Partners create 'fair-trade tourism' packages in South Africa

By Kenneth Kiesnoski
DURBAN, South Africa — First there was fair-trade coffee and chocolate. Now, at least in South Africa, there’s fair-trade tourism.

South African Tourism is teaming with independent, nonprofit NGO Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa to develop fair-trade tourism packages with outbound tour operators in leading source markets and step up a decade-old effort to promote the country as "one of the world’s leading fair-trade tourism destinations," according to Katarina Mancama, FTTSA project manager.

Fair-trade tourism aims to promote sustainabilty and secure just wages for producers of travel product in developing countries.

Sales in 2009 of fair-trade products such as coffee, wine and chocolate amounted to about $5 billion worldwide.

"That proves that although times are tight, people are willing to invest in fair-trade purchases," Mancama said.

The FTTSA has "fair-trade certified" South African tourism-related businesses such as hotels, attractions, tours, activities, transport and volunteer programs since 2001 but has not yet certified airlines or incoming or outbound tour operators.

The organization currently works with about 70 South African travel and tourism businesses, which pay annual fees of between $75 and $6,625 to participate. Partners include Accor Hotels, Coffee Shack Backpackers and Calabash Tours.

Foreign tour operators had not yet been certified as fair-trade due to the difficulty of monitoring the complex web of transactions involved in assembling, selling and executing such products, Mancama said.

To rectify that, and satisfy growing demand among both travelers and tour operators for fair-trade-certified product, in July 2009 the FTTSA began a two-year pilot project, funded by the government of Switzerland, that Mancama described as "the first-ever initiative to look at the whole value chain in travel and tourism."

In October 2010, the FTTSA unveiled the first fruits of the effort: fair-trade travel packages developed in partnership with Swiss wholesalers Kuoni Travel Ltd. and Reise Service Imagine. Then, at the ITB show in Berlin this March, it unveiled a third package, available in Germany though Cologne-based operator SKR Reisen.

Despite a higher price point, the FTTSA-certified South Africa tour marketed by Bern, Switzerland-based Reise Service Imagine has been selling very well, said owner Heinz Hirter. "People are really satisfied, and the repeat-booking rate is good," he said.
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