Conservation and Tourism: A Symbiotic Imperative

Sustainable tourism is taking centre stage as South Africa looks to post-Covid-19 recovery.

A view of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway from the base station.
A view of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway from the base station.

Cape Town, 26 October 2020 — Wahida Parker, the Managing Director of Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company, believes the time has come to bring about change within the tourism sector as the industry gears up to recover from the global coronavirus pandemic.

Wahinda Parker

“As the world takes steps to recover, it will be necessary for the South African tourism sector to empower and build local tourism, as well as to ensure that the pillars of sustainable tourism and innovative recovery measures are in place,” says Parker.

“For some time now, the awareness of responsible travel has been increasing. The current crisis has forced us towards adopting a more accountable, sustainable way of travelling that minimises carbon emissions, protects the environment, instils good hygiene practice, focuses on visitor safety and maximises the contribution to local economies.”

Table Mountain, the iconic flat-topped landmark overlooking the City of Cape Town, has been listed as one of the 7 New Wonder of Nature — an initiative started in 2007 to create a list of seven natural wonders chosen by people through a global poll.

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Since 1929, the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company (TMACC) has safely transported visitors over 700 meters along its iconic cableways to the lofty peak of this sacred symbolic site, deeply emblematic of South Africa, her people, her history, and her flora and fauna.

The level of stewardship with which TMACC has nurtured the mountain is in full compliance with international ISO health and safety, and environmental management standards, for which it has garnered numerous accolades over the years.

“We continue to build a reputation that is focused on best practice — ultimately ensuring that our visitors enjoy a world-class experience. As a responsible operator, it is important for us to keep a careful approach to operations, specifically in the social and physical environments that are the backbone of our establishment,” Parker continues.

“It is important that the intrinsic symbiosis between tourism and conservation is recognised. In an effort to protect the mountain, TMACC formed a partnership with SANParks. Through this, we aim at improving the safety and security of tourists and hikers on the mountain.

“We believe that our path toward continued financial prosperity must always be underpinned by social and environmental justice. The tourism industry contributes to carbon emissions that affect the natural environment, but the income it generates also affords conservationists the resources they need to effectively protect precious and sensitive ecosystem areas like Table Mountain, which would not otherwise be possible.”

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TMACC was awarded the African Responsible Tourism Award in 2019, which recognised the cableway operators’ efforts as a responsible tourism service provider to maximise the positive and minimise the negative impacts of tourism.

“In a post-Covid-19 world, tourists will be more conscious of their footprint on the environment. Our mission is to keep this natural wonder accessible to all who wish to experience it, while also taking every available step to nurture its precious habitats so that its splendour will continue to be an inspiration for many generations to come,” she says.

“As a leader in the tourism industry, we realise that now more than ever, we need to increase our collaborative efforts to establish partnerships with local businesses to help support the local economy. This approach includes the introduction of more local suppliers, manufacturers and other service providers into our macro environment to create sustainable communities.”

A view of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway top sation
A view of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway top sation

During the lockdown period, TMACC developed stringent recovery support measures and safety protocols for the planned re-opening of operations, including the launch of a hiker safety service in July. The Company has ongoing communications with staff, suppliers and visitors focusing on health and safety, along with reinforcing their commitment to social and environmental sustainability.

“Throughout the national lockdown period, we have been engaging the relevant industry bodies to ensure that we meet the necessary health and safety standards as well as implement the measures that will protect our staff and visitors ahead of the re-opening of the cableway,” says Parker.

“We are considering new ways of operating that will amplify our safety precaution efforts, such as the online purchasing of tickets, which will provide a contactless and cashless service for visitors wishing to experience the cableway.

“It is time to bring about change within this dynamic sector. This can be achieved whilst still protecting the livelihoods of those employed in the industry, all while continuing to create sustainable environments for tourists and employees respectively,” concludes Parker.

An aerial view over Camps Bay from the top of Table Mountain
An aerial view over Camps Bay from the top of Table Mountain

Travel & Motoring Journalist specialising in Africa.

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