Fair Trade Tourism has unveiled new criteria for tourism businesses with volunteer offerings, which are effective from June 1. The new criteria pertain to conservation volunteer projects and orphanage programmes.
The new Fair Trade Tourism criteria do not allow for any physical interaction by tourists or volunteers with a range of captive animals, including all large and medium sized carnivores, big cats, elephants, rhinos, large apes, hippos, ostrich, crocodiles and venomous snakes.
Interactions with predators have come under the spotlight after the Blood Lions documentary, while last month, a group of leading safari operators took a stand against predator breeding and canned hunting practices and committed to not support operators who contribute to the cycle of breeding, such as petting facilities. Fair Trade Tourism points out that the film exposed the fraudulent practices around volunteer experiences with captive lions and other predators.
Fair Trade Tourism’s new criteria also do not allow for tourists or volunteers to interact with any child or vulnerable person unless this takes place under continuous, qualified adult supervision. “Given the growing body of evidence from orphanages that interaction with casual visitors can be deeply psychologically damaging to these children, we will not certify any volunteer experience based on full-time work inside orphanages,” says Fair Trade Tourism MD, Nivashnee Naidoo.
The upsurge in both the supply and demand for volunteer products in Africa – many focused on so-called conservation or orphanage programmes – brought with it concerns from various organisations regarding malpractices, particularly with regard to vulnerable children and captive wildlife. For this reason, Fair Trade Tourism took the decision to work with prominent NGOs and tourism industry stakeholders to revise and implement new criteria focused on voluntourism involving vulnerable people and wildlife interaction.
The new criteria were informed by a range of expert sources including, amongst others, Better Volunteering, Tourism Watch, UNICEF, Endangered Wildlife Trust and Wildlife Act. A number of Southern African volunteer organisations also gave their input. “We would like to thank all who aided in the consultation process leading up to the formulation of the new criteria,” says Naidoo.
“Our new criteria were not introduced to advocate for animal welfare or take an ethical position against volunteering with vulnerable people,” says Naidoo. “However, as an organisation that represents global best-practice in responsible tourism, it is our role and our interest to promote ethical, authentic and transparently marketed volunteer experiences.”
“Responsible voluntourism programmes should at the very least benefit host communities and have positive social, economic and environmental impacts. Sadly, at present many voluntourism experiences are actually detrimental to the people or animals they proclaim to be helping. Young travellers should strive instead to seek far more meaningful cultural and wildlife engagements than is currently the case.”
Fair Trade Tourism has invited volunteer organisations and wildlife sanctuaries that strive for best-practice in their operations to apply for certification from June 1, 2016.
Source: Tourism Update