Brett Hendricks, of the Thebe Tourism Group, shares some lessons the tourism industry should learn from the Cape Town water crisis.
For the tourism industry, it’s about communicating to visitors that Cape Town remains open for business. Tourists are hearing the correct messaging around water from the moment they arrive to the time they leave, ensuring their impact remains low, however they should know this before they arrive.
The South African tourism sector accounts for over 9% of the country’s GDP. A large portion of this is from visitors to Cape Town. The Western Cape has a challenging road ahead, but we cannot afford the potential loss of income and jobs as a result.
This means planning is key. For our sector, and for everyone, the water crisis in the Western Cape is a huge wake up call. Recycling water and being water wise will be the new norm for all of us.
Responsible tourism is not just a box to tick. We can’t afford to be focused purely on money but need to understand the impact of the business on the environment and the surrounding communities.
Around the world, recycling, conservation, and environmental initiatives are top of mind. People want to know where their waste goes, and how businesses are conserving and supporting their environments and communities respectively.
It must be known that our tourism industry is open for business. A proactive stance in communication is required, with the elimination of language which creates panic. As long as visitors understand what is required of them, they do not mind complying and will be supportive of our efforts to conserve this vital resource.
Our hospitality industry is responding by decreasing water consumption in hotels. Guests are happily having short showers and reusing their towels and linens. Swimming pools can be maintained with sea water and decent filtration systems.
Our major sites and attractions are no different. Cape Point, for example, has implemented many water-saving measures and reduced consumption dramatically - without turning any visitors away. The site is recycling grey water for flushing toilets and visitors are using waterless hand sanitisers. People are so used to just opening a tap, however nobody is complaining. It’s just a change of mindset. None of it takes anything away from the experience of visiting Cape Town.
We can use this opportunity to focus the experience around awareness and conservation. Our industry has woken up now – we need to use this to our advantage to inform not just the rest of the country, but the global market.