Tour Op­er­a­tors' Char­ter

FOR SUS­TAIN­ABLE TOURISM DE­VEL­OP­MENT

Tourism Tattler - - EDITORIAL - By Greg McManus. Per­for­mance Eval­u­a­tion

The im­por­tant role that Tour Op­er­a­tors play in low­er­ing the im­pact of mass tourism on lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, economies and nat­u­ral attractions is un­der­es­ti­mated, and, in­deed, un­der recognised. Most of­ten it is left to the prod­uct own­ers them­selves to com­mu­ni­cate their ini­tia­tives to guests rather than the Tour Op­er­a­tor ac­tively in­clud­ing and sell­ing these at­tributes in their mar­ket­ing col­lat­eral and tour itin­er­ar­ies.

The Tour Op­er­a­tors' Char­ter – a unique ini­tia­tive by The Her­itage En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment Com­pany – aims to change this. It is de­signed to recog­nise tour op­er­a­tors who com­mit them­selves and their com­pa­nies to sus­tain­able tourism prac­tices by make use of in­de­pen­dently cer­ti­fied, en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly and sus­tain­able prod­ucts and ser­vices. The Char­ter mea­sures the ex­tent to which op­er­a­tors con­sider the im­pact that their op­er­a­tions have on cho­sen des­ti­na­tions by con­sid­er­ing the prod­ucts sup­ported, the trans­port needs of clients, and the ef­forts taken to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment, com­mu­ni­ties and cul­tures in gen­eral. Mem­ber­ship to The Char­ter is awarded in two cat­e­gories:

1. Tour Op­er­a­tor Mem­ber­ship

This cat­e­gory is awarded to op­er­a­tors who of­fer trans­port, ac­com­mo­da­tion and other tourism or travel re­lated ser­vices for sale, ei­ther di­rectly or through an agent, travel ser­vices or ac­tiv­i­ties that in­clude trans­port, ac­com­mo­da­tion and other tourism ser­vices in as­so­ci­a­tion with in­de­pen­dently mon­i­tored or cer­ti­fied re­spon­si­ble tourism prod­uct own­ers.

2. As­so­ci­ate Mem­ber­ship

As­so­ci­ate mem­ber­ship recog­nises in­di­vid­u­als who through their own ac­tions and prac­tices sup­port busi­nesses or tourism-re­lated prod­ucts/ ser­vices that are in­de­pen­dently ver­i­fied as en­vi­ron­men­tally or so­cially re­spon­si­ble by a recognised la­bel, rat­ing, mark or ini­tia­tive in this field. Mem­ber­ship of this cat­e­gory does not en­dorse the or­gan­i­sa­tion or com­pany with which the in­di­vid­ual is as­so­ci­ated un­less the com­pany or or­gan­i­sa­tion has been awarded Tour Op­er­a­tor Mem­ber­ship sta­tus.

Per­for­mance Cri­te­ria

Per­for­mance cri­te­ria that have been es­tab­lished re­flect a num­ber of key busi­ness prac­tice el­e­ments and Global Re­port­ing (GR3) Stan­dards. These in­clude; • The Tour Op­er­a­tor and the En­vi­ron­ment • Prod­uct Man­age­ment and De­vel­op­ment • Busi­ness As­so­ciates, Sup­pli­ers and Ser­vice Providers • Op­er­a­tional Man­age­ment Sys­tems • Sup­ply Chain Man­age­ment • Cus­tomer Re­la­tions • Des­ti­na­tion Man­age­ment • Com­mu­nity Re­la­tions. At the end of each year of mem­ber­ship, mem­bers are re­quired to sub­mit a Port­fo­lio of Ev­i­dence to sup­port their sta­tus (based on the above) and to de­velop and make avail­able an en­vi­ron­men­tal re­port for their clients, busi­ness as­so­ciates and Board. The re­port­ing stan­dard is based on the GRI Sus­tain­abil­ity Re­port­ing Guide­lines for The Tour Op­er­a­tors' Sec­tor. On-site as­sess­ment and ver­i­fi­ca­tion vis­its are un­der­taken by the Char­ter Ad­min­is­tra­tors from time to time to ver­ify the in­for­ma­tion pro­vided. Those Tour Op­er­a­tors that make use of coaches, ve­hi­cles and other means of trans­port that can im­pact neg­a­tively on the en­vi­ron­ment will need to demon­strate a work­able car­bon off­set strat­egy as part of their an­nual re­port­ing process. This could in­clude a green­ing pol­icy for com­mu­ni­ties af­fected by their op­er­a­tions; mem­ber­ship of a recognised green­ing cam­paign or other off­set ini­tia­tives.

The Char­ter aims to achieve four ob­jec­tives. These are:

• To re­duce the ef­fect that the op­er­a­tions have on its en­vi­ron­ment and sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties;

• To in­crease aware­ness and sound man­age­ment sys­tems that will en­sure the long-term sus­tain­abil­ity of the busi­ness and its sur­round­ing en­vi­ron­ment;

• To re­duce the op­er­at­ing costs and ex­penses of the op­er­a­tion and thereby im­prove the prof­its through sound en­vi­ron­men­tal prac­tices and;

• To re­alise the full po­ten­tial of sus­tain­able busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

Com­mit­ment and Vi­sion

No En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment Pro­gramme can work with­out com­mit­ment and fo­cus by the busi­ness it­self. The Tour Op­er­a­tors' Char­ter is not about some­one else run­ning or di­rect­ing your busi­ness. It's all about en­cour­ag­ing and guid­ing you and your team to en­sure your own sus­tain­able man­age­ment sys­tems.

You hold the key to your own fu­ture. You can con­tinue run­ning your busi­ness as usual by fail­ing to un­der­stand or to mit­i­gate your im­pacts, or you can choose the moral al­ter­na­tive by com­mit­ting your busi­ness to a more car­ing and sus­tain­able fu­ture to­day.

Af­ter all, don't fu­ture gen­er­a­tions have the right to ex­pect noth­ing less than our com­mit­ment to­day?

For more in­for­ma­tion visit www.her­itagesa.co.za

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