Hats off Harriet Lamb for inviting the travel and tourism community to seek inspiration from Fairtrade, writes Jennifer Seif
We should be inspired by the phenomenal growth of Fairtrade over the past two decades or so, rooted in the (now proven) premise that ordinary consumers in developed countries can positively impact the lives of farmers and other producers in the developing world, through the very ordinary act of doing the household shopping.
From the iconic Fairtrade banana to more complex, composite products like wine and textiles to the more controversial labelling of gold, the Fairtrade message has remained refreshingly simple. And therein, perhaps, is the key to success: consumer recognition of the international Fairtrade mark currently stands at 96% in the UK, 90% in Switzerland and 69% in Germany, according to research published by Globescan in November 2011.
It"s hardly surprising, then, that tourism is looking for a piece of this action, and that World Travel Market 2011 was abuzz with a variety of Fair Trade initiatives. But Fair Trade is more than a sexy or well-timed addition to the established sustainable tourism lexicon. Conceptually, Fair Trade tourism requires us to expose the structural imbalances upon which the industry turns: between North and South, rich and poor, big and small, men and women.
Practically, Fair Trade tourism is predicated on being able (and willing) to measure the flow of money in value chains that are characterized by opaque pricing, high price competition and disproportionate risk sharing. Fair Trade tourism can and must shift the terms of trade in favour of small suppliers, poor communities and workers who are so fundamentally disadvantaged by the global trading system. The so-called harlots who sell their labour, natural and cultural resources, knowledge and other assets to merchants with varying degrees of power.
South Africa is by no means a harlot on the international stage, although we are a nation with unacceptable levels of inequality, unemployment and poverty. It is this combination, perhaps, that has inspired South Africa to lead the synthesis of tourism and Fair Trade.
Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA) pioneered the world"s first tourism Fair Trade standard and certification system, initially for tourism businesses in South Africa and most recently for packaged travel to the country. The lessons we have learned and the results we have achieved over a ten year period have convinced international development agencies, Fairtrade organisations and a core working group of tour operators that tourism can be a Fairtrade product and that in achieving this vision, we may just inspire new ways of modelling Fairtrade to make it stronger. Africa can and will remain in the driving seat of this process: not as the objects of Fair Trade tourism but rather as its authors.
Jennifer Seif is Executive Director of Fair Trade Tourism South Africa http://www.fairtourismsa.org.za
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011
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