South Africa’s minister for tourism today called on the global travel industry to collectively lead the world in tackling “planet-destroying” climate change.

Derek Hanekom highlighted Cape Town’s recent drought which led to the city declaring a ‘day zero’ where it would run out of water.
He admitted that tourism suffered through the apocalyptic messaging but that it was an essential tactic for the water shortage to be taken seriously.

“It had an unintended negative impact on tourism,” he told a forum on responsible tourism at World Travel Market. “Thankfully the drought is over and many lessons have been learned. It had a significant impact on tourism but a tourism drought was avoided.”

Hanekom said the drought should come as a warning that “the entire tourism industry, and the entire world, needs to adapt with urgency” to avoid similar crises.

“The tourism industry is both a contributor to and victim of these planet-destroying activities,” he added. “This is about our survival. Let us be the industry that leads the world towards sustainable practices. If we do this, we can ensure that there is a world, and a world where people can enjoy the benefits of fulfilling tourism experiences.”

He praised his own country’s efforts in the area of responsible tourism, such as Hotel Verde in Cape Town and operator Wilderness South Africa for their commitment to responsible tourism. He added that South Africa was the first country to make responsible tourism a national policy in 2002, a framework adopted by WTM in 2007.

“We are convinced that it is not just a nice thing to do, but a necessity,” Hanekom added. “It’s for all of us. It’s about the planet and all the people who live on our planet.”

Winners of WTM’s responsible travel awards included Tui, for Best for Communicating Responsible Tourism and World Animal Protection, which won the Best Wildlife Conservation award for its global campaign to end wildlife used for cruel tourist entertainment.

The Travel Weekly team is reporting extensively from this year’s World Travel Market, stay up to date on our live blog and event microsite