recognised bed/nights, per package. “At the moment we have just over 50 approved international tour operators. Of this, the highest number sit in Germany,” says Edge.