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FTTSA responds to calls for a global fair trade tourism label


Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa is a South African based non profit initiative, working to promote equitable and sustainable tourism development.

Since 2003, FTTSA has been operating a destination-specific certification programme, based on global principles of Fair Trade as well as local development imperatives to reduce poverty and inequality within the post-apartheid context.

To date, 42 establishments from throughout South Africa have qualified for FTTSA certification, ranging from luxury hotels and safari lodges to community-based micro-enterprises.  Tour operators and consumers are assured that accommodation and activities carrying the FTTSA mark are adhering to specific criteria such as fair wages and working conditions, fair distribution of benefits, ethical business practice, and respect for human rights, culture and the environment.  While FTTSA currently only certifies tourism products (accommodation, attractions and activities) global-level interventions will need to monitor trade in tourism services, and develop standards for auditing the behaviour of players throughout the tourism value chain.

This ground-breaking certification programme is the first of its kind in the world, focusing strongly on labour and socio-economic standards in addition to environmental performance.

According to FTTSA Executive Director, Jennifer Seif, “The success of FTTSA has sparked interest in expanding the scope of Fair Trade in Tourism beyond the borders of South Africa. This includes an investigation by the International Fairtrade Labelling Organization (FLO) to consider the feasibility of applying the well-known Fairtrade mark to the travel and tourism industry.”

“FTTSA has served as a technical advisor to FLO over the past three years, which has underscored the need for FTTSA to inform any future attempt to develop Fairtrade Tourism on a global scale,” stated Seif.  “While there is broad consensus that the travel and tourism industry can and should be fairer, we have yet to develop agreement on how Fair Travel will actually work in practice. How will it be monitored? Who will bear the costs? Who will set the standards?”

For Seif, “The real impacts of Fair Trade Tourism accrue in destinations – to workers, communities and small and medium-sized enterprises requiring third-party assistance to improve their operations and, ultimately, their access to markets.  Accordingly, standards and systems used for certification must speak to the needs, realities and expectations of destination stakeholders.”

In this spirit, FTTSA has initiated partnerships with likeminded organisations in Mozambique, Madagascar and Jordan – to name but a few.  Plans are underway to pilot Fair Trade in Tourism certification in both Mozambique and Madagascar from next year, with the aim of establishing country-specific certification initiatives linked to a common label, which is necessary to achieve real market impact.

With regard to the broader question of certifying the trade in tourism services, Seif noted that FTTSA has plans to expand its scope of influence vertically so that the organisation may begin to evaluate and monitor the fairness and sustainability of relations within the value chain.  “We plan to pilot Fair Trade Travel to South Africa around the 2010 FIFA World CupTM and expect that lessons we learn will be invaluable to FLO.”


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