outh Africa’s most responsible tourism operation in terms of natural, social and economic commitments is in southern Gauteng on the banks of the Vaal River.

The Riverside Sun Resort was on Wednesday named overall winner in the 11th Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (Fedhasa’s) Imvelo responsible tourism awards.

The Tsogo Sun operation received the top award as well as section awards for best environmental, water and resource management.

The 234 tourism establishments that made it to the finals were judged on corporate and social responsibility including community investment initiatives, local outsourcing, community health, welfare, education, promotion of local small and medium-sized enterprises as well as HIV-Aids and other social programmes.

Fedhasa chairman Eddy Khosa said the high number of entries received was an indication the South African tourism industry was serious about cutting its environmental impact without any detriment to its product.

It also showed the industry wants to be part and parcel of the communities it operates in. “After 11 years, it is clear Imvelo has created significant awareness of environmental management issues in the industry. With tourism widely seen as South Africa’s new gold, the awards will continue to create awareness of both the potential and responsibility of sustainable tourism.”

Imvelo, (“nature” in the Nguni languages), is part of an ongoing hospitality industry campaign promoting responsible tourism. Industry members are encouraged to accept voluntary guidelines and achievements are rewarded by different classes of awards as well as an overall award each year. The awards are in line with the UN World Tourism Organisation’s code of ethics and supported by the Heritage Environmental Rating Programme.

Source: The New Age Online – Kim Helfrich