Atta, The African Travel and Tourism Association, has published its Sustainability Charter (available here), at the travel trade show, Experience Africa, in June 2019. The Charter is Atta’s commitment to driving and improving sustainable tourism practices in Africa. The Charter outlines 10 principles specific to the context of Africa, and encourages Atta Members to endorse them, and drive them into practice.
Over the last 15 years, Africa’s travel and hospitality industry have quadrupled in size, according to the World Tourism Organisation (WTO), and remains one of the world’s fastest-growing tourism destinations (second only to South East Asia). The sector’s tourism growth opportunity presents significant economic opportunities for the continent, such as providing employment and jobs. In 2017, it was estimated that 9.3 million jobs, that’s 2.6% of all employment in Africa, was generated by direct employment in the tourism sector. Many of these jobs are in rural areas where there are no alternative sources of employment. Tourism also brings many positive social and environmental benefits for Africa, such as being a positive force for the conservation of wildlife and biodiversity, and lifting communities out of poverty.
Unless tourism growth is managed sustainably, however, tourism can also impact negatively, for example, driving climate change, resource scarcity, and plastic pollution. Africa is one of the most likely impacted continents by climate change. By 2020, between 75 and 250 million people on the continent are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change.
Fiona Jeffery OBE, Chair of Atta, explains: “By establishing an Atta Sustainability Charter our aim is to unify our members with a template that outlines best practise principles giving members a recognised framework to work from, and build off. The Atta Sustainability Charter also works within the internationally agreed global framework for tourism by following the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics, and the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria. The desire is to create greater member commitment and engagement and Atta will be building off the charter to provide tools and guidance for its members to become champions of sustainable tourism”.
The 10 Charter principles are:
- Enhancing local prosperity: To increase the proportion of tourism spending that is retained locally, by employing local people, encouraging local purchasing and, where possible, sourcing goods and services from local businesses.
- Supporting communities: To identify and pursue opportunities to support essential services in local communities, including health, sanitation, education and infrastructural projects.
- Valuing staff: To recognise the rights of employees, providing them with a safe and secure working environment and at least a living wage, offering skills training and potential for advancement and avoiding all forms of discrimination and exploitation.
- Involving visitors: To enhance visitors’ experience and sense of engagement through providing them with accurate information about local environments, cultures and sustainability issues and encouraging and facilitating their involvement and support.
- Celebrating local cultures: To respect local and indigenous rights, cultures and traditions and contribute to their preservation and enrichment, reflecting and celebrating them sensitively in tourism products and activities and avoiding inappropriate commodification.
- Reducing emissions: To identify and measure greenhouse gas emissions relating to tourism operations and take action to reduce them through minimizing energy consumption, favouring renewable energy sources, and promoting the use of resource efficient transport options.
- Managing water: To identify the degree and nature of water risk in local destinations, ensure responsible water use and avoid adverse impacts on local communities and ecosystems from the level and pattern of water consumption and the treatment of wastewater.
- Conserving wildlife: To raise awareness of threats to Africa’s wildlife and support for its conservation, in general and as a source of livelihood through tourism, and to ensure that wildlife interactions are responsibly managed and all wildlife-related regulations are fully met.
- Minimizing waste: To minimise the production of waste from tourism operations and activities, following programmes to reduce, reuse and recycle, with special attention to reducing food waste and avoiding single-use plastics, and ensure appropriate waste disposal.
- Working together: To work with other organizations and businesses on the promotion, development and management of sustainable tourism in Africa, sharing knowledge and engaging in collaborative projects that benefit the economy, communities and the environment.