The global travel and tourism industry has contributed significantly toward global economic growth over the years. This all changed when the outbreak of COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill and the tourism market to its knees, as one of the worst-affected of all major economic sectors.
As the world takes steps to recover, it will be necessary for the South African tourism sector to empower and build local tourism, and to ensure that the pillars of sustainable travel and innovative recovery measures are in place.
For some time now, the awareness of responsible travel has been increasing. The current crisis has forced us to adopt a more accountable, sustainable way of travelling that minimises carbon emissions, protects the environment, instils good hygiene practices, focuses on visitor safety and maximises the contribution to local economies.
Since 1929, the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company (TMACC) has safely transported visitors over 700 metres along its iconic cableways to the lofty peak of this symbolic site, deeply emblematic of South Africa, her people, her history, and her flora and fauna.
The level of stewardship with which TMACC has nurtured the mountain is in full compliance with international ISO health and safety, and environmental management standards, for which it has garnered numerous accolades over the years.
We continue to build a reputation that focuses on best practice, ultimately ensuring that our visitors enjoy a world-class experience. As a responsible operator, it is important for us to keep a careful approach to operations, specifically in the social and physical environments that are the backbone of our establishment.
In many ways the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the fragile scaffolding that holds modern human society together. As the tourism sector is gradually allowed to reopen, we are faced with the tremendous responsibility of strengthening the long-term durability of our operations in this now tenuous environment.
Recovery support and safety protocols
During the lockdown period, we developed stringent recovery support measures and safety protocols for the planned reopening of operations, including the launch of a hiker safety service in July. There is ongoing communication to staff, suppliers and visitors, focusing on health and safety along with reinforcing our commitment to social and environmental sustainability.
Throughout the national lockdown period, we have been engaging with the relevant industry bodies to ensure that we meet the necessary health and safety standards and implement the measures that will protect our staff and visitors, ahead of the reopening of the cableway.
We are considering new ways of operating that will amplify our safety precaution efforts, such as the online purchasing of tickets, which will provide a contactless and cashless service for visitors wishing to experience the cableway.
It is important that the intrinsic symbiosis between tourism and conservation is recognised. In an effort to protect the mountain, TMACC formed a partnership with SANParks. Through this we aim to improve the safety and security of tourists and hikers on the mountain.
We believe that our path toward continued financial prosperity must always be underpinned by social and environmental justice. The tourism industry contributes to carbon emissions that affect the natural environment, but the income it generates also affords conservationists the resources they need to effectively protect precious and sensitive ecosystem areas like Table Mountain, which would not otherwise be possible.
TMACC was awarded the African Responsible Tourism Award in 2019, which recognised our efforts as a responsible tourism operator to maximise the positive and minimise the negative impacts of tourism. We achieved this through implementing effective means of processes, operations and communication to encourage responsible behaviour by our staff and our visitors.
More conscious consumers
In a post COVID-19 world, consumers will be more conscious of their footprint on the environment. Our mission is to keep this natural wonder accessible to all who wish to experience it, while also taking every available step to nurture its precious habitats, so that its splendour will continue to be an inspiration for many generations to come.
As a leader in the tourism industry, we realise that now, more than ever, we need to increase our collaborative efforts to establish partnerships with local businesses to help support the local economy. This approach includes the introduction of more local suppliers, manufacturers and other service providers into our macro environment to create sustainable communities.
We celebrate the rich tapestry of people, cultures and voices that constitute our organisation. Over the years, TMACC has consistently applied its philosophy of improvement – putting in more than we take out. Each staff member is empowered through knowledge sharing and training initiatives. Furthermore, we continue to grant extensive bursaries to our employees to acquire tertiary qualifications, allowing them to upskill on their chosen career paths.
It is time to bring about change within this dynamic sector. This can be achieved whilst still protecting the livelihoods of those employed in the industry, all while continuing to create sustainable environments for tourists and employees respectively.
The tourism sector has always held a fair amount of power and influence across many sectors and, as they say, with great power comes great responsibility. The challenging times that we face as an industry have presented us with plenty of opportunities for innovation, which will ultimately improve the travel experience for many of us.