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Responsible Tourism in Cities 2011


On May 5, 2011 the Responsible Tourism in Cities Conference took place in Durban, South Africa at the start of the Indaba tourism conference. The event was presented by The City of Cape Town in partnership with Cape Town Tourism and South African Tourism. Media partners included Planeta.com.

Key Links


About 100 delegates attended the conference in person and there were more than 150 simultaneous virtual delegates who joined via live streaming video and real-time Twitter.

The Responsible Tourism in Cities Conference brought together leaders in local government, sustainable tourism and the social web, focusing on a practical set of issues – conservation and tourism in cities. It helped city officials, community organizations, the private sector, academics, NGOs, activists and other stakeholders understand some of the key issues underlying responsible tourism in cities, and will equip them with practical knowledge and resources to help make a positive contribution toward implementing responsible tourism in their city destination.

Much of the global focus on responsible tourism has been on individual products and experiences, or on particular product categories including cultural tourism or nature-based tourism. Far less attention had been paid to the needs and challenges faced by the places (cities and countries) where it is put into practice.

Cities have emerged as important tourism destinations in their own right and function as essential tourism drawing cards for nations.

South Africa Experience
Responsible Tourism is central to South Africa’s tourism policy and is also a key trend in the global tourism industry. South African cities are also home to more than half of the country’s population, and so are crucial sites for sustainable development. Local governments are at the intersection of tourism and sustainable development, and face particular challenges in balancing the diversity and complexity of both. Consequently tourism requires effective partnerships among government, local communities and the private sector in order to thrive, and few cities have managed a holistic approach to responsible tourism that brings these three groups of stakeholders together. This is not unique to South Africa.

Worldwide few cities have developed responsible tourism strategies, policies and action plans. Most tourism portals do not showcase and often do not mention responsible tourism providers or tips for visitors.

And the preponderance of responsible tourism experiences around the world is offered outside of cities.


  1. The roles of city governments (local authorities) in responsible tourism: What cities can and cannot do well with regards to tourism, RT, and sustainability. How are city functions linked to responsible tourism (e.g., planning, zoning, health, security, education, etc.)? What levers are available and how can they be used effectively? What kinds of policies can work? How long does it take and how much does it cost?
  2. Cities, responsible tourism and the marketplace: marketing and selling city-based responsible tourism experiences; how responsible tourism impacts on a destination brand; promoting a “responsible” destination; understanding the responsible tourism consumer in South Africa’s core target markets.
  3. The business case for responsible tourism: What are the particular financial issues associated with implementing responsible tourism and adhering to responsible tourism management that are faced by the tourism private sector? What is different about being city-based? Are there different cost, risks or opportunities for taking responsible action by operators and facility managers, accommodation and service providers? What real data can we learn from? Do investors, managers, corporates and others view the financials of responsible tourism differently, and if so, how and why? What does it really cost? Does responsible tourism ever pay back in financial terms?
  4. Effective destination-wide collaboration on responsible tourism: who are the key stakeholders and what are the roles they can play? What structures and mechanisms for collaboration work well? How can communities play a more effective role? How can academic, policy, community and business interests be coordinated in some fashion that manifests in a high trust environment for all?

4 x 45 minute sessions with 15 minute breaks between. Each session focused on one of the themes, and followed a similar format:

  • 5 minute contextual overview
  • 15 minute engaging TED-like multi-media presentation by an authoritative speaker focusing on one or more key issues
  • 25 minute moderated roundtable discussion with the speaker and 2 – 3 additional experts. Questions were taken from the audience throughout (those physically present via roving microphones and those virtually present via Twitter).

Ron Mader, founder and editor of Planeta.com and 2010 winner of The International Ecotourism Society’s Innovation Award . Based in Oaxaca, Mexico, Ron’s work online and around the world has been recognised for catalysing meaningful conversation and action about responsible travel, ecotourism, environmental conservation and peacemaking. His professional focus on responsible travel and ecotourism go back to research conducted in Costa Rica in 1989, and led to his founding Planeta.com in 1994 as the first website explicitly focusing on the challenges of ecotourism. Ron has adopted the social web ethos and has collaborated with colleagues around the world in an annual Responsible Tourism Week.

Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, CEO of Cape Town Tourism the City of Cape Town’s official Destination Marketing Organisation, responsible for destination marketing, visitor and industry services. Du Toit-Helmbold is one of the most inspirational leaders in South African tourism today, and under her leadership Cape Town Tourism has won critical acclaim as an organisation doing sterling work at the coalface of one of the country’s fastest growing industries. Her vision for sustainable and responsible tourism has garnered for her an impressive global reputation. She is a member of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Destination Council, a member of the UNWTO Business Council, a member of the UNWTO Protection of Children through Tourism Council and a member of the UNWTO International Women in Tourism Task Team.

