A Conversation with Nivashnee Naidoo, Managing Director, Fair Trade Tourism


In preparation of our FEST event at the European Development Days (EDD) on the16th of June 2016 in Brussels we are pleased to publish the interview with Nivashnee Naidoo. 

For more information on the event please visit https://eudevdays.eu/sessions/managing-natural-and-cultural-attractions-sustainable-agenda

001_FTT_!Xaus Lodge

  1. People are more and more interested in social responsibility and fair trade when choosing their next destination. What are the main factors and policies that encouraged the development of fair trade tourism in South Africa and the new countries that you have started operating in recently (Madagascar, Mozambique)?

The idea to develop a product group based on the model of fair trade commodities (wine, cocoa, sugar etc.) for the tourism sector was born in the late 1990s by a group of civil society organizations in Switzerland with close links to South Africa. Then still under its former name Fair Trade Tourism South Africa (FTTSA) was founded in 2001 as a project of the South African country office of IUCN-World Conservation Union. South Africa seemed ideal to pilot such an initiative aligned to the Fair Trade Movement, given its history and impetus to correct the human rights abuses and exploitation of labour under Apartheid. The South African Government’s White Paper on Tourism (1996) and the Global Earth Summit in Johannesburg (Rio+10), provided further momentum, culminating in the Cape Town Declaration of 2002, of which the formulation of Fair Trade Tourism was one of the major outcomes. In November 2004, FTTSA separated from IUCN-South Africa and began operating as a stand-alone non-profit company. Upon receiving a 5 year grant from the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), FTTSA dropped “South Africa” from its name as the new goals set out under the grant, stipulated that Fair Trade Tourism would expand the model that had been built successfully over previous years into its neighbouring countries in order to grow both the basket and geographic reach of Fair Trade Tourism offerings. Early on a decision was made to not compete with existing certification schemes that had developed partly in parallel or later on in countries like Namibia, Botswana, the Seychelles or Tanzania. Fair Trade Tourism certification is now also available in Madagascar, with additional support having been provided by the private sector association GoTo Madagascar and in Mozambique through support from the German Ministry for Economic Development (BMZ) through the German Technical Co-operation (GIZ).. Through a formalized mutual recognition process, which entailed upgrading the standards of our partner organizations in the above mentioned neighbouring countries, approved tour operators can now package Fair Trade Holidays built around a selection of currently 115 products in 7 Southern African countries. Consumers are now or will soon be able to select Fair Trade Holiday packages from over 30 inbound and tour operators that have been approved by Fair Trade Tourism in several key markets.

  1. What are the major benefits of the Fair Trade certificate in tourism for the tourism industry?

Tour operators increasingly look for ethical suppliers and offerings with credible sustainability credentials. Fair Trade Tourism is proud to be able to offer a Mark of Best Practice, which leads our continent in this regard. Supply follows demand, and more and more businesses in our region recognize that sustainable tourism management not only brings the benefit of market access to leading international tour operators, which almost all now have sustainable procurement policies, but also to specialised smaller operators that cater for a growing market of ethically conscious consumers.

In essence, the Fair Trade Tourism certification process, is a highly effective Business Development Service (BDS), during which businesses that undergo the process, increase their capacity and efficiency in everything from internal administration and human resource policies, building and retaining a staff body socially secured by effective workplace welfare, establishing resilient relationship with their host communities to continuously improving their resource consumption, energy efficiency and service quality.

  1. How can governments together with the industry and knowledge community (academia, training organizations, trade associations, etc.) improve training and education in the light of the increased demand for socially responsible/ fair trade tourism?

In a service industry like tourism, any type of effective knowledge and training has to be based on the workplace. South Africa shares the benefits with many destinations around the world of being host to a number of highly sustainably operating tourism businesses. Governments should make better use of these businesses by providing grants and incentives to them, in order to either upscale training in-house and/or invest in their own local business community and supply chains by engaging in public private dialogues, where their successful but also challenging experiences combined with finding common solutions can be shared.

  1. Which are the main gaps that you identify commonly in the African context regarding the value that can be created from jobs in tourism? Regarding these gaps, do you see any leaders at the global level that set examples in dealing with such gaps?

Noting first that “Africa” is a continent with highly diverse cultures, economies and polities, the following remarks will have to accept criticism. Put in simple economic terms, tourism in Africa and elsewhere, is an economically highly volatile, mostly seasonal, highly competitive and low margin industry with a high labour cost factor. Thus there will always be pressure on job security and working conditions. However, the high labour intensity of the sector is only surpassed by public sector and agriculture in terms of job creation in many African countries and the tourism industry is not isolated from other sectors. Public sector jobs are often permanent and captured by elites and agricultural jobs are mostly menial with little opportunities for career development. The tourism sector on the other hand is so diverse and dynamic in nature that at least theoretically it can offer ambitious employees to acquire a range of qualifications on the job, from soft skills like languages and professional communication skills all the way to management and highly specialized-knowledge based professions. Due to its strong linkages to other sectors, including conservation, tourism is a highly pervious sector, offering workers that have developed a set of specialized skills, several opportunities to apply them in other sectors. While not banking on tourism to be a panacea for economic growth and job creation, global leaders should recognize the leeway that the dynamic and pervious potential tourism has for job creation in general, while not focussing attention on this sector by looking beyond job numbers in isolation. Once this is recognized, public-private partnerships could invest in a global job skills incubator programme targeted at building a workforce with highly flexible skills through work place programmes linked to the tourism sector.

  1. If you had a wish regarding the improvement of fair trade in tourism what would it be?

I mentioned before that, the Fair Trade Tourism certification process, is a highly effective Business Development Service (BDS), during which businesses that undergo the process, continuously improve their resource consumption and energy efficiency and service quality. In a nutshell this means business become more competitive within the certification process. However, there are costs associated both with providing these BDS services and to audit them via an independent third party. Smaller ad emerging businesses, despite seeing the potential benefits Fair Trade Certification and the associated market access promises, simply cannot afford these costs. Historically, Fair Trade Tourism has tried to raise funds from donors to subsidise these costs for small businesses. However, such funding opportunities are far too few. Thus, Fair Trade Tourism wishes for a stronger public sector investment in instruments such as those that Fair Trade Tourism offers and that greatly benefits the growth of true sustainable tourism development especially of small businesses.

For further information on Fair Trade Tourism please go to http://www.fairtrade.travel/

For any questions directed at Fair Trade Tourism please contact Manuel Bollmann under manuel@fairtrade.travel



One Comment

  1. Claire Haven-Tang

    Interesting interview. Two questions spring to mind:
    1) Precisely how will the Fair Trade Tourism certification process provide businesses (of varying sizes) with competitive advantage?
    2) What training/awareness raising has been planned to change mindsets in relation to the Fair Trade Tourism certification process – with businesses and with the various support agencies?

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