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Imagine you are a hotel owner in South Africa. Like in other regions of the world, you would have to deal with numerous legislations and guidelines, such as labor laws and other compliance laws related to the hospitality industry. For a small business, it is not easy to always stay ‘on top’ – following changes in laws, providing the correct documentation etc. Maybe you are also looking for differentiating yourself from your competition, become an environmentally friendly and sustainable business and above and beyond, you want to give back to the community you are in.

This is where Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA) can really make a difference. FTTSA is facilitating the Fair Trade in Tourism certification program (by the way the only organization globally which applies ‘fair trade’ principles to tourism and really setting a global standard), helping large and small businesses such as hotels, safari operators or even bike rental businesses to not only make sure they are legally compliant but also measure their score in four major areas – sustainable management, local community, cultural heritage, and impact of the environment.

So how does this certification process look like and what does that mean for an owner of a small hotel or guesthouse? In order to get certified, you would submit some initial information, followed by a more detailed online questionnaire. After validating the information and documentation submitted, FTTSA (or another 3rd party certification body) would perform an online audit, and finally after successful certification FTTSA would submit a detailed score report along with the certification back to the business.

Yes, there certainly is effort and cost involved for getting the FTTSA certification, but the FTTSA label comes with a wealth of benefits. FTTSA does a lot of marketing activities for you: featured clients are published in magazines, FTTSA showcases clients on their website, do roadshows for them, and help businesses to promote their products (hotels, tours, rentals etc.) with large tour operators, both domestic and overseas. One of the biggest advantages however is the guidance businesses receive during the certification process itself – ensuring legal compliance, receiving assistance and uncovering opportunities for making a social, economic and environmental impact.

One FTTSA certified client, the Mercure hotel chain, put it this way: ‘over the years, we have put efforts into transforming our way of doing business from a conventional approach to a responsible and sustainable approach. Going through the FTTSA certification process has enabled us to prove our responsible behavior in South Africa’.

Fair Trade in tourism certification has a big impact not only on hotels, it applies to all kind of businesses in the tourism industry: ‘Fair Trade has completely changed the way I look at tourism. Fair Trade has taught me to respect the environment, culture and communities in general. It has created HIV and AIDS awareness to me and the people I  am working with. The way I work with the community is different because now I consult and discuss issues with the community in order to hear their side of the story. I don’t make decisions for them, I’m using the same approach with my family and trying to create environmental awareness in my family , e.g. using water sparingly in my household’ – Calabash Tours

Let’s hope that many more businesses in tourism industry follow these great examples and get certified - it is a big step to make the world run better.