2018 WESSA Annual Review
The WESSA Ecotourism unit currently offers two internationally recognised eco-labels through the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), these are Blue Flag (beach- es, boats and marinas) and Green Key (tourism establishments). The unit also recently developed Green Coast, a proudly South African award for sensitive and well-managed coastal sites that aim to protect coastal habitats, species or cultural heritage.
The 2017/18 period marked some im- portant milestones for the Ecotourism unit. A record number of Blue Flag mem- bers were reached over this period with a total of 62 successful awards issued (44 beaches, seven marinas and 11 boats). In an effort to improve universal access at our Blue Flag sites, the Ecotourism unit, with generous funding from the Ford Wildlife Foundation, purchased specialised am- phibious wheelchairs to be used at four of our beaches. These wheelchairs allow per- sons with disabilities to travel across the beach and enter the water. The Green Coast award was developed through an effective partnership between WESSA and our Membership division, which saw the award criteria developed and tested at five pilot sites in three of the four coastal provinces. This period also saw the start of the Green Key programme in South Africa, which provides a wonder- ful opportunity for the Ecotourism unit to work in the tourism private sector. In the first year of operation, this programme has already developed strong relationships with highly reputable international hotel brands. Our first Green Key establishment, the NH Lord Charles Hotel was awarded in early 2018. As one of the longest running eco-label implementing organisations in the country, it is our intention for Green
Key to become an industry benchmark for sustainable tourism in South Africa. The Ecotourism youth development proj- ects have achieved excellent results in the 2017/18 period, which saw our youth par- ticipants taking part in hundreds of coastal tourism events, environmental education ac- tivities, as well as the largest coastal clean-up campaign in South African history. The Tourism Blue Flag project was one of the lead implementers of the inaugural “Big Clean-up” event which took place on 16th September 2017. The work done by WESSA Tourism Blue Flag Stewards resulted in the most extensive media coverage WESSA Blue Flag has ever received in its 16 year history in South Africa. The 2017/18 period ended on a high with the official start of the Tourism Green Coast project on the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape. This new partnership with the Nation- al Department of Tourism will see the devel- opment and training of 100 coastal tourism guides at 25 proposed Green Coast sites. The project has captured the imagination of local communities and the tourism sector in the region, and is seen as the epitome of what the WESSA Ecotourism unit stands for.
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