Sixty-two Blue Flags will be proudly flown at 44 beaches and seven marinas, and by 11 sustainable tourism boats around South Africa over the forthcoming 2017/18 South African Blue Flag season, which opens on 1 November. This was announced at the prestigious national Blue Flag launch hosted by the Kouga Municipality at Dolphin Beach in Jeffreys Bay, Eastern Cape, today.
Earlier this year, all applications for the Blue Flag eco-label were reviewed via a rigorous multi-stage approval process involving assessments by both a local and international jury panel.
The Western Cape received the highest number of Blue Flag sites, with 28 beaches, all 11 boats and six of the seven Blue Flag marinas in the province. This shows an increase of three Blue Flag boats from the previous season, and one additional marina.
KwaZulu-Natal was once again awarded nine Blue Flag beaches for the 2017/18 season. Seven beaches and one marina have been awarded by the eco-label in the Eastern Cape, which is on par with the previous season.
An additional 22 beaches across three provinces will participate in the Pilot Programme. This is an important developmental stage for potential Blue Flag sites, during which the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa) will work with beach managers and Tourism Blue Flag beach stewards towards the longer-term goal of achieving full Blue Flag status. Internationally, more than 4 400 beaches, boats and marinas currently hold Blue Flag status in 46 countries.
Speaking at the event, Minister of Tourism Tokozile Xasa thanked Wessa for the work it’s doing through the Blue Flag programme. She said the department is looking to attract five million tourists to South Africa over the next five years, and Blue Flag must be used as a selling point to bring visitors to our shores and ensure they have a positive experience. She added that, having entered into a partnership with Wessa in 2016 to implement the Tourism Blue Flag project, the department is utilising the Expanded Public Works Programme to ensure that jobs are created for young people in the tourism industry.
The annual Blue Flag Awards also celebrate the sustained partnerships that Wessa has built with key municipalities around the country, which have recognised the value of Blue Flag not just to environmental management and education but also to tourism, economic development and job creation. Their commitment to the programme is evident in the fact that 25 beaches have been on the programme for five or more consecutive years, while 11 beaches have achieved Blue Flag status for more than 10 consecutive years. Dolphin Beach, which provided the backdrop for the season launch, celebrates a remarkable 16 consecutive years on the programme this year. Humewood Beach in Port Elizabeth along with Grotto Beach in Hermanus have participated for the 17 years that the Blue Flag programme has been operating locally.
“Blue Flag is an excellent example of what is achievable when government, both local and national, partner with civil society,” said Wessa eco-tourism manager Vincent Shacks. “Not only does the programme encourage adherence to very high, international standards for beaches, boats and marinas but it has also created an excellent platform from which to develop young and enthusiastic, sustainable tourism ambassadors. Through the Tourism Blue Flag project, the National Department of Tourism has partnered with Wessa to demonstrate its commitment to the development of South Africa’s youth. Over the past years, these Blue Flag beach stewards have played a critical role in the maintenance of Blue Flag standards at our beaches as well as conducting valuable environmental education activities and campaigns all along our beautiful coastline.”
Since its launch in 1987, the Blue Flag programme has continued to grow, not only in terms of the number of member countries and sites involved, but also in its range of expertise within marine and freshwater environments. Wessa is proud to have been the national implementing partner for Blue Flag in South Africa since 2001.
Dolphin Beach in Jeffreys Bay was the ideal setting for the 2017/18 Blue Flag launch. Its wide, sandy beach makes it popular with families, while its legendary surfing spot “Supertubes” has given the beach international fame. Executive mayor Elza van Lingen delivered the opening address at the event and spoke about the value that Blue Flag adds to tourism, adding that while Kouga Municipality has only one beach on the programme, its approach is to raise the standard of all Kouga beaches to that of Dolphin Blue Flag Beach.
View the full list of 2017/18 Blue Flag beaches, boats and marinas.
Source: Blue Flag