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Ecotourism Certification Standards: South Africa's Fair Trade Tourism (FTT)

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The Ecotourism Certification Standards series continues with South Africa’s Fair Trade Tourism (FTT) program. South African tourism is synonymous with nature and wildlife safaris, cradle of humankind exploration, hiking and water adventure, and most recently World Cup soccer. Developed under the auspices of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) South Africa, the FTT is a non-profit initiative aligned to the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria and is now expanding into the southern African region.

Fair Trade Tourism Logo

FTT is also the world’s first and only Fair Trade certification program for tourism. While tour operators, as a whole, are not considered for FTT certification, the individual products that tour operators provide including accommodation, activities, attractions and volunteer tourism programs are eligible.

Once a tourism company has decided to apply for certification, it can answer the five easy questions on the FTT website to determine their eligibility to participate in the system. If eligible, businesses proceed to the on-line application, which will require the uploading of a number of supporting documents.

If the application is approved by FLO-Cert, FTT's outsourced certification body; an on-site audit will be scheduled. Audit fees are available on request.

During the on-site audit, FLO-Cert auditors will verify compliance with a number of criteria relating to:

  1. Legal and general compliance with all relevant national laws
  2. Labor standards compliance with national and international laws
  3. Human resource practices including management consistency, fairness and transparency
  4. Skills development including training
  5. Employment equity including access to equity plans and reports as well as opportunities for local residents
  6. Ownership and control policies including where tourism relies on community held assets, businesses must ensure that the community is represented in the ownership and control of the business
  7. Procurement including preference to South African organic, Fair Trade and environmentally-friendly products and services
  8. Community benefits including the protection of local historic or cultural sites and ensuring that basic services such as water, energy, sanitation are not jeopardized by business operations
  9. Cultural sensitivity including providing information about South African culture to tourists
  10. Environmental management including building of infrastructure that is consistent with locally-appropriate principles of sustainable construction and reducing or eliminating sources of pollution
  11. Health and safety including identifying dangers, educating staff to prevent injury and ensuring safety of guests
  12. Quality and reliability including soliciting feedback from guests and annual star-grading by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA)
  13. Workplace culture including staff participation in decision-making processes and non-discrimination
  14. HIV/AIDS and related issues including non-discrimination of people with health conditions

Once all required areas of compliance have been met, FTT certification will be awarded.

FTT certified tourism business will be required to report on-line annually, including the uploading of a number of supporting documents. On-site audits will occur every three years.

Click here for a listing of ecotour businesses that have been awarded the FTT certification.

Check out our eco-certified trips to Africa!

This article was updated for content on December 6, 2013 

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Irene is the founder & president of Greenloons. She is a dual EU citizen who has lived in 5 countries and visited 32 more in Asia, Oceania, Latin America and Europe. Drawing upon her professional and personal experiences to address authentic ecotourism from community, ecological and financial points of view, Irene is a frequent conference speaker, Huffington Post blogger and radio talk show guest. 

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