​Responsible Tourism

According to the norms and standards for Responsible Tourism, Responsible Tourism is defined as a tourism management strategy in which the tourism sector and tourists take responsibility to protect and conserve the natural environment, respect and conserve local cultures and ways of life, and contribute to stronger local economies and a better quality of life for local people. (Responsible Tourism Requirements - SANS 1162:2011).
Responsible tourism is also about enabling local communities to enjoy a better quality of life, through increased socio-economic benefits and an improved environment. It is also about providing better holiday experiences for guests and good business opportunities for tourism enterprises.
Responsible Tourism is gaining ground as a newly emerging and growing global trend worldwide. It offers opportunities to develop products that can contribute to national socio-economic objectives by providing livelihoods for local economies and contributing value to the maintenance of local heritage, culture and traditions. Responsible Tourism also generates revenues for environmental conservation and management.
Research has shown that consumers around the world are increasingly aware of the potential impact of their tourism spend, with socially responsible and environmentally sustainable tourism becoming a leading market segment globally.
National Minimum Standard for Responsible Tourism (SANS 1162)
The National Department of Tourism in partnership with tourism stakeholders and the private sector, particularly the accreditation agencies developed the National Minimum Standard for Responsible (NMSRT).  Prior to the development of the NMSRT, there were various schemes certifying the sustainability of tourism businesses g different sets of criteria (standards).  Some of the scheme offer certification for only one of the three fundamental elements of responsible tourism.  Tourism businesses and consumers find it extremely difficult to evaluate the credibility of certification schemes and to determine whether the certification criteria were in line with national policy in the absence of national minimum standard for responsible tourism.  The NMSRT was therefore developed with the sole objective of establishing a common understanding of responsible tourism.  By developing a single set of standard to be applied throughout South Africa, we have also harmonised the different sets of criteria that were used for certifying the sustainability of tourism businesses. The draft NMSRT was developed through a consultative process with the wider tourism sector role-players.  The draft NMSRT was taken through the SABS (South African Bureau of Standards) process in order for it to become a National Standard.  SABS approved the draft NMSRT as a South African National Standard (SANS 1162) on the 28 March 2011. Therefore for the very first time, South Africa has taken the lead within the continent and the region of Africa by publishing a set of National Minimum Standard that are aligned to international standard ISO/IEC 17011.  The standard consists of 41 criteria divided into the following four categories:
  • Sustainable operations and management
  • Economic criteria
  • Social and cultural criteria
  • Environmental criteria
Alignment of the South African Standard to the International Standard (ISO/IEC 17011)
The standards will be utilised by agencies that operate programmes certifying the sustainability of tourism businesses.  The current standards were developed based on a three tier rating system which addresses the fundamental social, environmental and economic aspects as detailed in the Responsible Tourism Guidelines (2002) issued by the then DEAT, the Millennium Development Strategy and current international best practice in the field.  The NMSRT is aligned to the  ISO/IEC 17011 International Standard which sets out criteria for bodies operating accreditation systems for conformity assessment.
The following documents are appended:
  1. The 2002 Responsible Tourism Guidelines.
  2. The1996 White Paper on the Development and Promotion of Tourism in South Africa.
  3. Responsible Tourism Manual.
  4. National Minimum Standard for Responsible Tourism (NMSRT): NDT in partnership with industry stakeholders developed the NMSRT that was approved by SABS (South African Bureau of Standards) as a South African National Minimum Standard (SANS1162) on the 28 March 2011.
To obtain a copy of the National Minimum Standard for Responsible Tourism (SANS 1162), kindly contact the SABS information services department at info@sabs.co.za.  SABS can also be contacted on the number on the number 012 – 428 6666.


According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. The Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), further defined climate change as a change of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and that is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.  Human activities such as energy production, transportation, agriculture, waste and industrial activities release greenhouse gases (GHG) i.e. Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxides (NOx) etc. These gases trap heat in the atmosphere leading to a phenomenon called global warming.
Tourism activities such as accommodation and transportation contribute to GHG emissions through the use of energy. The NDT and key stakeholders acknowledge tourism’s contribution to climate change and a National Tourism and Climate Change Response Programme and Action Plan has been developed to address the implications of climate change on tourism. The reduction of GHG emissions through energy efficiency and other actions is a major focus of the response programme.The National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS) mandates the NDT and the tourism industry to commit to the reduction of GHG emissions through a Voluntary Accord.
The following documents are appended:
  1. National Tourism and Climate Change Response Programme and Action Plan.
  2. Baseline Vulnerability Assessment Study Report.

