Dear FTT friends & family,
As the year draws rapidly to a close, we would like to applaud you for your continued dedication to supporting and doing tourism the Fair Trade and responsible way.
Despite weathering some very difficult times over the past few years, you diligently maintained your passion for, and commitment to, people, planet and providing a quality experience. May you reap the rewards of a happy and loyal team, a supportive and engaged community, and being the preferred choice for travellers and trade partners who recognise that the resultant experience you offer is the future of tourism.
Before embarking on an exciting year ahead, here are a few highlights from the year that was. The journey has reminded us in countless ways how much stronger we are together…
The family is growing!
Over the past year, we’ve seen a growth in interest in working with Fair Trade Tourism, both from tourism products across southern Africa and through the global value chain of tour operators and travel agents seeking like-minded business partners in destinations.
2022 saw the introduction of FTT’s new membership structure whereby tourism businesses can join the network, have access to technical support to align their operations to Fair Trade and responsible tourism principles, and exchange experiences with like-minded businesses.
While some of these members might have the goal of one day becoming FTT-certified, that’s not necessarily the path for everyone. So membership (with no certification strings attached) is a great way to expand the tribe.
We warmly welcome all of the new members - including 6 from Zambia! - and wish them a rewarding journey.
Tourism businesses in Africa continue to provide inspiration and leadership in Fair Trade and responsible tourism. Going the extra mile and having their claims verified through an independent audit is no small undertaking, but is increasingly important in an industry demanding that tourism be responsible for its impacts.
Currently, there are over 50 tourism experiences certified across the region, including accommodations, activities, attractions and volunteer tourism programmes!
Engaging the global value chain is key to unlocking opportunities to align the actions and impacts of like-minded tourism businesses across the sector.
Our partnership with Travelife for Tour Operators is how we’re tackling this - providing access to a captive audience of buyers (over 1,000!) who are seeking sustainable product, and driving bums-in-beds / seats to tourism products on the ground that are FTT-certified. As FTT, we are providing direct support to over 20 such tour operators, with 6 already achieving FTT-approved status.
Face-to-face at last!
A fabulous FTT get together was held in Cape Town in April when, at long last, we were able to connect in person again. It was an evening where the principles of Fair Trade Tourism were woven into every aspect of the celebration - from local food, MSME sourcing, and sustainability-certified & organic wine, to "story gifting" from the inspiring businesses that do tourism the Fair Trade way.
A huge thank you to Point B Guest House and its team for welcoming us into its beautiful, typically Capetonian venue, to Uthando South Africa (& Sadeika) and The Vineyard Hotel & Spa for delicious snacks, and to Spier and Jan Harmsgat Country House for the wine tasting.
And, of course, to all of the businesses who made the evening so inspiring by sharing a story and a gift of how they embrace Fair Trade and responsible tourism in their businesses even in - and sometimes especially in - the toughest of times.
What a privilege to be part of such an amazing group of businesses and individuals... Let’s continue to support each other and to welcome more into the fold.
Sharing experience & innovation
A spirit of transparency and willingness to share is characteristic of the FTT family, and the past year+ has given us an opportunity to network how we have pivoted, innovated, and dug in even deeper to make sure tourism is a force for good.
Quarterly webinars in 2022 included:
Creating a local, sustainable F&B experience - experience shared by Three Tree Hill and !Kwattu - San Spirit Shared
Impact monitoring - lessons from Witsieshoek’s global best accolade at WTM for monitoring its local economic impact, and global developments shared by FTT
Collective efforts and consolidation of back end tourism services and innovative benefit sharing to maximise efficiencies for small / independently owned accommodation providers - experience of the African Safari Collective
Demonstration of the new online framework and sustainability management system by FTT
For those of you who weren’t there, the year before included selected topics of relevance to address the challenges of the times and concurrent priorities for sustainability in tourism. A recap of our quarterly line-up for 2021 included:
Communicating your FTT USP - Green Heart Tourism and FTT on shifting market trends, demand for sustainability, and FTT’s “Keep it Real” sustainability marketing and communications toolkit
Plastic pollution in times of COVID - BDO-South Africa shared impact context and realities, while Bahia Mar in Mozambique shared how they’ve eliminated single-use plastic in their operations
Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency presented the new global platform to unite the industry around taking tangible, immediate climate action
FTT shared its new strategy and vision for the way forward, based on member feedback and priorities
2023 already has an exciting list of potential topics and we’ll be canvassing members in January 2023 to see which ones are of interest and importance to them.
New sustainability framework
In April 2022, FTT launched its revised standard - a sustainability framework that maintains our alignment with global best practice while retaining local relevance.
The previous 220+ criteria have now been consolidated into 179 that apply to all businesses, of which 112 are mandatory and 67 are general. Community tours and volunteer tourism benefit from additional guidance through 12 and 30 criteria, respectively.
FTT’s sustainability framework is structured into the following categories, reflecting management systems in place and impact areas:
Fair Trade Tourism commitment & communication
Good business practice
Local social & economic benefits
Environmental impact management
Biodiversity, ecosystems & landscapes
Digital support platform
Providing step-by-step support to businesses that want to use tourism as a force for positive change is now available through a user-friendly digital platform. Nearly 20 years of learnings have been consolidated into a single framework where the criteria of the FTT standard are supplemented with guidance, examples from industry, templates, tracking tools, and other resources.
There is also an option for users to provide their own recommendations about relevant goods & services that they have sourced. These “peer pointers” provide a centralised repository of locally available options as tested by industry.
The entire system will serve as a dynamic, ‘living’ pool of support, being co-populated by FTT and users over time, thus providing ongoing opportunities to improve and adapt as technology and best practice evolve.
Marketing & market access
Market positioning has been more important than ever as the tourism economy recovers. To support businesses in strategically tapping into the demand for sustainability and meaningful experiences, we developed a thematically aligned social media planning tool for members of the FTT family.
A shout out goes to Lucy - our intern from Global Cultural Adventures - for her diligent support in developing this valuable tool!
We have also continued to secure opportunities for preferential market access for FTT members and to raise awareness of the brand globally. Activities included:
pursuing and securing partnerships with online booking platforms to feature FTT-certified businesses;
participating in select, high-profile global movements such as the Glasgow Declaration, Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency, and the Tourism Impact Alliance; and
supporting destination marketing organisations by providing product presentations to global offices, and co-developing Fair Trade and responsible tourism-themed itineraries.
FTT will persist in its efforts to ensure that businesses that embrace the Fair Trade way of doing tourism are featured as leaders in the destination. Through collaboration and partnerships, we hope to normalise the practice of transparently demonstrating benefits to the destination as integral to a quality offering based on sustainability principles. Our vision is that this way of doing business may become the basis for destination positioning and branding. Stay tuned for updates…
To close off, I just want to express my heartfelt gratitude to each of you for your contributions to making this industry and, by consequence, the world so much better, step by step, in big ways and small. You are an endless source of inspiration to so many, and particularly to me; for that I thank you.
May the year ahead be prosperous and peaceful, and may we continue to co-create just, inclusive, and sustainable travel & tourism.
Yours in Fair Trade & responsible tourism,
Program Manager, Fair Trade Tourism