Cape Town – More work still needs to be done to unlock the “enormous potential” of domestic tourism, according to the Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk.
He was speaking at the launch of the Blue Flag campaign, an international coastal management programme that accredits beaches and marinas which meet good water quality standards.
Van Schalkwyk said there were millions of potential tourists in SA who, because of the apartheid past, had not been able to see the country and his department was working to change that.
He said Grotto Beach in Hermanus, where the launch was held, was his favourite beach: “I am here every December with my wife and kids.”
The beach is also the only one in the country with the longest, uninterrupted Blue Flag status.
Pieter Scholtz, acting mayor of the Overstrand municipality, said their Blue Flag status had brought “a reliable guarantee to tourists and tour operators regarding the environmental quality of beaches and marinas”.
Van Schalkwyk said achieving Blue Flag status could not be achieved without political will or help from the NGO sector. However, once that status had been achieved, it attracted tourists to an area, which created jobs for local residents.
He said the tourism industry was the sector in the economy that was growing the fastest and, in order to keep this up, marketing and partnerships with NGOs and municipalities had to be increased.
Malcolm Powell, chairman of the International Blue Flag jury, said there were 36 beaches in SA with Blue Flag status.
Standards tough to meet
The Blue Flag is a status awarded to beaches that have been judged to meet a stringent set of criteria including that they are clean, have adequate ablution facilities and parking, are environmentally sound, are safe and secure to visit, and adhere to international safety and tourism standards.
The accreditation is awarded for one season at a time and, if conditions change, it can be withdrawn.
Local authorities put their beaches up for assessment voluntarily.
There are 46 countries participating in the programme. In SA the programme is managed by the Wildlife and Environment Society of SA (Wessa). SA joined the campaign in 2001 as the first country outside Europe to participate.
Western Cape Blue Flag Beaches include:
l Cape Town: Clifton 4th, Camps Bay, Strandfontein, Mnandi, Muizenberg, Llandudno and Silwerstroomstrand.
l Overstrand: Grotto, Hawston and Kleinmond.
l Knysna: Brenton-on-Sea and Buffalo Bay.
l Mossel Bay: Hartenbos and Santos
l Bitou: Keurboomstrand, Robberg Beach and Nature’s Valley.
Two Western Cape marinas have Blue Flag status:
l False Bay Yacht Club
l Granger Bay Water Club – Cape Argus