Each of the four themed sessions had a 25-minute moderated panel discussion. Among the confirmed moderators and panellists:

  • Pierre Voges, CEO, Nelson Mandela Bay Development Agency
  • Heidi van der Watt, International Centre for Responsible Tourism South Africa, responsible tourism expert and author of the book, Developing Tourism in South Africa, published by Oxford University Press
  • Brett Dungan, CEO, Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (FEDHASA)
  • Monique le Roux, director of Andulela Experience, a FTTSA-certified tour operator based in Cape Town
  • Peter Myles, former director of Tourism Port Elizabeth and well-known tourism expert
  • Doung Jahangeer, architect, artist, creator of ‘The City Walk’ initiative, and director of Dala, a Durban-based collective that uses creativity to build safer and more liveable cities
  • Paul Miedema, founder of Calabash Tours, a FTTSA-certified tour operator based in Port Elizabeth and 2004 winner of an international Responsible Tourism Award
  • Antje Lenhard, Lecturer: Dept of Tourism Management, Tshwane University of Technology

All presentations have been made available online after the conference, as soon to come … videos of the presentations and discussions, available through the Responsible Cape Town website (www.responsiblecapetown.co.za)

The Business Case for Responsble Tourism
The role of city governments in responsible tourism
Brand, responsible tourism and the marketplace*

Conference Programme
Note: all times are UTC+2

08h25Call to order for morning conference   
08h30Welcoming of delegates: Nombulelo Mkefa, Director of Tourism, City of Cape Town   
08h40Introduction of themes and format: Kurt Ackermann, Conference co-ordinator   
08h45Role of city governments in RTNombulelo Mkefa: Director of Tourism, City of Cape TownHeidi van der Watt: ICRT South AfricaNkosinathi Manzana: COO Johannesburg Development Agency


Bhekithemba Langalibele, National Director for Responsible Tourism, National Department of Tourism

09h30Brand: Cities, RT and the marketplaceMariette du Toit-Helmbold: CEO, Cape Town TourismIain Harris: Coffeebeans RoutesPaul Mediema: Calabash Tours
Monique le Roux: Andulela ExperienceA Durban-based hotel
10h15Tea break   
10h30The business case for RTPierre Voges: CEO, Nelson Mandela Bay Development AgencyPeter Myles: Independent Tourism ConsultantAntje Lenhard: Lecturer, Department of Tourism Management, Tshwane University of Technology


Marnie Heim-Stafford: Voluntours

Jacques Stoltz: Urban Genesis

11h15Effective destination-wide collaboration on RTRon Mader: Founder and editor, Planeta.comSheryl Ozinsky: Sheryl Ozinsky ConsultingDoung Jahangeer: Dala


Mike Gcabo: Chairperson, Tshwane Tourism Action Team

Brett Dungan: CEO, FEDHASA

12h00Closing comments   
12h10Lunch served   
13h10Call to order for afternoon conference   
13h15Opening remarks: Mthetheleli Hugo, Manager Local Area Tourism Development, City of Cape Town   
13h25Opening speech: Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, CEO, Cape Town Tourism   
13h40Presentation: Thiofhi Ravele, Open Africa   
14h00Presentation: Green Cab   
14h20Tea break   
14h30Presentation: Abang Africa   
15h10Closing remarks: Mthetheleli Hugo, Manager Local Area Tourism Development, City of Cape Town   
15h20Conclusion of afternoon conference   

Exhibition Pavilion
There is also a dedicated exhibition pavilion focussing on Responsible Tourism in Cities that focused on the themes over from the conference to the Indaba exhibition itself over the four days that follow. The pavilion is the same one used at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Cape Town, and will be re-used after Indaba at the COP17 in Durban in November 2011.

The pavilion exterior is made entirely from recycled and reusable materials so as to produce zero waste after deconstruction. It is a scaffold cube clad in 1700 multi-coloured re-usable plastic milk crates filled with 20,400 empty milk bottles, all tied to the scaffolding frame. Low energy lighting behind the crates illuminates the entire structure at night turning it into a glowing ‘jewel box’ promoting responsible tourism in cities. The interior contrasts with the exterior waste world, being clad entirely in timber (sourced from Durban’s Working for Water programme), fixed with twine to allow later re-use. The interior is lit from above with translucent roof panels and is filled with fragrant Fynbos from the Cape Floral Kingdom. At roof level the organic interior metaphorically ‘grows’ out of the crates in the form of a forest of wooden poles which wave in the breeze giving the structure a kinetic and sculptural presence.

This space combines displays (e.g., text panels, plasma screen displays, printed material) with interactive sessions that include a schedule of smaller presentations, discussions or gatherings taking place within the exhibition space, running throughout the dates of Indaba (May 7-10, 2011). The national Minister of Tourism opened the pavilion on 7 May along with the CEO of South African Tourism, hosted by Cape Town Alderman Felicity Purchase.

South Africa’s first ever RT Networking event took place at the pavilion on Sunday, 8 May.

RT in Cities Pavilion Indaba 2011


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