Fair Trade Tourism and Fair Trade Holidays

Introduction to Fair Trade Tourism

On June 13  2002 the Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa certification programme was officially launched in South Africa, marking the first time in the history of the Fair Trade movement that a trademark or label for the tourism sector had been created.

To date it is still the only tourism Fair Trade certification programme in the world. On October 22 2003, the first four certified establishments were announced, with the portfolio of certified products increasing annually.

In May 2013, FTTSA changed its name to Fair Trade Tourism to signal its intention to work as an international certification programme and started work on expanding into neighbouring countries such as Mozambique and Madagascar.

What Fair Trade Tourism does

Fair Trade Tourism is a non-profit organisation that promotes responsible tourism in southern Africa and beyond.

The aim of Fair Trade Tourism is to make tourism more sustainable by ensuring that the people who contribute their land, resources, labour and knowledge to tourism are the ones who reap the benefits.

This is done by growing awareness about responsible tourism to travellers; assisting tourism businesses to operate more sustainably; and by facilitating a Fair Trade Tourism certification programme across southern Africa.

Tourism businesses that adhere to the Fair Trade Tourism standard can use the Fair Trade Tourism label as a way of signifying their commitment to fair and responsible tourism. This includes:

  • Fair wages and working conditions

  • Fair purchasing and operations

  • Equitable distribution of benefits

  • Respect for human rights, culture and the environment.

By selecting a Fair Trade Tourism certified business, travellers are not only assured that their holiday benefits local communities and economies, and that the business is operated ethically and in a socially and environmentally responsible manner, but they will also have a more fulfilling holiday experience.

Fair Trade Tourism's vision is global leadership for fair, participatory and sustainable tourism and its mission is to,  through certification, develop the market for Fair Trade Tourism in a way that benefits people, business and the environment.

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The Six Fair Trade Tourism Principles

FAIR SHARE: All participants involved in a tourism activity should get their fair share of the income, in direct proportion to their contribution to the activity.

FAIR SAY: All participants involved in a tourism activity should have the right and opportunity to participate in decisions that concern them.

RESPECT: Both host and visitor should have respect for human rights, culture and environment. This includes:

  • Safe working conditions and practices

  • Protection of young workers

  • Promoting gender equality

  • Understanding and tolerance of socio-cultural norms

  • Reducing consumption of water and energy as well as reducing, reusing and recycling waste

  • Conservation of biodiversity and natural resources

  • HIV / Aids awareness

RELIABILITY: The services delivered to tourists should be reliable and consistent. Basic safety and security for both host and visitor should be ensured.

TRANSPARENCY: Tourism businesses should establish mechanisms of accountability. This includes:

  • Ownership of tourism businesses must be clearly defined

  • Employees and other participants should be able to access information that concerns them

  • Sharing of profits, benefits and losses must be transparent

SUSTAINABILITY: The tourism businesses should strive to be sustainable. This includes:

  • Increased knowledge through capacity building

  • Improved use of available resources through networking and partnerships

  • Economic viability through responsible use of resources

  • Reduction of leakage through local purchasing and employment

  • Support to historically disadvantaged entrepreneurs.

The Fair Trade Tourism Certification Programme

The Fair Trade Tourism certification programme is voluntary and targets a wide range of tourism products such as: accommodation, activities, facilities, food services, attractions and volunteer programmes.

The programme measures social, environmental and economic impacts of a tourism business.

An independent external auditor spends several days at the establishment checking data, interviewing staff and management, observing performance and writing an audit report. The audit report is sent to the business within 10 working days. Once all requirements have been fulfilled; Fair Trade Tourism certification is awarded.

The business will undergo a re-assessment every 36 months with online annual audits in intervening years.

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Fair Trade Tourism Standard

For a tourism product to be Fair Trade Tourism certified it must be assessed against the tourism product compliance criteria, which are derived from the Tourism Product Certification Standard.

The compliance criteria for tourism products fall under the following categories:

  • Business practice and HR

  • Community resources

  • Cultural heritage

  • Environmental practice.

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The Fair Trade Tourism label

This label is used to indicate that a tourism product (hotel, lodge, activity or attraction etc.) has been certified against the Fair Trade Tourism standard.

The organisation certifies a wide variety of tourism businesses: accommodation, activities, facilities, food services, attractions and volunteer programmes.  Here are some examples:

The broad range of businesses that are certified means that there is something for everyone, from affordable to luxury; Cape Town to Louis Trichardt; and whale watching to township cycling tours.

For a full list of products please refer to the Fair Trade Tourism website.

Why should tourists select certified businesses?

Fair Trade Tourism benefits real people in real life. It is for travellers who want to make a difference. Being a responsible traveller means having an amazing experience, while at the same time giving back to the people and the environment you visited. It is a commitment to honouring the people and places that made the holiday happen.

Certified businesses are committed to fair wages and working conditions, fair purchasing and operations, equitable distribution of benefits and respect for human rights, culture and the environment.

Guests will leave feeling relaxed and recharged, knowing that they have made a real difference to someone’s life and livelihood.

What are Fair Trade Holidays?

Fair Trade Holidays is a system to develop travel packages that ensure fairness throughout the tourism value chain (tour operators, products and terms of trade). Fair Trade Holidays benefit product owners and tourism workers in South Africa by requiring long term trading relationships and binding cancellation agreements. 

They contain a minimum 50% of bed nights in Fair Trade Tourism certified accommodation. 

Fair Trade Holidays will benefit small businesses and workers by guaranteeing:

  • A fair share of the profits from tourism;

  • Fair wages and working conditions;

  • Long-term trading security;

  • Community development opportunities; and

  • Access to new markets

For tourists, this ground-breaking initiative offers a possibility to extend their ethical purchase decisions beyond everyday products such as coffee, tea and fruit to also include holidays that guarantee a better life for people in the South.

Fair Trade Holidays mark the first time in the nearly 50-year history of the global Fair Trade movement that such systems are being developed for the international trade in tourism services.

Why is it important to create Fair Trade Holidays?

Tourism has been identified by the South African government as a key sector for achieving post-apartheid development and transformation imperatives. Foreign tourist arrivals to South Africa have grown three-fold since the early 1990s, reaching 8million in 2011. Strong international demand is accompanied by a robust and diverse domestic market.

Yet tourism growth carries costs to the destination and to people living in places that are attractive to tourists. Tourism is a highly consumptive sector, drawing large quantities of electricity and water and generating significant volumes of waste. The sector is also a fairly poor employer, with working conditions characterized by low pay, long hours, gender inequality and a strong dependency on casual (non-permanent) labour. The Fair Trade Tourism label addresses these issues but since a holiday generally consists of a series of tourist products packaged by tour operators, it was necessary to develop a way to package a holiday fairly.

Fair Trade Tourism, together with arbeitskreis tourismus & entwicklung (akte) in Switzerland and EED-Tourism Watch in Germany, pilot-tested standards and audit tools to measure the most prominent aspects of a travel package for adherence to the principles of Fair Trade.

The pilot, funded by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) under the economic development cooperation and endorsed by the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations (FLO) International, resulted in the certification of two package holidays developed and launched by Swiss tour operator partners, Kuoni Travel Ltd. and Reise Service Imagine in 2010.