28 January 2008
The power cuts being experienced across South Africa represent an opportunity to build an international reputation for environmental best practice, says Cape Town mayoral committee member for social and economic development and tourism Simon Grindrod.
“We are already supposed to be engaged in energy saving, we are already supposed to be engaged in ‘green’ practices – this opportunity now forces us to do so,” Grindrod said at a meeting of Cape Town’s Tourism Safety Forum on Friday.
A number of “positive plans of action” to manage the power cuts and sustain tourism emerged from the meeting, key among which was using the country’s electricity supply crisis as an opportunity to boost globally acknowledged environmental best practices.
Another focus was on “responsible tourism”, involving encouraging visitors to the city to participate in energy-saving practices.
This was not as difficult as it might seem, said Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, adding that many international travellers were “better informed than us” on conservation of energy and responsible tourism.
Du Toit-Helmbold said the aim was make Cape Town a global destination with a reputation for environmental best practice.
Grindrod said the current electricity situation was expected to last for “five to eight years” and that South Africans had to “come to terms with that psychologically”. The situation was not bleak, he added. “It’s a challenge and we’ll get through it.”
Central to the measures that arose from the meeting was improved communication among the city government, the power utility and the tourism industry.
Tourism operators would be provided with contact numbers for all relevant officials of the city, which manages 6 000 electricity substations, Grindrod said.
The city would also engage Eskom, the national energy utility, on better use of technology for communication purposes, he added.
Using the SMS cellphone messaging system, information on power cuts, for instance, could be distributed to every tourism establishment and operator in the city “within seconds”, he said.
There was also an opportunity for insurance companies to develop tailored products that would provide insurance cover for losses experienced by power cuts.
And then there was the question of providing information, through brochures, leaflets and other means, to tourism operators and their guests informing them of the situation and encouraging them to be conscientious and prudent in their use of electricity.
Another step would be getting Eskom’s buy-in to refrain from power cuts, where possible, at key tourist sites, such as the Waterfront and Table Mountain, which recently led to worldwide headlines after an evening power outage saw tourists trapped in cable cars and on the mountain itself for a number of hours.