FTTSA certification is an independent endorsement of fair and responsible tourism practice in South Africa. It is based on adherence to specific criteria including fair wages and working conditions, fair distribution of benefits, ethical business practice, and respect for human rights, culture and the environment. Certification is offered on a voluntary basis to providers of tourist accommodation, activities and attractions.
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Of the various practices reviewed, FTTSA looks for evidence that the business supports community investment as a developmental tool in relation to the business’ unique context. For example, FTTSA investigates efforts made by the business to support the local economy. Sani Lodge Backpackers makes significant efforts towards this, not only through permanent employment of most people from the local area but also by assisting entrepreneurs and communities by allowing them to provide products to their tours for which they are paid. This is exemplified in their Eastern Lesotho village tours, where over 60 families in the Matsaoing district of Eastern Lesotho benefit directly from the tour by payments made to them for services rendered in the fields of accommodation and food, dancing and traditional culture, traditional healer and primary school visits as well as pony trekking. Since their longer tours started in 2005, over R1 million has flowed directly to grassroots tourism enterprises and service providers around Lesotho and allowed local people to showcase their culture and take a real pride in it!
One of FTTSA’s key principles is Respect for Environment, which can be measured in relation to planning, operational management, and investment in conservation activities. Sani Lodge Backpackers rehabilitated their badly degraded property by eradicating the invasive bramble and are making inroads on the other alien species such as wattle, pine and eucalyptus. They propagate their own indigenous plants, and have replaced the alien species with thousands of indigenous tree and shrub seedlings in an on-going program. They have also been at the forefront of fighting environmentally unfriendly and unsustainable development projects in their area and are currently deeply involved in trying to prevent the destruction of one of Southern Africa’s most unique treasures, the Sani Pass and the road to Mokhotlong.
This is what owners of Sani Lodge Backpackers’ Simone and Russel Suchet said about being FTTSA-certified, "Sani Lodge Backpackers is honoured and excited at being FTTSA-certified, joining the portfolio of other certified establishments allows us to join a group of tourism establishments which we are delighted to be associated with. It is a vindication and reward for our efforts over nearly 20 years."