BAZ BUS JOINS THE FAIR TRADE TOURISM FAMILY

South Africa’s Baz Bus, which links more than 180 backpacker hostels in 40 different destinations across the country, has become  Fair Trade Tourism approved.

Established in November 1995 by “retired” South African backpacker Barry Zeidel, Baz Bus came into being as a result of Barry travelling across Europe on a “hop-on, hop-off” bus service which he knew could be replicated in his homeland.

“I was amazed at how easy it was, and that I was not restricted to a set itinerary and could get on and off for as long as I wanted, making friends and having adventures along the way,” says Barry, who immediately set about researching backpacking in South Africa on his return.

A qualified accountant and entrepreneur, Barry is passionate about backpacking, and the Baz Bus network has helped to stimulate and unify South Africa’s backpacker community as well as making it easy, and fun, for backpackers from all over the world to explore and enjoy the Rainbow Nation.

Today, Baz Bus carries more than 10,000 independent travellers along its door-to-door route between Johannesburg and Cape Town every year, connecting like-minded backpackers as they relax en-route, safe in the knowledge that when they get off the bus, it will be at the door of their hostel or connecting with a pre-arranged shuttle to their destination.

The company is also making a huge difference to the lives of people in communities around Cape Town through various projects, supporting soccer teams in Hout Bay, a children’s shelter in Woodstock and the Wola Nani community centre for women and children living with HIV/Aids in Khayelitsha. It is currently building new toilet facilities and classrooms at Babes Creche and the Elundini Children’s home in Du Noon.

“It made perfect sense for us to join the Fair Trade Tourism family,” says Baz Bus marketing manager Lisa McLaughlin. “We’ve always been committed to protecting the assets on which tourism in South Africa depends, especially where communities and the environment are concerned. Travelling on the Baz Bus reduces a traveller’s carbon footprint and our clients can rest assured that their holiday spend is directly benefitting the people in the communities along our route and in the projects we support,” she adds.

Lisa says that being part of Fair Trade Tourism is of huge value to Baz Bus. “It ensures the interests in the communities in which we work are being met and increases awareness of the issues and challenges facing tourism in South Africa,” she explains. “Now we get to network with like-minded businesses and share in their experiences as we work together towards making South Africa a more desirable destination.”

Fair Trade Tourism is a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism in southern Africa and has certified businesses in South Africa, Mozambique and Madagascar, as well as mutually recognised programmes in the Seychelles and Tanzania. Its tourism certification programme was developed in 2004 and in December 2011 became the first in Africa to be recognised by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

“Fair Trade Tourism also grows awareness about responsible tourism to travellers and assists tourism businesses to operate more sustainably through intensive, hands-on training and certification readiness programmes,” explains the organisation’s managing director Nivashnee Naidoo.

“We are particularly excited to welcome Baz Bus on board,” she says. “We have a considerable number of certified businesses working in the backpacker and youth travel market, so having Baz Bus become part of our growing family allows us to offer the complete package to backpackers wanting to explore South Africa in a sustainable, responsible way.”

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Ebola in Perspective

With media often presenting skewed facts and stats around the Ebola outbreak, public perceptions of the real risks a disease actually presents are fast distorting and in many cases inaccurate.

Today, I am not going to write a medical journal with technical facts about the virus. There is enough material on this to go to the moon and back. No, today I am going to put a few things in perspective and hopefully make potential travellers to South Africa (and its neighbours) realise that it is not a life risk to visit our beautiful country.

Fact 1: How did Ebola get into other continents and countries other than West Africa?

Most people are overlooking the fact that non-African individuals, who get infected, are those who have voluntarily exposed themselves to the Ebola virus, by treating patients who suffer from Ebola. These individuals are mostly doctors or nurses. This virus did not spread to other individuals travelling to and from these countries.

Fact 2: What causes Ebola to spread?

Ebola spreads mainly due to poor hygiene and lack of proper procedures when dealing with the individuals who are infected. This includes wearing gloves, a cover over the mouth, nose and protective eyewear. Ebola is NOT airborne, is spreads in a liquid form only, e.g. sneezing, blood, urine etc. Most Africans are also not educated that handling the bodies of the deceased can still spread the virus. The chance of an epidemic in first-world countries, or even just areas with proper medical care, is very slim since the correct sanitary and quarantine procedures are implemented immediately.

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Fact 3: Ebola is only present in a very small section of Africa, very far removed from Southern Africa.

