Cape Town - World Travel Market Africa is fast approaching, and with it comes one of the proudest events for sustainable tourism on the continent.
The 2017 African Responsible Tourism Awards will be announced in Cape Town at the CTICC during Africa Travel Week 2017, from 19 to 23 April.
SEE: What you need to know about World Travel Market Africa 2017
What are the African Responsible Tourism Awards, and why are they important?
The African regional awards are a part of the World Responsible Tourism Awards family, aimed at directing a global tourism trend towards recognising achievement and innovation in responsible tourism.
In 2016 the world awards founded by Responsible Travel celebrated 13 years at WTM London. The 2015 and 2016 African Responsible Tourism Awards generated significant participation across Africa, and in SA especially.
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The Responsible Tourism Awards in SA
In 2016, South Africa's Bushmans Kloof won silver for the Best Accommodation for Responsible Employment category at the 2016 World Responsible Tourism Awards, joining the ranks of other iconic South African destinations and tourism organisations like Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, Hotel Verde, Gansbaai Tourism, Marine Dynamics and the V&A Waterfront.
SEE: Gansbaai leads the pack in responsible tourism in Africa
Heidi van der Watt of Better Tourism Africa, the organiser and founder of the African Responsible Tourism Awards notes that the "quality of entries for the African Responsible Tourism Awards have been strengthening year on year".
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What is Responsible Travel?
Responsible Travel connects small and tailor-made tour operators, all screened for their commitment to responsible tourism, with people looking for real and authentic holidays.
As tourism grows globally the opportunity for authentic experiences diminishes, and the impacts of tourism on places and local people grows.
Globally, there is a move to make travel a more responsible and sustainable industry at the core. The year 2017 has been designated by the United Nations as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, and many other global iniatives are aimed at growing responsible tourism industries too.
SEE: World Tourism review: SA on trend with global surge and sustainable practices
According to UNWTO chief Taleb Rifai, speaking at the declaration of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, the world's tourism authorities need to “work closer together to harness the contribution of tourism to economic growth, social inclusion, cultural and environmental preservation and mutual understanding, particularly when we live in times with such a deficit of respect and tolerance.”
WTM Africa and its main sponsor agree, saying that the secret to authentic travel is treating local people and places responsibly.
Choosing the winners
As part of the World Responsible Tourism Awards family, the judging process for the African Responsible Tourism Awards is chaired by Harold Goodwin, Professor of Responsible Tourism at Manchester Metropolitan University, and Director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism and Chair of the main World Responsible Tourism Awards judging panel since its inception.
For a third year running, Wesgro - Cape Town and the Western Cape’s official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency - will be the main sponsor for the awards.
The awards are organised by Better Tourism Africa and are hosted by World Travel Market Africa (WTM Africa).