1.1.  The National nt of Tourism identified Universal Access in Tourism as an important initiative to enhance South Africa’s competitiveness.  Universal Access in Tourism responds to United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO) Global Code of Ethics for Tourism: (Article 2.2) which states that:

“Tourism activities should respect the equality of men and women, that they should promote human rights and, more particularly, the individual rights of the most vulnerable groups, notably children, the elderly, the handicapped, ethnic minorities and indigenous people.”


Definition of terms

1.2.  Accessibility: refers to the measure of the extent to which products and services are used by a person with disability as effectively as can be used by the person without disabilities. Accessibility should enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life. Persons with disabilities should be able to access, on an equal basis with others, the physical environment, transportation, information and communications – including information and communications technologies and system- and other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and rural areas.

1.3.  Accessible Tourism: enables people with access requirements, including mobility, vision,   hearing and cognitive dimensions of access, to function independently and with equity and dignity through the delivery of universally designed tourism products, services and environments. This definition is inclusive of all people including those traveling with children in prams, people with disabilities and senior citizens.
1.4.  Furthermore, South Africa ratified the United Nations Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007.  Government departments across all spheres of government are expected to ensure compliance with the articles of the United Nations Convention.  Article 9 of the United Nations convention refers to Accessibility which largely impacts on tourism activities.
1.5.  The United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with Disabilities builds on the Bill of Rights as contained in chapter 2 of the South African Constitution and therefore the obligations placed on government by the Convention is in the main.
2. Universal Accessibility in Tourism (UAT) is further emphasized by the following Legislation:
2.1.  UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Article 9).
2.2.  The Disability Rights Charter of South Africa.
2.3.  The Constitution (1996) (Chapter 2 guarantees fundamental rights to all citizens, Section 9, is the equality clause and the right to freedom from discrimination based on a number of social criteria. In this clause discrimination based on disability is specifically mentioned and disabled people are thus guaranteed the right to be treated equally and enjoy the same rights as all other citizens.
2.4.  White Paper on the Integrated National Disability Strategy (1997).
2.5.  National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act No. 103 of 1977 (as amended).
2.6.  Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, No 4 of 2000.
2.7. It was against the above-mentioned background that NDT in partnership with industry role-players, including organizations representing people with disabilities spear-headed the process of ensuring universal accessibility in all tourism activities within the tourism sector.
2.8.  NDT therefore organized the first Universal Accessibility in Tourism consultative workshop with key industry stakeholders on the 12thMarch 2010 utilizing a universally accessible venue.   The target audience was largely comprised of the following organizations with enormous knowledge on the field of Universal Accessibility in Tourism:
  • Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities
  • South African Disability Alliance (SADA)
  • Tourism Provincial Tourism Authorities
  • Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA)
  • Tourism Associations
2.9.  The objective of the workshop was to take stock of progress made towards the realisation of Universal Accessibility in Tourism, identify priority areas of intervention and develop the UA Action Plan as well as to discuss the need for an industry commitment/declaration.
3.       The Universal Accessibility Declaration: Isa commitment to the implementation of UA principles by role-players in the broader tourism value chain to achieve the following objectives:
3.1.1.         Provide the same choices for all travel consumers;
3.1.2.         Ensure the full participation of persons with disabilities (including the elderly & families with children);
3.1.3.         Protection of the individual’s right to travel with dignity; and
3.1.4.         Encourage tourism practitioners to include the principle of universal access to tourism infrastructure, products and services in Tourism master plans, policies and programmes.
4.       The Universal Accessibility Action Plan: Is a detailed plan of action aimed at ensuring Universal Accessibility within the tourism sector as well as responsible organisations, entities and or government departments with the following objectives:
4.1.1.         secure commitment and delivery of UA compliant tourism products by all tourism role-players across the value chain;
4.1.2.         Develop/upgrade infrastructure and systems to meet the needs of all tourists (meet universal design requirements); and
4.1.3.         Develop a database of UA compliant tourism products and services.
Subsequent quarterly meetings continued to deliberate on the UAT Declaration and Action Plan by the UA Stakeholder Forum up to the stage where both these documents were unanimously adopted on the 25th October, 2011.
It was after these lengthy consultative processes and deliberations (Internally and Externally including the provincial workshops) that the UAT Declaration Signing Ceremony and Launch was undertaken by the Deputy Minister of Tourism (Ms. T. Xasa) at the 2012 Tourism Indaba in Durban on the 15th May, 2012.
Further consultation processes will continue to ensure a larger buy in for resource and financial commitments by the respective stakeholders to accelerate the implementation process of the UA Action Plan within the tourism sector.
The following documents are appended:
1.      UA Action
2.      UA Declaration
3.      UA Brochure

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