I am not going to say much about this, see the illustration below for comprehensive insight.

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Fact 4: South Africa is a very, very low risk country for Ebola

Apart from the fact that South Africa is more than 5000km away from the Ebola hotspot, it also has strict procedure at all ports of entry into the country. Should any individual come from the countries seen as an Ebola risk, they must submit to comprehensive medical testing before being allowed to continue. South Africa also has a very advanced medical infrastructure to quickly and effectively deal with any possible medical threat.

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Fact 5: Contrary to media reports, South Africa does not have an Ebola cases in 2014

Many infographics show that South Africa has cases of Ebola – this was true in 1996, NOT 2014. Yes, South Africa had two cases of Ebola in its entire recorded medical history, the last case being 18 years ago.

Fact 6: Why is everyone (suddenly) so scared of Ebola?

“Rumours and panic are spreading faster than the virus,” said Dr Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organisation. Yes, an outbreak of Ebola certainly is scary, but the risk of such an event occurring is much lower than alarming headlines would lead us to believe. The media is riding the wave of sensationalism, often painting a much, much darker picture than reality. Remember, the “spread” of Ebola to other continents is due to individuals voluntarily visiting, treating and coming into contact with Ebola-infected patients.

Fact 7: Panic and worry is due to lack of proper information

Given the facts above, it is clear that most of the worry is completely excessive. Yes, of course the world is concerned about this outbreak in West Africa, but it is well-contained and not spreading. In fact, a few countries have been cleared as an Ebola-infected country, like Nigeria.

Conclusion:

If you want to travel to South Africa, there is nothing to fear about Ebola. South Africa is a low-risk country (same as the rest of the world without reported Ebola cases). It is currently safer to be in South Africa than in the USA and Europe! See below – so what is stopping you from booking your journey and coming right away? Summer season is here and South Africa cannot wait to host you for your journey!

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(information is accurate at the time of writing – 05 Nov 2014) – Written by Leon Steyn, General and Marketing Manager, Baz Bus

Top Safety Tips: Planning ahead when visiting South Africa

Planning an overseas trip (of course it will be to South Africa – the most beautiful destination in the world) is an awesome opportunity and an exciting task; this allows you to experience new and exciting things in a different part of the world. Yet, dealing with an emergency abroad is the last thing on one’s mind when preparing for the adventure – an unforeseen crisis can be a harsh reality.

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When travelling abroad, you could be faced with challenges like losing important documents, getting sick, being involved in an accident or becoming a victim of a crime. These challenges are all unplanned, and even though we would hope it never happens to us, the odd chance is always there that something might go wrong.

The most  important is to stay calm and handle these situations to the best of your ability, especially while in another country. Before starting your journey, it is important that you prepare yourself as best as you can for anything that could happen while you are away from home. Copies of important documents and medical insurance are just a few things to be prepared with before your trip.

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An emergency travel pack is a vital component when planning a trip. The most important things of this pack are medical and personal documentation.

A few other items you should have are:

  • Copies of your passport/Visa
  • A copy of your insurance information
  • A copy of area maps of your destination/ places you may visit
  • Copies of your air ticket
  • Medical needs treatment
  • Copy of your home country’s drivers licence
  • Cellphone with local Sim card – international roaming costs are still very high
  • Credit Card
  • List of emergency numbers provided by your travel agent

 Tips for handling an emergency situation

Dealing with lost/stolen goods: If any of your possessions are lost/stolen, the first thing to do is report the lost items/theft immediately at the closest police station. A police report is needed for any insurance claims, so report a crime to the local police station.

Handling a medical emergency: Medical insurance will benefit you. In an event of an injury, you should get help from the nearest location and call an emergency number immediately. You should also get to a clinic/hospital as soon as possible to stabilise your condition.

Listen to Locals: Being in a place that is not familiar to you could expose you to risks and unsafe areas. It is important to listen to advice from people that are used to the area/country.

Always ask for inside info or handy tips. For the backpacking industry, this should be easy as the staff at the hostel are always willing to give the best information and recommendations of the area.

Plan your transport arrangements before you leave. If you decide to do Tours, go in a group and always let someone know which route you intend taking. Stay in well lit and well marked areas at night.

Travelling with everything prepared ensures maximum enjoyment and a worry-free journey.

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If you have any questions, or would like to add more items and advice to the above, please comment below.

(blog article composed by Insaaf Kamaldien, consultant at Baz Bus)