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National Minimum Standard for Responsible Tourism


The National Department of Tourism in partnership with tourism stakeholders and the private sector, particularly the accreditation agencies developed the South African National Standard (SANS 1162: 2011).  Prior to the development of the SANS 1162, there were various schemes certifying the sustainability of tourism businesses utilising different sets of criteria (standards).  Some of the scheme offered certification for only one of the three fundamental elements of responsible tourism.  

Tourism businesses and consumers find it extremely difficult to evaluate the credibility of certification schemes and to determine whether the certification criteria were in line with national policy in the absence of national minimum standard for responsible tourism.  SANS 1162 was therefore developed with the sole objective of establishing a common understanding of responsible tourism.  By developing a single set of standard to be applied throughout South Africa, we have also harmonised the different sets of criteria that were used for certifying the sustainability of tourism businesses. 

SANS 1162 was developed through a consultative process with the wider tourism sector role-players.  SANS 1162 was approved SABS as a South African National Standard on the 28 March 2011. Therefore for the very first time, South Africa has taken the lead within the continent and the region of Africa by publishing a set of National Minimum Standard that are aligned to international standard ISO/IEC 17011.

The standard consists of 41 criteria divided into the following four categories:

  • Sustainable operations and management
  • Economic criteria
  • Social and cultural criteria
  • Environmental criteria


The organization’s ability to successfully implement the triple bottom line of responsible tourism is dependent on a sound sustainable operations and management criteria.  Through these criteria, the organization will develop and implement a responsible tourism policy that will guide the operations of the entity in the implementation of the responsible tourism practices.  The importance of conforming to legislative requirements is an indispensable requirement for any business to be a legal entity and these criteria cast more light on the numerous legislative requirements and give guidance, through the interpretation guide on how to meet the legislative requirement.  The criteria also assist tourism entrepreneurs with the development of a sustainable long-term management system inclusive of an adequate budget for operational procedures.


This criteria endeavour to assist tourism entrepreneurs to instil and practice respect for local culture and support for social development as being an integral part to the implementation of responsible tourism practices.  Providing support with education and healthcare and contributing to social infrastructure development promotes goodwill and help to improve the local quality of life.  These criteria will therefore assist tourism operators to develop and implement responsible tourism practices that will ensure mutual co-existence and benefit for the local community.  These criteria will, for example encourage your organization to showcase local community projects on the company’s notice board and inform tourists how to interact with local communities and respect local culture and customs.


The consumption of renewable sources in South Africa far exceeds replacement capacity and the environmental criteria are designed to assist organisations with the optimum utilization of natural resources. These criteria emphasize the notion that South Africa is one of the few developing countries where it is safe to drink tap water.  However water in South Africa is limited, requiring significant efforts from tourism businesses to play a sterling role in assisting to save water for future usage.     The conservation of energy resources through efficient utilization and using clean energy sources such as solar and wind power, to reduce pollution and minimize negative environmental is also a priority for these criteria.  The criteria also emphasis the importance of implementing a waste management plan, addressing both solid and liquid waste, with quantitative goals to limit waste produced.


The economic criteria assist tourism operators to understand and implement responsible tourism measures that maximize the economic impact of tourism on the local community.  The criteria outline measures that will for example minimize the revenue that “leaks” out of the local area by employing and purchasing locally produced goods and services, setting up business relationships with local people to create employment and stimulate entrepreneurial activities.  Local communities who are involved in and are part of tourism operation will actively seek to sustain it and contribute to a positive tourism experience for visitors.  Supporting local economic growth is therefore key to long term success for a thriving tourism business

The standards will be utilised by agencies that operate programmes certifying the sustainability of tourism businesses.  SANS 1162 was developed based on a three tier rating system which addresses the fundamental social, environmental and economic aspects as detailed in the Responsible Tourism Guidelines (2002) issued by the then DEAT, the Millennium Development Strategy and current international best practice in the field.  The NMSRT is aligned to the ISO/IEC 17011 International Standard which sets out criteria for bodies operating accreditation systems for conformity assessment.