We are excited to announce that applications for the 2017/18 South African Blue Flag season are now open.
While the successful 2016/17 Blue Flag season is drawing to a close at many of the Western Cape’s beaches, the current season is still in full swing and runs until 31 October at many other beaches along our coastline and also at the Blue Flag marinas and sustainable tourism boating operators.
Blue Flag is an international, voluntary eco-label that focuses on the conservation of marine and coastal habitats, and is designed to provide environmental education, raise awareness and promote sound environmental practices among tourists, local populations and beach managers. It has become a global symbol of quality for beaches, boats and marinas that meet high standards of excellence in a number of criteria. The programme is managed by WESSA in South Africa, in partnership with participating coastal municipalities.
The Blue Flag programme is now in its 30th year and continues to grow both locally and abroad. A total of 45 South African beaches were awarded Blue Flag status for the 2016/17 season, along with five marinas and eight sustainable tourism boats. Internationally the figures are that almost 4,300 beaches, boats and marinas were awarded Blue Flag status for the current season.
The United Nations have declared 2017 as the year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, and the Blue Flag programme offers an ideal means for guiding beaches, boats and marinas towards achieving sustainability.
WESSA and Blue Flag have strengthened their commitment to sustainable tourism through a number of initiatives over the past year:
- In October 2016 the Tourism Blue Flag coastal tourism project was launched in South Africa. The project, which is being managed and implemented by WESSA in partnership with the National Department of Tourism, has provided employment, education and training opportunities for more than 200 youths. Employed in the role of “Beach Stewards”, these youths are being hosted by local coastal municipalities at Blue Flag beaches across South Africa. Although in its early stages, the project is already resulting in improvements of the tourism facilities and services offered at these beaches.
- Last year Blue Flag international introduced new criteria for sustainable tourism boats, recognising the growing need for operators to implement sound and responsible practices to ensure that marine mammals are never at risk or stressed by surrounding boats. South Africa was among the first countries in the world to award this eco-label to sustainable tourism boats locally.
- More recently, the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) – the international custodian of the Blue Flag eco-label – has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA), the world’s largest partnership working to protect the cetacean group of marine mammals which includes whales, dolphins and porpoises. This partnership will see the two organisations work hand-in-hand towards sustainability within the cetacean-watching industry and recognises Blue Flag and WCA’s existing work and expertise in their respective fields.
Applications from beaches, sustainable tourism boating operators and marinas for Blue Flag accreditation in the 2017/18 South African Blue Flag season are now open until Friday 28 April. View application details here