SA offers incentives for hotels to retrofit for disabled

A day after the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities, an innovative and unique hotel was opened in Cape Town – Park Inn Newlands.The 122-bedroomed, mid-market, three-star hotel is designed and built for universal accessibility for disabled people, and a third of staff members is deaf. The hotel is also 40% owned by DeafSA, which has its offices on the first floor. The balance is evenly split between the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), which funded construction, and Meridian Property Holdings, a Cape Town developer. It is operated under the Radisson brand by international hotelier Rezidor.
DeafSA has about 800 000 hearing impaired members countrywide. For it, the hotel is a key broad-based empowerment initiative that has created income generating, skills transfer and employment opportunities for its members. As a shareholder, it will mean the NGO is less reliant on donor funding. Speaking on the sidelines of the opening on the night of 4 December, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom called Park Inn Newlands a “shining example of what is possible” and “an inspiration”.”We will be announcing a programme early next year to give incentives to product owners to retrofit their establishments. Will be starting modestly, targeting only graded establishments, because we will be piloting not only for universal accessibility for disability, but also retrofitting for energy efficiency.”

Raising the bar

“It is a hotel where 30% of the staff is deaf. This kind of raises the bar altogether. It sets kind a new standard, if you’d like,” he said. “It also speaks wonderfully of our tourism sector and adds to the awards we won for responsible tourism at the World Travel Market in London about a month ago.”It is a real shining example of responsible tourism and inclusion, ensuring not only that there is community inclusion but that [the deaf community has] real ownership of the hotel.”Starting on a pilot basis, his department’s incentive programme would support retrofitting of establishments through modest redesign, beginning with assessments of needs.”We have done some of that already, doing a needs assessment of 187 graded establishments in Cape Town and Durban. Of these, 15 were not even compliant with grading requirements. So we must be aware that some establishments don’t have the cash flow to do this retrofitting.”


The pilot phase would show what was possible. “We have approximately 6 000 graded establishments and we can’t reach all of these at once. We have to tailor our programmes to incrementally reach the goal of more efficient energy use and better design. We will announce a more detailed programme in the next two months.”Regarding energy efficiency, the incentive programme would begin in the accommodation sector. “There will be an element of self-selection, if you’d like – serious people who do the right things. Over time, we hope that it will be clearly demonstrably that it makes sense on the economic front.”Regarding universal accessibility, it would extend to other tourism products. “We will, for example, train tour guides in sign language. At the moment we are trying to enhance our tourism offerings and make sure that people with disabilities can enjoy what our country has to offer,” Hanekom said. It would also offer sustainable employment for disabled people. “There are over a million people in South Africa who are extremely hard of hearing or deaf,” said Hanekom. “These people can be described as having a disability; of course, it poses challenges but it ought to be a really limited challenge. There is not a lot I can do that a deaf person can’t do.


“Deaf people could be our leading scientists, engineers, hotel managers, even our minister of tourism. There is very little that deaf people cannot do, and this project demonstrates this in very real terms.”In truth, we must express our pride in what so many people have done to make this project a reality. We must applaud the many people at DeafSA who said, ‘we can do it’, and did something that has not been done anywhere in the world.”His department would showcase the hotel worldwide “because it is inspirational. But it is terribly important that it should be a success story, and a sustainable success story. Because that’s when you say five years later that not only did they do the right things, but they achieved great success when they did the right things.”Park Inn Newlands is built on the premises of the old Bastion of the Deaf, a landmark for the deaf community and the Cape Town offices of DeafSA. The hotel is a landmark project that has been designed to cater for the needs of all disabled people. It welcomed its first guests on 13 October, and in the first six weeks of trading has exceeded projections. It has a staff complement of 92, of whom 28 are deaf.It is close to several sport stadiums and institutions, such as Newlands Cricket Ground, Newlands Rugby Stadium, South African Rugby Union headquarters and the Sports Science Institute of South Africa. The University of Cape Town is only a short distance away, as are many office parks and company headquarters.

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Voice Tours Offer Green Tourism Alternative

Responsible tourism is about growing a booming industry and at the same time applying the “handbrake” so that it will remain sustainable, says Jan Hutton of Deloitte South Africa.
Speaking at the Responsible Tourism conference hosted by the City of Cape Town last week, she cautioned: “The travel industry is under attack; for everything from its carbon footprint to its social costs. How do we align our desire to travel in a more thoughtful way with our conscience? We are all aware that tourism has an impact. It can be positive because tourism has benefits of job creation and preserving heritage, but it also has a negative impact on carbon emissions and the trading of wildlife.”
Councillor Roxanne Hoorn, chairwoman of the city’s tourism, events and economic development portfolio committee, agreed.
“Tourism today is facing a period of growth, but with this exciting development comes some challenges. The reality is that the fast-paced expansion of tourism in Cape Town, as well as South Africa as a whole, has often ignored the social, economic and environmental impact on our city and our people.
The city, with VoiceMap and Cape Town Green Map, launched Africa’s first Responsible Green VoiceMap at the conference.
Green Point Urban Park will be the inaugural route, and people will be able to use their smartphones to connect to a “guide” that will explain how a dysfunctional space has become one of the most popular parks in the city.
These voice tours will soon include other attractions such as Khayelitsha Mall, Muizenberg to Kalk Bay and Cape Point.
Garreth Bloor, mayoral committee member for Tourism, Events and Economic Development, said a Slave Route walk was also on the cards.
The app can be downloaded on an iPhone from the App Store, by searching for VoiceMap or by visiting on the iPhone. An Android version will be available soon.
Hutton said South Africa was already recognised as a world leader in responsible tourism. And next year, Cape Town will host the International Responsible Tourism Conference with the World Travel Market Africa.
Global travel was changing, with greater emphasis being placed on the “how” and the “why”, rather than the “where”. Travellers no longer wanted to tick items of a travel to-do list. Instead they yearned for “authenticity” and to “get under the skin” of their destinations, she said.
“Responsible tourism is about (creating) better places for people to live in, and better places for people to visit.”
Future travel scenarios included carbon caps for all airlines, with a return to “slow travel” via bike, boat or train.
Samantha Annandale, the general manager of Hotel Verde, said responsible tourism had to move beyond sustainability to “thrivability”. Hotel Verde, “Africa’s greenest hotel” recently scooped the World Responsible Tourism award.
Annandale said: “We’ve decided to show that the rewards outweigh the costs. It’s about doing the right thing. We worked on a concept of ‘thrivability’ as the next logical step of sustainability.
“It’s about actually succeeding – that being sustainable naturally will enable (one to thrive).”
The hotel, located 400m from Cape Town International Airport, has won numerous awards since it opened last year. It lists photovoltaic panels, energy-efficient lighting, natural ventilation, power-generating gym equipment and an eco-pool among its “green” interventions.

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