Destination: South Africa’s Cape Floral Region

So why is EcoTravelLogue so late with updates today? Because I spent the morning at a “Sustainable Tourism Summit” here in Rhode Island, where I got to meet some of the local tourism officials, and best of all, got to reconnect with National Geographic staffer Jonathan Tourtellot. Jonathan and I worked together when I was an intern at the Geographic, and now he’s the director of the Center for Sustainable Destinations, plus Geotourism Editor for Traveler magazine. I’ll have more to report later about what we talked about, but for today, we need an African destination. So, in Jonathan’s honor, I went to the NGS Traveler magazine Web site to see what place on the continent rated highest in their recent ranking of World Heritage destinations.

wctourist-40.jpgAnd that would be the Cape Floral Region in South Africa. Not too surprising that SA would rank higher than most African nations, since it’s a richer country and thus has perhaps a little less pressure to exploit its natural places, and a little more leisure to enjoy them. Here’s what some of the panelists, who ranked the destinations, had to say about this place:

On the upside: “a superb natural setting… [on one mountainside] is one of the world’s finest botanical gardens … The government does a great job in terms of employing low-income people as the workforce for alien vegetation removal. … wineries and towns are thriving from tourism.”

But, all is not ideal: “Urban sprawl too rapid and developers often show scant interest in environment; extensive golf/estate development; benefit to locals limited; losing authenticity; policies seem to be in place, but often disregarded or adapted to suit development.”

These challenges are typical of tourist destinations the world over. Today’s talks about sustainable travel suggested some solutions, and the good part is, a lot of these ideas apply just as much to the places where we actually live, as to the places we travel to. I’ll be writing more about all that next week.