At World Travel Market 2015, Gansbaai won the coveted Best Destination for Responsible Tourism Award. This award is for “a destination with a committed and broad integrated approach to responsible tourism, one that inspires and excites, and provides an example of best practice for other destinations around the world”. Not a small feat for a little fishing village in the Overberg!
Having been part of the local African Responsible Tourism Awards (where this blog won the Silver Award for Best Responsible Tourism Blog), I wanted to understand what Gansbaai had done to snatch this award amongst tough, worldwide competition. I asked my blogging colleague Dee from The Good Holiday (the Gold Award winner in the blog category in Africa) to join me for a “Responsible Tourism Roadtrip” (#RTRoadTrip) to find out.
During this trip, we visited many tourism businesses ranging from plush hotels to simple cabins, hikes along the shoreline, marine conservation centres and protected areas. We also met with the local tourism authority and representatives from the municipality.
What soon became clear to me, was that this is no ordinary little fishing village. This is a community, where everyone is working towards a bigger goal; that of conservation of marine and nature resources and the creation of a better life for all that live there. Tourism is but one part of a much bigger puzzle.
What makes this community so successful is collaboration. I found evidence of this wherever we visited; tourism business collaborating with each other (rather than competing) and with the public sector. Local residents driving initiatives that empower and uplift other residents that are less fortunate. And, perhaps most importantly, the municipality working hand-in-hand with the local tourism association to facilitate development.
My meeting with Kat from the Overstrand Municipality and Glenda from Gansbaai Tourism was hands down one of the most inspirational I have had in the 10 years that I have worked in Responsible Tourism! Their partnership stretches nearly 20 years, and it was clear that along the way they have become very good friends. They spoke of some of the past achievements, such as the formalization of the shark cage industry in 2000 and the creation of a sports field for underprivileged children in 2007.
Both are excellent examples of how private businesses have worked together with the public sector to achieve outstanding results. In the case of the shark cage industry, it was an initiative driven by the shark cage diving outfits themselves (who saw a need to enforce more ethical behaviour) that led to a formal Code of Conduct and eventually complete formalization of the industry through requirement of operating permits from the Department of Environmental Affairs. The sports fields were conceived with a vision to bring together people from the three main population groups in the area (white, black and coloured) and to provide underprivileged children with a healthy alternative to the crime and drug ridden streets of the townships. It was a collaboration between Overstrand Municipality, Absa Bank, the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, the English Premier League and local (tourism) businessman Michael Lutzeyer (read more about this inspirational project here).
But although the Best Destination for Responsible Tourism Award is a huge achievement for Gansbaai, they don’t plan to stop here. Glenda and Kat also spoke about their vision for the future; how they want to build on the successes of the past and help even more businesses become sustainable, and how they are assisting young township entrepreneurs to enter the tourism industry. There are also plans to roll out some of these successful initiatives across the Overstrand area, which in tourism terms is referred to as the Cape Whale Coast.
Through collaboration, this small community has won big awards and I am convinced that we will see more silverware making its way to Gansbaai in the future!
I my next #RTRoadTrip story, I will tell you more about some of the inspirational businesses we visited during our time in Gansbaai so stay tuned.