SUSTAINABILITY is no longer a buzzword and companies operating in SA need to do more to bridge the gap between the rich and poor.

It is no longer good enough for businesses to just employ people, make a profit and pay taxes, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said yesterday.

He said the government decided about three years ago to work with the industry to promote responsible and sustainable tourism in SA.

“In our country, with a specific history, it is even more important for business to do more,” Mr van Schalkwyk said at the launch of gaming and hotel group Tsogo Sun’s sustainability plan in Johannesburg.

“Shareholders too are looking to invest in sustainable businesses or companies which are good corporate citizens. Carbon footprints and water usage are all becoming key requirements when looking for a company to invest in, and these requirements are moving up the list of importance,” he said.

Mr van Schalkwyk also called for increased inter-Africa tourism.

“Disposable income in Africa is growing. Many have an incorrect perception of Africa, seeing only poverty. SAA (South African Airways) has done well (in) introducing new destinations in Africa but more can be done as it is an important market for us,” he said.

The first-quarter tourist arrivals to SA were impressive considering the economic conditions around the world, said Mr van Schalkwyk.

Tourist arrivals to SA increased by 10,5% overall in the first quarter. A total of 2267807 tourists arrived in January, February and March. Overseas arrivals grew by 17,8%.

Tourist arrivals from regional African tourist markets achieved growth rates of 7,9%, with Angola up 48,5%, Nigeria growing 26,7% and Tanzania increasing 31,4%.

Mr van Schalkwyk said it was encouraging that growth had come from all regions. Emerging markets continued their robust growth while traditional markets bounced back.

Tsogo Sun yesterday unveiled SunCares, its sustainability in tourism plan. The plan consists of three pillars including corporate sustainability programmes; entrepreneurial development; and environmental management programmes, said chief marketing officer Rob Collins.

Some of the company’s initiatives include a sport and performing arts academy and its Book-a-Guesthouse programme, which assists in the development of independent bed-and-breakfast establishments.

Environmental management has seen Tsogo reduce its energy consumption by 10,8% through heat pump installations and energy efficient lighting, the company said.

“Since 2010, we have saved 19,8-million kilowatt hours of energy which is the equivalent of powering 18000 homes for a month, Mr Collins said.

Tsogo Sun Hotels MD Graham Wood said it made sense for the gaming and leisure group to consolidate its corporate sustainability efforts. “Sustainability is key for any business, it says we are here to stay and are doing what is right for our employees, shareholders, guests and the environment,” he said.

Source: Business Day – Annaleigh Vallie