!Xaus Lodge has been certified by Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA).  This led to an invitation to a wonderfully informative conference with FTTSA at Spier Wine Estate.

Spier Wine Estate itself, was one of FTTSA’s first accredited tourism organisations.  We were taken on a tour of the Estate that followed Spier’s evolution over the years to their current status with recycling initiatives,  skills development programmes, organic farming and vermiculture.  They use only their own produce from the estate in their Restaurant “Eight”. Spier have also created a platform for artists to develop and exhibit their work.

The conference  objective was  to allow FTTSA to present their new strategy to the market. FTTSA is in the process of aligning themselves with tourism accredited bodies in South Africa, the rest of Africa and internationally.  Their new name will be Fair Trade in Tourism dropping the bracketed words, South Africa, at the end. This will align FTTSA with the international brand, which is strong and well recognised.

As Botswana and Namibia have their own tourism accreditation systems, FTT will audit their model to ensure that they are following best practices, and then work together with them.

FTT were also looking for feedback from their members as to how they could add additional value to their businesses and how they could give accreditation to more members.  FTT was also looking for methods that could address the costs involved in accreditation.  The assessment process will be outsourced to Flo Cert, a professional assessment services.  This will separate the good guys, Fairtrade from the bad guys, Flo Cert, so that the accreditation process is seen as unbiased.  It will also reduce the costs involved to some extent.

As part of the accreditation process, FTT wanted the standards to become a way of life.  All staff should be trained in the criteria that need to be met on a day-to-day basis. They should be able to discuss with guests what FTT means and how the business is worthy of certification.

A suggestion that itineraries be sold with all listings being FTT accredited.  The challenge is that there are not enough FTT products distributed evenly throughout South Africa and other African countries to do an itinerary of this nature. Tour operators who have created priced itineraries that are inflexible and expensive.  FTT indicated that it would be better to have the suggested itineraries on their website and to list all the accredited products they have.  This information should be available to all members.

FTT would also like their website to be a central point for information about research done or projects developed on for example, solar energy.  Each project could then assist other businesses in developing similar projects to upgrade or alter their own facilities. so that the experience built up can assist other businesses

A wine tasting of a white wine blend followed by a red wine blend, which are both FTT-recognised internationally but not available locally except at the Spier Estate shop. A suggestion that the wine be available for sale in other FTT accredited accommodation, restaurants and the like, was discussed.

The conference was informative and a wonderful day was had on the gorgeous Spier Estate snuggled down under the mountains.