On Site: Fair Trade Travel in South Africa

Fair Trade is nothing new in terms of food, textiles and other products, but it’s a relatively new concept for the travel industry. FTTSA (Fair Trade Travel South Africa) is looking to change that, and is implementing a system by which hotels, tours, activities and other businesses can be certified as a Fair Trade company.

Katarina Mancama, FTTSA Project Manager, spoke at Indaba about how the company operates and what it guarantees. When a business wants to be certified as Fair Trade, they apply to the company and an assessor spends two to five days at the business to confirm that everything is…well, fair. A total of 14 operational areas are covered (including employment equity, community benefits, health and safety issues, workplace culture and even HIV/AIDS Awareness) before certification is granted, and the business is re-assessed every two years. (A paper audit takes place in alternating years.)

FTTSA has begun certifying whole packages, with financial support from the Swiss government. Every single aspect of the package has to be certified, Mancama said, from transportation to tour operators to the hotels. Some tour operators had to lower their commissions in order to earn their certification (for example, taking less money from a bed & breakfast than from a major chain hotel), and arranging reasonable cancellation fees. “We’re not saying tour operators shouldn’t make a profit,” Mancama said, “but everyone needs to get their fair share along the chain.” The first two packages were launched in Zurich last year, and a Germany-based package was announced at ITB in Berlin. Mancama said that the company is hoping to certify packages from the UK, France, Sweden and the Netherlands soon.

The cost for certifying a package is currently around €3,000, though larger companies will pay more to subsidize smaller ones. (The smallest certified company pays 500 rand per year—approximately $65.) Even better: Five percent of each fee collected goes into a central fund for social development in communities.

And in case your clients think that a Fair Trade vacation means sleeping in hemp sheets, you can tell them that luxury properties like Sabi Sabi are FTTSA-certified. 

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